Saturday, May 6, 2017

Our First trip to Cheerleading Worlds

Two years ago, I didn't even know that there was a Worlds competition for cheerleading - heck I had no idea just how big the cheer world actually was!  Now here I am...a couple of years older and way wiser when it comes to cheer LOL.  And this year we were able to arrange our spring vacation schedule so that we could watch the two teams that got invited to go to Worlds from Black Widow Cheer Gym (aka Ally's second home).  Truthfully, I think I was just as excited to go as Ally was!

I heard from others that it was a crazy thing to experience; that the energy was insane, and the atmosphere was like no other.  Believe me when I tell you that those statements are absolutely the truth.  Thousands of cheerleaders, coaches and their supporters from around the world packed into the ESPN Sports Centre at Disney - awesome!

We got to the venue early, and headed to the tent where the Black Widow teams would perform.  As we walked in, we caught a glimpse of the coaches and the teams - watching Ally's face light up as she spotted them is a image that I will keep forever.  It was a mixture of pure joy, awe and excitement - and was the exact reason we even contemplated arranging things so we could be there.

We watched teams from Japan, Australia, South Africa, Sweden - literally from all over the world.  It was pretty cool to think that these were the best of the best from these countries.

The came the time for BW Love to perform.  As I watched this team take the stage, I was a nervous wreck and was teary eyed - and I didn't even have an athlete on the stage!  I honestly can't imagine sitting there as a parent watching their child compete on that stage - I'm not sure my heart would be able to handle it.  They performed well, and you could feel the BDub pride as they left the stage.

Next up was BW Ice.  This team holds a special place in my heart - they truly are a group of girls I would define as role models.  They love their sport, they are committed and hard working, and they never bat an eye when the younger girls want to "help".  This was their first time at worlds - they didn't have the run they were hoping for, but heart swelled with pride as I watched them go through their routine.  It was a beautiful thing to experience.

We decided to hang out for the rest of the day (awards were around 3:30 and we figured we'd hang out to see where the teams placed) - we watched other teams, Ally tumbled on the ESPN field and, of course, we picked up some swag.

Turns out staying allowed us to witness something even more incredible - we were there to watch Love move on to the Worlds Finals.  They came top three in Canada - no small feat.  For me, I got to watch the parents go beserk when it was announced - and I got to watch Ally cry tears of joy and pride. Absolutely an experience we will not soon forget.

For me, I'm not sure how else to describe the experience.  I've used words like amazing, incredible, proud, excited...all accurate but don't go far enough.  I think one of the things that warmed my heart the most (other than watching BW teams do their thing), was how much the coaches and the girls thanked us for coming to watch them.  They seemed truly grateful that we were there, and it made the essence of BWFamily even more real.  That day, those girls, Ally's reactions - all are things that will be ingrained in my memory for years to come.  Pretty sure the only thing that will top this is when I'm back in Orlando to watch Ally compete - I have no doubt one day we will capture the picture below with Ally in her uniform, ready to take on the World :-)

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Another Nationals in the books!

So if you follow any of my social media accounts, you know that this past weekend was the National Cheerleading Championships in Niagara Falls (I posted lots this weekend!).  This competition officially marks the end of the 2016-17 cheer season - and I couldn't let it pass without somekind of a post :-)

This year has been a little crazy - Ally was on 2 cheer teams - a youth level 3 team where she was a base (SuperYumberry) and a senior level 2 team where she was a flyer (Freeze).  For anyone who is wondering, you hold your breath during every performance whether they are flying or catching the flyer.  Both are equally as nerve wrecking!  And there were challenges that munchkin had to deal with - a mental block with her tumbling, learning to be a flyer, a concussion and moments where fatigue took over.  Watching her deal with it all was tough - but I discovered what a tough kid I'm raising.  And I discovered what an amazing gym we are part of - Black Widow Cheer Gym helped her through each of these.  They were patient with her block, they pushed her to get over her fear of flying, they made her sit out until she was truly ready to come back after her concussion and they reminded her how great she is whenever they saw her struggling.  They also cheered her on loudly every time she needed it.  I know...I'm gushing again, but the coaches at this gym always make me want to gush.  They are awesome!

Now on to Nationals - 3 jam-packed days of cheer teams from all over Canada vying to become National champs.  For us cheer parents, it means 12 hour days at the venues listening to cheer music in two and a half minute counts; it means heading to the swag area to load up on Nationals gear; it means lots of hairspray and blue glittery eye shadow; it means pep talks, hugs and lots of pictures; it means holding our breaths while they are on the mat; it means screaming like mad when they hit.

For the athletes, it means taking everything they have worked hard for over the past year and putting it out there, and leaving their hearts on the mat after every performance (each team performs twice at Nationals).  It is a truly crazy experience to be a part of.  

For Ally, both runs on day one were not ideal.  They worked really hard, but both teams had bobbles, and it wasn't what they were hoping for.  We spent some time Saturday night chatting about what to do day 2, and then the girls went for a swim.  They needed to just chill out and get ready for Sunday - so that's what we did.

Day 2 was magical.  I cried after both of Ally's teams were done.  I hugged every girl I could find. I jumped up and down on the sidelines, and I lost my voice from screaming.  The first team up was SuperYumberry - and they hit better than they had all year.  They had a zero deduction run, and came off the mat with their heads held high (well they actually bounced off as 9-12 year olds do).  They ended up placing 6th in a division that was crazy hard!  And this one was extra emotional for me - it was Ally's last time at Nationals as a youth yes I cried.

Then came Freeze - oy vey!  This team went through lots of ups and downs this year, and we all really wanted them to do well.  The girls were fine - the coach and us team moms were a wreck LOL. They hit the floor - and they nailed it.  Like really nailed it!  A zero deduction run for them too - and yes I cried when they were done. This team came 2nd - was an amazing way to end their season.  Needless to say this mama was drained after Sunday - but I wouldn't have it any other way.

Now comes the gushing again - I started this post out with saying how amazing BWCG was, and how awesome the coaches were.  I can't tell you enough how over the moon I am that a friend convinced me to bring Ally there to try it three years ago.  We have found a place where she feels supported, challenged, pushed and loved.  I've watched her grow as an athlete, and this year she started helping out with the little ones - and I watched her take everything she has learned from her coaches and impart them on the littles.  It made for some proud mama moments.

And don't get me started on how amazing the families are.  Parents who are as dedicated and as crazy as I am - and who I now consider part of my circle.  And to the athletes - know that I'm always a cheer mom you can find if you need anything.  #BWFamily is a real thing!

Now on to getting ready for next season - but first, we get to take Ally to watch Worlds in Orlando so we can cheer on the two BWCG teams who are there competing.  Truth be told, I'm as excited as she is to watch these girls hit the mat at the Worlds stage.  Bring it on!!

Monday, September 12, 2016

Cheerleading at it's finest

So in my last post, I let you in on my approach to blogging - I tend to post when I have to work something out, or I'm feeling particularly sappy.  This one falls into the latter category, and - surprise - it has to do with cheerleading.

So here goes - I'm just back from Ally's cheer practice, and what I witnessed tonight actually made me tear up.  And although I didn't need it, tonight reminded me how much I love cheerleading as a sport, how many lessons they learn, and why I am proud to be part of the Black Widow Cheer Gym family.

Tonight's practice had some challenges.  Some stunt groups had a harder time staying up than others; some girls had to fight hard to get their tumbling passes down.  Don't get me wrong - these girls all still did things that make my jaw drop every time I see them - they are truly incredible and I LOVE watching them do what they do.

What made me tear up tonight was watching the girls in between the stunting and tumbling.  I watched them support their team mates after every stunt or pass - they cheered when it was really good, and they yelled out "you got this" to girls that needed a little more encouragement.  The feeling at the practice tonight was truly one of "we are a team, and we will do great things together".  I watched them stand with their arms around each other, I heard them quietly encourage each other.  As a parent, I watched them do all the things I want them to do as part of a team, and as good people.  It was amazing.

Then I watched the coaches.  I watched the coaches treat them as the athletes they expect them to be.  They pushed the girls when the needed it, and stood back and let them work through things when they needed that.  They shook their heads when it wasn't right (and made them do it again), and yelled praise when the girls hit their skill.  At the end of practice, I watched the girls gather for their end of practice huddle.  While I couldn't hear the whole pep talk, what I did hear made me even more proud to be part of the Black Widow family.  The girls were reminded it was ok to feel stress, to be scared to do something, but that they needed to have a plan to work through that fear and get through the stress.  They were reminded that their goal right now was to show progress at each practice, and to trust the coaches, the team and themselves.  If they can do that, the season will be a successful one.

As a parent, what more could I ask for?  We have found a sport that munchkin loves, and that teaches her the importance of team work, goal setting and determination.  And even better, we have found a place for her to excel at her sport that feels like a family.  The coaches encourage, push, challenge and support their athletes every practice.  They teach them lessons that extend far beyond the gym. It is truly a fantastic thing to witness.

So if you ever see a social media post where I use the hashtag #BWFamily, know that I mean it. And if you follow me on social media, you know that there will be *a few* more posts about cheerleading in coming months.  You have been warned   :-)

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Dealing with self-doubt

So first, can I please just start off with a Woo-Hoo!  It's summer break and, while I do not have the luxury of taking the summer off, I officially do not have to make any more lunches.  Girls are on their own to plan and prep for lunch, including when they go to camp.  I could not be happier...well that's not true.  I would be happier if I was lounging by a pool for the summer, but I will take the small win LOL

No on to the reason for the post.  I tend to write when I have things I need to work through, or when I have an a-ha moment, or when I'm feeling super proud and/or sappy.  There is a little bit of all of this in this one...bear with me.

