Saturday, December 19, 2009

Miss congeniality

    "The spirit stick got its start at a camp at the University of Redlands in California. We had a squad out there who cheered for the other groups and were full of spirit, but they had almost no talent. So, I decided they had to have some recognition because their great attitude was just as important as skill! I broke a little stick off a tree and awarded them the 'spirit stick' for their unusual spirit. Then we started doing this at all the camps, awarding the spirit stick to the groups who showed the most spirit each day, and whoever won it at the end of the week got to take it home with them. The spirit stick is the most outstanding award you can get. It's the symbol for spirit." ~Lawrence Herkimer

Awarding a spirit stick is not so much about skills and conditioning as it is about... well, SPIRIT.

There might be people who are better cheerleaders in that their moves are more accurate or more sharp, or they may be capable of more stunts or tumbling, or they may know more chants- but the spirit-stick recipient is the person who perhaps has the most positive attitude, the most supportive of their squad-mates, attempts the most direct crowd-encouragement, or if nothing else, they put forth the most effort (remember the formula e/a= s effort divided by ability equals success). So yes, it occasionally might go to someone who shows the most improvement. It's also important to remember that if you're not getting the spirit stick, that doesn't mean you aren't doing an awesome job.

Here are some of the qualities I will be looking for each game-

First, from our mission statement:
Positive, