When a cheerleading squad faces mid-season leadership changes, the transition can make or break the team’s season. As a new leader, it is important that you embrace, accept and meet the challenge head on. Ignoring the change in dynamic will only build tensions on the team, which could lead to a lack of motivation and poor performances. It might be awkward at first, but once any concerns are addressed, everyone will feel better and the team can focus on meeting its goals and developing its strategies for having the best chance to win. Depending on the size of your team, and how it is organized, there are a couple scenarios that could happen: (1) you were already an assistant coach or otherwise involved with the team, (2) you are completely new to the team. The quality of a team’s leadership is the basis for the overall experience that each team member has, and can directly impact the season’s outcome. No matter which situation you are in, here are some tips to help you and your team transition smoothly through the change: Get in the game. Make sure that you are familiar with the previous leader’s goals and methods so you can decide where to make adjustments, and the best way to make those adjustments. Understand all of the duties that will be associated with your new position, including scheduling, managing equipment, ordering cheer uniforms, securing transportation, etc. Hold a meeting. Even if things are crazy and there isn’t much time, make time. Invite parents too. You want a chance to introduce yourself, and even if everyone already knows you, you’ll need to re-introduce yourself as a leader. A team’s leaders are the ones that set the emotional atmosphere for everyone, so let them get a feel for your cheer style. Clearly go over any changes that are going to take place, and explain your goals and expectations for the season. Leave time for a Q&A session. Conduct one-on-one interviews. Pull team members off to the side, individually, during practice and do a short one-on-one interview in an effort to get to know them better and to identify their strengths and weaknesses. You’ll need to be realistic and honest about what each member can contribute, and what the team’s overall limitations may be. Define “winning’. Describe to your team what “winning’ means to you. Athletes might take it hard when their coach pushes them, but if they understand your philosophy and feel like you are working to be a part of the team and their successes, instead of trying to control them, it will be easier for them to handle. Forget favorites! If you are already familiar with one or more members of the team, it might be tempting to rely on them for extra support during the first few days in your new gig, but that could set a destructive standard in the team dynamic. Avoid showing any favoritism, and don’t give any mind to an individual member’s status as the team “star’. Let each member work hard to earn your trust, as you’ll be working hard to gain theirs. Starting fresh, with no preconceived notions, will make the transition easier. Have your own tips? Share them with our readers in our comments section!