I've written lots about how my munchkin is dedicated, hard working, sets her goals and makes it her mission to achieve them.  I could not be prouder than when I watch her get "that look" - the one she gets when she's about ready to take on the world and smash through whatever target she has set for herself.  I've discovered, though, that there is a flip side.

She comes across as this super confident, ready to take on the world, full of smiles kid - and for the most part she is.  There are moments, however, that I can see this little girl who seems scared; a little girl who is wondering if she is good enough, if she will be able to smash through that target goal.  Those moments - the ones where I know she is battling that little voice we have all lived with that makes us second guess how good we are - those moments are the ones that break my heart.

Here's the thing - right now the doubt that is plaguing her is related to something she loves - cheer - and that is making it worse.  She is working so hard, and is so focussed on being a better tumbler, a more flexible flyer, a stronger base that I think she is wondering if she will ever get to where she wants to be.  Aiming for a perfect tumbling pass, a perfect scorpion, a perfect stunt is a lot to ask of a kid - and it is certainly a lot for her to ask of herself.  And because she has accomplished many of her goals this year (moving to level 3, becoming a flyer) she is worried it will slip away if she doesn't hit that unattainable perfection.  Hard to watch her struggle, but truth is I get it.  It took me a long time to realize that it was ok to doubt yourself, as long as you didn't let it take over.  Here's hoping I can convince her of that.

I wish I had a magic wand and I could silence that voice, or a magic mirror so she could see herself as I see her.  Brave, strong, determined, sassy, caring, talented...but I don't.  I have to stand back and watch her try and work through it, and just be there for hugs and reminders that she is amazing.  Those I can give in abundance.  And, with any luck, that voice she hears will turn into one of "I can do anything.  I believe I can so I will".  Fingers crossed...

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Lessons I Learned from my Daughters

So I've spent years imparting wisdom on my kids - hopefully wisdom that they will carry and that will help them get through life a little smarter than me.  Every once in a while, when I really stop and think about it, I realize they are teaching me every day too.

In the past two week, my girls have each taught me something important - and this morning I took a few minutes to make sure they knew that they did.  I reminded them that even parents can learn from things happening around them - and I vow to remind them more often about I learn from them.  Thought I would share their lessons...

1. From Ally:  Hard work, focus and determination can get you to where you want to be

Often I find that we look around and think others have gotten where they are because they are lucky or because they caught a break.  We forget that, most times, people get places because they have set a goal, focussed on what they want, and put in the work required to get there.  It isn't about being in the right place at the right time - it's about creating the right place and right time by putting in the work.

I watched my girl set her sights on what she wanted, work her tail off to up her skills and she was rewarded with the team placement she wanted at the cheer gym.  Her focus and determination to achieve the goals she set for herself we amazing to watch.  Here is this 11-year old who has figured out that to get to where you want to be, you have to put in the effort.  Reminded me that, as adults, we don't need to have it all figured out...but we do need to know where we want to end up and have our decisions get us closer to that.  Whether it is getting more fit, wanting a promotion, being a better friend - whatever it is, if you put effort towards it you can make it happen.

2.  From Marianna: You should step outside of your comfort zone every once in a while - you may like it!

This year we were trying to find something different for Marianna to do as an extra curricular activity.  We came across an improv class that fit with our schedule and, after some convincing, she decided to give it a shot.  So my introverted, shy girl decided to get up in front of an audience and perform.  She wasn't sure she would be able to do the "thinking on your feet" part of improv, but she decided to give it a shot anyway.  And you know what?  She loved it!! She met a great group of people who supported her and she got really comfortable performing.  So much so, she has decided she wants to more things where she gets to be on a stage (singing, plays and more improv).

During this, her confidence has gone up, she has figured out "who she is" (at least for now) and she has found a passion that she can do outside of school.  All this because she decided to not to stay stuck in her comfort zone - in fact her comfort zone has grown.  It has taught me that in order to grow, we need to put ourselves out there.  We need to try new things and we need to not get bogged down in the fear of failing.  This one is a hard one for me...but if she can do it so can I!

So bottom line - let your kids teach you.  Learn from them, and let them know what you are taking away from the things they are trying.  Shows them life is all about continuous learning - and they get a kick out of realizing parents don't really know everything LOL

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

A Shout Out to my Friends

I have written a bunch of posts about how great my circle is...I have supportive, funny friends who keep me grounded and remind me of what is really important in life.  Whether I need a shoulder to cry on, someone to laugh with or just someone to listen to me vent, they have me covered.  I've surrounded myself with people who are willing to put up with my craziness and for that I am very grateful.

