By Terrie McNutt
Spirit is an activity/sport that has evolved from simple sideline cheers to major competitions. The diversity from state to state with inconsistent rules and regulations, terminology, competitive vs. non competitive squads, regulated by state or simply not regulated at all are just a few of the anomalies that can make coaches frustrated – not to mention the possible frustration at the school district and state levels.
Establishing a statewide coaches association will allow individual programs to come together in a more consistent and cohesive organization that will greatly benefit all those involved.
- Establish a base of spirit coaches that represent many different leagues and demographics to include cheer and dance. If there is a large or strong middle school presence, include a couple of those coaches. There must be statewide representation, and strong leadership and a combined voice are valuable.
- Communicate with your state office on intentions, goals and objectives. Ask for its input and suggestions.
- Information needs to be funneled and accumulated through one main contact person who is also the liaison to your state office.
- Host roundtable discussions with selected leaders to discuss goals, yearly projects, bylaws, officers, a mission statement and logo. Then start to prioritize.
- Establish a calendar of future meetings, deadlines for future projects and discussion items.
- Begin sending e-mail blasts to all spirit coaches informing them of the future spirit coaches’ association and inviting them to submit suggestions to your newly formed Board of Directors.
- Listening and responding to all issues – large or small – is important.
Suggestions from the Nevada Spirit Coaches Association (NSCA)
(Established in 2002)
Mission statement: “An organization of spirit coaches created to promote safety, sportsmanship, training, education, unity, consistency and networking among the spirit coaches of Nevada.”
- In Nevada, we have state officers along with a northern and southern board of delegates to represent the needs of our diverse state. It is also easier for delegates to meet if they don’t have to travel across the state.
- A Web page master and public relations state officer is critical to get your message heard and keep your coaches informed.
- A newsletter distributed via the Internet is also a great communication tool. We solicit articles from our coaches and send it out every other month. Our editor is a state officer.
- Our goals, when we first started (as voiced from our membership) were to produce a state competition, produce a coaches’ handbook and host a statewide conference. We have successfully accomplished all three of those goals during the past eight years. Yes, it takes time to do it right. Don’t try to accomplish all your goals within the first few years. Pick one at a time and then celebrate your successes!
- The NSCA conducts yearly spirit rules meetings in conjunction with the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association sports rules meetings. We use that opportunity to conduct our membership meeting after the rules meeting while coaches are already in attendance.
- Give coaches a reason to join. There must be benefits and rewards. Keep membership dues reasonable. Our main benefits are recognition of their athletes and coaches, ability to vote for changes, networking, coaches education classes, coaches support, safety reinforcements and sportsmanship ideas. The NSCA provides a veteran coach (mentor) to a new coach to help them be successful and answer questions.
- We vote for a Cheer Coach of the Year, Dance Coach of the Year, Academic Team of the Year and Athletic Contributor of the Year. Coaches must be members of the association and they are honored at our yearly conference. We also provide senior scholarships.
- Our association was instrumental in helping to write the NIAA Sportsmanship Guidelines manual that is used by all our member schools.
- This year we produced the Inaugural All State Spirit Team. This team was selected by coaches and students had to be seniors. They were honored by performing a special choreographed pom routine at the state basketball champion games.
Remember to communicate and start small. It is rare to have an overnight success for a program this complex. Do your research. There are materials and information from our partner states regarding coaches associations. Pick out the sections that would work for your state. Don’t try to reinvent the wheel because we’re all in this together.
Building morale and recognition for programs that don’t always receive a lot of positive feedback is a nice reward.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Terrie McNutt has been the state spirit coordinator for the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association for 26 years. She has served on the NFHS Spirit Rules Committee for two terms, and the NFHS Spirit Advisory Committee for two terms. She is the Nevada NFHS State Spirit Director and received the NFHS National Citation for spirit. McNutt has been a cheer and dance coach at the high school and college levels, and she has been a cheer, dance and penalty judge in 12 states for the past 22 years. She was instrumental in developing the Nevada Spirit Coaches Association and producing the State Spirit Championships.
(Additional input was provided by Julie Meservey, Southern Nevada Spirit Rules Interpreter and charter member of the NSCA).