In cheerleading, a “waterfall” is a stunt with variations at levels 3-7. As shown in the photo, the flyer is launched into the air by her base group and then is assisted by another flyer to achieve more height and momentum. The waterfall flyer then completes a ¾ front flip to be caught by the original base group. It takes many hours and many weeks of team practice to learn an arena-ready waterfall, which requires a collective commitment to perseverance among team members.
The definition of perseverance is steadfastness and constant effort to achieve something. Some skills can be learned and mastered within a short time frame. As athletes mature, skills typically increase in complexity and require a longer time frame of drills and practice to achieve mastery. Athletes and coaches need to persevere, especially when practice is difficult and tiring.
If athletes do not develop the capacity for perseverance, there is no patience for long-term projects. Caitlyn Nelson of Cheer Factory/The Cheer Forge reflects, “When I think of perseverance, I think of kids who I coach who are lacking ‘grit.’ I want to build protective factors that will help my athletes develop the capacity to persevere. How can I be a role model for the skill of perseverance? How do I build camaraderie on the team that motivates everyone to persevere for the sake of the team?”
Every athlete will face challenges in sport and in life. Cheerleading is a sport where a vision is required, but the vision never works out. Being able to push through the ups and downs of the season is a metaphor for pushing through the ups and downs of life. Perseverance develops the habit of solution-oriented thinking. In tough situations, athletes are trained to think of creative solutions.
Learning and perfecting a cheerleading routine is a year-long project. For coaches, perseverance can be strengthened by reflecting on past and future. Creating a visual timeline demonstrates where the team is now and the path to achieve success in the months to come.
Coaches strive to push athletes to reach their potential in a way that breeds the grit to persevere.