Lately these friends (and a few new ones) have been encouraging me on my way to getting back my mojo when it comes to working out and getting healthy.  While I truly appreciate it, after 2 days of back to back exercise (legs specifically), I'm wondering if these same friends are grooming me to be the slowest of the pack if there is ever a zombie apocalypse.

I owe a thank you to Sonia who gave me the kick in the butt I needed to get out for a run on Sunday.  And I owe a thank you to Jenn for lending me the 21-day Fix program to try (the first workout I did last night).  What I wasn't counting on was my inability to walk this morning.  I am most certain that if zombies appeared and started chasing me, even my adrenaline would not convince my legs they could run with no pain right now LOL  Not gonna lie...I sort of missed the feeling that comes after knowing you have put your muscles through something strenuous enough that they hurt the next day. Sort of - getting in and out of my chair today is proving challenging!

In all seriousness, thank you to my circle for always being there to encourage me some days, and yell at me to "just do it" on others.  Not sure where I would be without you...and give me a couple of weeks and I won't be the slowest in the pack! 

Monday, April 11, 2016

Cheerleading - Nationals weekend

So if you follow me on social media, you are quite aware that this weekend I was in Niagara Falls for the Nationals Cheerleading competition (quite sure I broke every social media rule with the number of posts per day - not even a little bit sorry!).  I could not let the weekend close without acknowledging how proud I am of my munchkin and her teammates.

Will start out by saying that while this post will have me gushing about Ally and RockNPop, my pride extends to every team from Black Widow Cheer Gym that was there this weekend.  I saw each team overcome obstacles to lay down their best performances to date - and the support that this gym shows their athletes deserves to be recognized.  It was amazing to watch girls and coaches run from one hall to another just to be sure they caught their teammates in action.  Have said it before, and will say it again - I am thrilled to be part of the Black Widow family and look forward to watching the gym continue to support their athletes as they grow.

As for Ally's team, I cannot begin to gush enough.  These girls, who range in age from 8-11, are rock stars.  Imagine having to get up on a huge stage in front of hundreds of people, under glaring lights, and perform heart stopping stunts and tumbling - I am not sure I could stand the pressure.  These girls not only stood up to it...they thrived.  Did I mention they had to do it twice?  Yep...twice.  And they did amazing both times!  They hit every stunt, their tumbling and tosses were on, and they did it all with smiles and sass.

I also have the privilege of accompanying them during warm ups.  It truly gives you a new appreciation for what they go through the minutes leading up to hitting the mat.  This weekend, the girls were nervous on Saturday - you could tell during their warm ups.  Was a tad bit worried - but I can tell you the exact second their nerves calmed and they remembered how amazing they are.  Their coach, Tessa, gave them a pep talk just before they lined up to perform.  As she told them how ready they were, how much she adored them and how much she believed in them, you could visibly see their nerves disappear.  Their shoulders dropped, they stood taller and their smiles returned.  They turned around, grabbed each others hands and walked off with a "we got this" attitude.  Did I mention another reason I adore Black Widow - their coaches know exactly what their athletes need and give it to them.  Tessa knew they just needed a reminder of how prepared they were, and that they needed to do their job but have fun.  After that, they ROCKED their performance.

And Ally made me cry both times.  She focused when she needed to, did her job on the mat, and never stopped smiling - unless of course it was to give a bit of attitude LOL.  I have been humbled as I watch how hard she works - she always wants to go to the gym early and is forever begging me for "just 10 more minutes" after practice is done.  She is determined to meet the goals she has set for herself - and I could not be prouder to watch her tick them off one by one.  And her hard work showed this weekend - she hit all her tumbling and kept her tops up for every stunt.  I also watched her deal with a small disappointment.  One of the girls hurt her ankle earlier in the day.  The coach decided that Ally's group would not do one skill in the second run.  Although she was bummed she would be able to do it, when it came time in the routine she teked it like a pro and smiled through it all.  Love how she handled the last minute change...that's my girl!

I wish I could say they placed where they wanted at the end, but even after 2 superb runs they placed 6th (they had a big deduction on the second run for one skill).  But you know didn't matter.  They walked into the awards ceremony knowing they got a deduction, and still squealed in delight when they found out they placed 6th.  The atmosphere was incredible, and the giggling and squealing was contagious (I pretty much had no voice left by Sunday afternoon).

This was Ally's first trip to Nationals - and I know it is not her last.  I can't wait to see what next year brings, both for her personally as an athlete, and for the gym that we consider a second home.  As for me, I'm looking forward to a small break...before we start back up again for the 2016-17 season.  I say bring it on :-)