Words of Cheer – Resilience - Soft Skill No. 6

The resilience of human beings refers to a person’s strength, toughness, adaptability and hardiness.  Resilience has become a buzzword in education, sport, and the youth world. From a sport perspective, I put resilience in a triangle with mental toughness and positive self talk. These character traits that visible from my point of view as a cheerleading coach. I have observed new cheerleading athletes learn that falling is OK, all part of the learning curve.

Caitlyn Nelson of Cheer Factory/The Cheer Forge explains, “Mental toughness is the most important end result that I am aiming for. As a coach I teach positive self talk. I teach athletes to use specific language to articulate what worked and what didn’t in every stunt. As they chat after each attempt, athletes learn resilience in the realization that the new skill will not succeed on the first try. The stunt group members problem solve as they try to achieve the skill.”

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Interval training is another great strategy to insert positive self talk into the practice time.  Cool down time in between the intense phases is when athletes use their positive self-talk. Athletes are absorbing the language as they catch their breath.

Resilience must be taught all year during team practice time. Even when something goes terribly wrong in the beginning of a performance, the team knows to stay the course and continue to do their best routine. A competition routine is two minutes and 30 seconds of intensity, also known as a full-out.  Doing full-outs of the entire 2:30 routine at practice is the way to teach that resilience – push through no matter what.

In the current COVID situation, we have seen the necessity for resilience. Everyone has demonstrated resilience as we adapt to COVID. We have been faced with forced closures, or significant restrictions, and we need to maintain a growth mindset. We all need to be able to remain “coachable” through difficult situations.  

In fact, in rare cases when a technical difficulty interrupts the music during performance at a competition, cheer teams do not stop on the mat. The stadium starts to chant out the counts of the music and the team continues their routine. That’s resilience!

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