You’re a cheer coach. You have a vision of your team, and a dream of how far they can go. You never want to acknowledge the negatives, the disadvantages, and the potential setbacks for next season–or, shoot, for next competition! But, unfortunately, it’s all part of the job. Yes, of course there are seasons when your team absolutely ROCKS it, and is so fluid together; that season, every part of the routine hits, and you bring home the big wins. The problem is, you never know if you have that season until it starts up, and the first indication of where your team may land on that winning spectrum is at tryouts. Walking into tryouts, you’re going to see most of the same faces, so it’s not like you’re going to skyrocket to the top if you had a mediocre season the year before… but you never know! That’s why they say ‘there’s always next year’. Well, next year is officially starting, and the missing link to your routine may just saunter in through the door to join the team. Anticipating nothing and everything at the same time is hard… and, when you really get down to decision time, it gets even tougher.

Sometimes, you’re faced with choices that pull at your heartstrings. For instance, newcomers might unexpectedly outperform returning cheerleaders at tryouts: all of a sudden, these shoo-in team members are looking more like waitlisted participants. If you’ve developed relationships with these cheerleaders over time, the last thing you want to do is tell them that they aren’t going to be welcomed back–especially if they’ve done nothing wrong! You really want to be the ‘good guy’, to make your team happy, and be able to sleep at night, but you know deep down that you have to do what’s best for the team overall. It’s your job to wear the black hat, and give spots to the cheerleaders that deserve it.

Another situation that cheer coaches face is choosing between siblings and close friendships depending on skill level. This happens a lot when cheer coaches head up two or more competitive level teams. Does this sound familiar? You had a set of siblings on the same team last year, but over the last season, one advanced their skills a little more than the other. You now want to place one your level 5 team versus your level 4, splitting the siblings up. The parents might not understand the call, drama might spin out to other team parents, and the kid that was left on the lower level team might not understand. Tough call. In these kinds of situations, you, as a coach, have to stand strong in your convictions, and do what’s right for the success of both teams. If team parents demand explanations, remind them that you’re trying to place both of their children winning teams: the lower level team will benefit with their child as a lead, and the higher level team will give the other child exposure to what it takes to shine eventually. Break it down for them like any other sport–would you rather be a starter on a JV-level team, or benched on a Varsity team? Cheer routines demand perfect execution, and the last thing you want is to jump the gun on a young cheerleader’s skill level and get them injured.

Tryouts are no easy feat, and you’ve probably been planning them for months! The only thing you can’t plan for is your heartstrings, and you better believe that they are going to be pulled in some way or another. So, harden up that coaching shell of yours, flex those decision-making muscles of yours, and try to make the most out of drafting your next season.

What are other tough calls cheer coaches have to make during tryouts? Share your experiences with us!