Sisters and cheerleading go hand-in-hand. Whether your team is made up of your cheer sisters, or if you’re lucky enough to cheer with your actual blood-related sisters, sharing a sport that you truly love is a gift in itself. Over the years, I’ve had the pleasure of coaching sisters, coaching my own sister, and coaching with my sister… and it’s not an easy feat. But, I’ve learned to focus on what makes these relationships special, and it has helped me to successfully navigate that aspect of the sport.

First, teach them to work together from the start. Let’s face it–sisters are family, and families butt heads. If you are expecting to have two sisters on your team and never once hear them utter a peep, then you are in for a surprise. I’ve seen sisters who are the best of friends outside of practice get so competitive when they get on to the mat, that suddenly, they’re bickering nonstop. It could be that one sister is a little more experienced or outspoken than the other, or it could just be their nature. Your responsibility as their coach and mentor is to teach them to work as a team. Try putting them in a stunt group together; I’ve done it, and I’ve seen it work! You may need to keep one eye on the group to make sure everyone is working as one cohesive unit, but you will see that when tasked with the responsibility of keeping another member of their team safe, they will put all their personal issues aside.

Find their best qualities. Everyone has their own quirks and qualities that make them who they are. Focus on the qualities that make sisters on your team shine, and you will always be one step ahead of disagreements that could ensue. You would think that after years of coaching with my sister–both of us sharing head coaching duties–that she and I would have let our differences get to us, but we have learned to focus on what makes us great, and we roll with it. My sister is one of the best choreographers that I know; I can say that with confidence, because whereas I hear music and immediately imagine putting motions to the music, my sister can watch a routine and break it down count by count without batting an eye. I trust her completely in her ability, and with that, we have fostered some pretty amazing routines together!

Finally, let them have their moment. Whether good or bad, when it comes to sisters, you have to let them have their moments. I’m not saying allow a full-out yelling match in your gym, but let them respectfully work through their dilemmas. One thing about sisters, no matter how many times they fight or get under each other’s skin, they will always get over it. They’re family, and families don’t hold grudges. Before you know it, they will be right back to having each other’s back, and, that’s what’s important in this sport. If you can’t have your family’s back, whose back can you have?

My daughters have been on the same team on and off for the last few years. I’ve watched the two of them bicker. I’ve watched the two of them teasing each other nonstop when the other one gets corrected, but most of all, I’ve watched the two of them rooting for one another. They’ve learned to see how important this sport is to each other, and having someone like that on your side is one of the greatest gifts of being part of a family. Sisters will always be an important factor in this sport, but so is family, and when you put on that uniform or share that mat, we are all family and we all have to learn to work together.

What else is important to keep in mind when coaching sisters? What tips do you have? Share your experiences in the comments!