Your team has practiced hard all week, given everything they’ve got, and then on competition day, they transition to their first sequence. Then, BAM, a partner stunt falls to the ground. Some teams can bounce back, and still put one heck of a show on while others immediately lose their rhythm, and it’s a trickle effect of one missed stunt, toss, or tumbling pass after another.

And, it’s even more painful to watch–whether you are one of the fans in the stands, or a coach sitting on the edge of the mat cringing in disbelief. What really matters next is how you move forward. It’s very easy for them to give up: crying their eyes out during awards, and sulking when they don’t hear their name announced during placement. The hardest part is digging deep, swallowing back their embarrassment, and flourishing to that moment of success. We’ve all been there… maybe sometimes more than we’d like to admit. As a coach, we have one job, and that’s to build them back up! There are times that we, as coaches, want to give up. There have been seasons that I had I just knew it wasn’t going to be our year, and I became complacent with that, but it wasn’t fair to my cheerleaders. Those girls came in–day in and day out–with broken toes, sprained backs, colds, cramps, and still kept going.  So, we all had to find it in ourselves to move forward.

To fully move forward, we first needed to reflect on the moment as a whole. It will never be just one cheerleader’s fault, or one stunt group’s fault. Once the team starts throwing around blame with one another, they will never be able to grow from the experience. They have to be able to acknowledge that it’s everyone’s fault; everyone has a part in the routine, just as everyone can have a part in a toss that may not go, or the pyramid that just doesn’t hit. Once you have reflected on what you could have changed from that moment, then you can move on.

Next, you get back to work. You took some time to focus on what went wrong, and now, you have to work on all that so it will go right. Make changes as you see fit. If there’s a transition that’s a little shaky, focus on that. If there’s a flyer that you see struggling, spend a little extra time with them. Sometimes, it’s an easy fix of just switching around bases regarding their levels of strength, or moving a cheerleader to a different section of a formation to maximize their travel time. For the next few practices, you will not just be striving to make positive changes, but you be working on building their confidence back up, because without confidence, they will never move forward.

Once you have put in the work, now you have to encourage them–your team needs it! Even with bruised egos and broken hearts, they need to know that you are on their side. They need to know that no matter what, you will always be rooting for them and pushing them to be better. Some of the most influential coaches that I have ever had the pleasure of working with were successful because their cheerleaders respected and appreciated them. They didn’t mind the critique or extra push, because they knew that it came from a place of mutual respect. I have been coaching for over a decade, and each season, I always remind my team that, yes, I’m going to push them, and, yes, I’m going to ask them to dig deeper than they have ever thought possible. Because a good coach will always want you to be better than you were the day before.

How else can cheer coaches bounce back after a big loss? Tell us your competition season tips in the comments!