To lead or to follow?

Lead by example. As I look back on times of difficulty and conflict that pressed my team with doubt and frustration, I find that the only way that those challenges were overcome were when someone stepped up and became a positive influence for the rest of the team to follow.Every cheerleader is a leader. We lead the crowd. We lead the school. We lead the arena full of spectators and judges and young aspiring athletes. That’s our job. It’s found in our unwritten description of inevitable duties to be performed. But we cannot all be leaders all of the time.

We all have had days, weeks, maybe even months when we were bogged down by frustrations or road blocks that trumped our every day successes that we tried to reach. It is at these times that we become followers. A follower. The term comes with such a negative connotation. Yet being a follower is just as important, if not more important, as being a leader. Who would a leader be if he or she did not have anyone to support their ideas and ideology? Who would a captain be without his or her team to follow in their disciplines and directive actions? As a member of a team, it is important to know how to both lead and follow.

This short video provides an example of the crucial roles of both a leader and a follower … click here. You’ll be glad you watched this …

So how do you decide when to lead and when to follow? For me, it has been a long road of learning how to follow my gut and my intuition – two things that I rely heavily on. When you look around and see a member of your team with a glum look on his or her face and acting irregular, lead. When the catty drama that inevitably and unfortunately comes second nature to being a part of a cheerleading team starts to interrupt the flow of a productive practice, a productive season, and a positive experience, lead. When your team is in a rut and just cannot seem to break away from one bad situation after another, constantly facing moments of defeat, lead.

But when someone new steps up with an idea or a piece of advice and you know it took them longer to muster up the courage to open their mouth than it did to actually speak the words that came out, follow. And when someone who usually sticks to his or her own routine and way of doing things decides to step out of their comfort zone in order to engage with the team as a whole, follow.

I don’t think there’s a cheerleader or athlete on this earth who at the end of their career looks back and says, “Wow, the most memorable experience I had was learning how to do that kick-double” or “My favorite time during cheerleading was nailing my tuck x-out”. You instead hear, “I remember how much fun I had with my team when we took trips for tournaments” or “Man, I really loved how I always had someone to hang out with on the weekend” or “It was great being able to end a stressful day of school by going to see my team full of friends and laughing off all of the stupid things that happened during the day”.

Finding an even balance of being a leader and a follower on your team provides you with a playing field that is even for all members of the team. You can look beside you and see a friend, not see someone who is above or below you. It’s a hard lesson to learn, and not always a fun one along the way. But doing so provides you with something wonderful to look back on and remember. You won’t always remember the awards, the championships, and the games. Instead, you remember the people, the memories and the moments.



The big game

This past Friday night, the Canisius men’s basketball team had their home opener against Iona. Although the Griffins lost (69-57), the energy of the first home game of the year was good enough for myself and for my team.

The weeks leading up to a big game are always stressful, and this season was no different for my cheerleading team. We had 3 practices the week of the game. On Monday we had a girl quit early because she found out she’d be officially transferring next semester, and on Wednesday we had a girl dislocate her elbow while tumbling, leaving us to have to rearrange everything in just one practice on Thursday night, just hours before the KAC filled up with students, faculty, and alumni for the big game. Now many people may think “Oh well that’s easy, what do you guys have to do? Just sit around and yell, right?” Nope, wrong.

For the home opener, we had to do an opening routine with the dance team, a time out which was a cheer that included signs, tumbling, and stunts, a half-time competition routine that included rolling out the mats, a cheer, tumbling, tosses, jumping, stunting, more tumbling, and dancing, and finally a routine that included tumbling, jumping, and stunting. And that was all on top of the cheers that we have to do to get the crowd involved and the activities we have to do on behalf of the athletics department. To rearrange all of that in one practice was difficult to say the least.

Lucky for me, I have a coach who is extremely organized, and a small group of girls who are dedicated, optimistic, patient, understanding, and flexible – both with their skills and with their schedules.

Even though the basketball team lost, our cheerleading team did a phenomenal job. The Associate Athletic Director of the college told our coach that our performance at half time was the best that Canisius has ever done. We were complimented by students, faculty, and friends, and it was a feeling of accomplishment and respect that made not only the past week, but the past 4 months of our hard work extremely worthwhile.