Updated: Mar 13
You glance at your phone to see you have 50 texts. Is it an emergency? What could be wrong? As you read the texts your heart beats out of your chest. You jump up, immediately switch modes completely and now your cellphone has become another appendage to your body.
Your phone must now follow you everywhere. It will not leave your hand while you are making dinner, doing laundry, having an important business meeting, planting flowers, sleeping or going to the bathroom. And you've figured out if you put your phone in a zip lock bag you can take it into the shower with you.
If you are a cheer parent then you know exactly what those texts were: “Team Placement calls/emails have started.”
What makes competitive cheer different from most sports is athletes have to tryout every year. It's a whole process that sometimes take multiple days. Most likely your child will be placed on a different team from the one they were just competing on weeks before. But even if they make the same team, it won’t be the "same" team because every team will be made up of a different combination of athletes than the year before.
After tryouts is when the wait to find out your child's team placement can be one of the most nerve racking times of the season.
Every year in late spring/early summer, cheer team placements take over many cheer parents' lives for about three days. Every gym does them a little different from the other, but the most common two components of tryouts are a phone call or email. Sometimes, a gym will do an elaborate reveal, or a parent will find out the team and do a creative reveal for their child. But every parent has felt the pressure, excitement and anxiety of cheer placements and it rules their life for several days every season.
I will admit that “The Call” would have me more nervous than my daughters. I had researched all the possible teams they could make, their stats, wins, losses, popularity and coaches. I knew what skills my daughters had or were working on and that meant I certainly knew what team they should make. I convinced my daughters that my pick was their pick too. I even would choose the three teams they wanted to tryout for and put them in the order I felt was best on their tryout sheet (secretly knowing I only wanted them to make my first choice).
Waiting on team placement calls feels somewhat like cheer torture. Some get their call on day one but it always seemed, as our luck would have it, our call would come at 9 pm on day three. Every time the phone rang, my stomach instantly tied-up in knots. This was the one time of the year that bill collectors or the guy selling an extended warranty on your vehicle could make a killing because you have to answer every single phone call (but let’s keep that our secret).
I even remember a time when I had left my phone at a restaurant and I raced back like a crazy person to retrieve it. I saw I had two missed calls so I posted the numbers in our cheer group asking if anyone knew if it was a coach's number. Yes, clearly I was cheer insane!
I also know many cheer moms, including me, that spent three days refreshing their phones every minute so see what team former teammates had made. This wasn’t always a positive thing. A few times I remember thinking and talking with other moms about why we thought a certain child shouldn’t have made a certain team. I apologize now for being “That Mom."
Our family had been lucky though, and for the first half of my oldest daughter’s cheer career she always made the team we picked as our first choice. I would post everywhere I could about the team she made as if I had received a trophy. This was me personally bragging because I had always known what team my daughter should make. You guessed it though, there did finally came a day when she didn’t make the team we (mainly me) had picked.
For my daughter’s whole cheer career, she's always moved up a level each season.
She was placed on Cheer Athletics' FuryCats (Junior Restricted 5) in her 2015/2016 season. They were an amazing team and even won NCA that season, but naturally I believed she should move up to Jags, one of the most prestigious Junior teams in the world, for her 2016/2017 season. CA Jags were a true Level 5 team (what we'd call Level 6 today) and, following the placements of previous years, it dictated that my daughter was destined to be a Jag.
Until the day she wasn’t.
When the phone rang, I heard my daughter say “Yay!” with a huge smile on her face and so I got really excited, assuming that she made Jags. Then she looked at me and said, “I made FuryCats again.” My heart sank. I didn’t want her to be on the same team again.
I pretended to be happy about it in public even making a post that we were thrilled she made Fury round two. Behind the scenes though I wasn’t happy and was about to make a big mistake that I am not proud of. I just knew my daughter should be a Jag and I decided to pull the coach over after practice and tell him that. He was definitely taken back, but proceeded to tell me that my daughter was going to be a leader on FuryCats. They had hopes for her to be the center flyer. That she was going to shine on this team. That answer was satisfactory, but I still wasn’t convinced of this decision until I saw Blue Debut (Cheer Athletics' Show Off) that season.
My daughter had always been an outside flyer. She was good and consistent but she lacked skills and confidence to be a stand out flyer. What I saw on the stage at Blue Debut that year was a different athlete. She was flying in the center, so confident and doing an amazing job. She looked like a well-seasoned flyer and it was in that moment that I understood I was wrong. The coaches knew exactly what they were doing when they placed her.
That year FuryCats went on to win Summit. She was doing skills she had never done and with the most confidence I had ever seen in her. This FuryCats team gave her so much more than what leveling up would have given her. This FuryCat team trained her to become a Worlds athlete. This FuryCat team is what made me realize cheer is not about me at all.
Tryouts, that phone call, team placements were not mine. They belonged to my daughter. It wasn’t "my" or even "our" choice. It was hers. Now I needed to let them remain hers.
The coaches know exactly what they are doing when they place an athlete on his or her team, even if we parents don’t see it right away or understand the reasoning behind it.
So I leave you with this advice: talk to your child.
Understand what their hopes and dreams are for the upcoming season. I hate that I didn’t notice my daughter was excited that she made FuryCats again and I didn’t support her excitement. She was truly happy she made that team. She wasn’t ready for Jags.
Be genuinely supportive in your child's decision, teach them to be proud of their team placement by showing your pride. Remember that the way you act when your child gets their team placement will impact your child’s attitude towards the team. And it’s not just about your child either. Coaches are creating a whole team and your child is a wonderful piece of that team’s puzzle for a reason. Your first thought shouldn’t be “My child shouldn’t be on this team” but rather “My child is needed to complete this team!”
I will admit that it has been a struggle sometimes to let go and completely let the coaches take over my daughter’s cheer fate. Sometimes I don’t agree with their decisions, but I have settled into embracing one of cheer’s most famous sayings: “Trust The Process.”
Remember, every season each team is different. Different athletes, different parents, sometimes even different coaches and with all that, new lessons to be learned. When worrying about what team your child didn’t make, you might be missing out on the incredible things happening on the team they DID make. You never know what each season will hold. New skills gained, NCA Jacket, Summit or Worlds Rings, or even better, the best friends you and you child will ever make!
PS. It’s okay to put that phone down during team placements. They will call back, I promise.
Meghan Moi lives in Texas with her husband and two daughters. She's been CheerMAD for ten years. Her oldest daughter, has cheered since she was five years of age and has multiple awards, including winning Worlds as a CheerAthletics' Cheetah in 2018 and, just last weekend, won NCA as a CA CrewCat. Her younger daughter hung up her cheer shoes in 2018 after two seasons on Cheer Athletics KittyKatz. When Meghan isn't CheerMAD's "Blogger-in-Truth," she has a career in Early Childhood Education and loves watching movies (sometimes doing her own reviews). She enjoys a large group of friends, in and out of cheer.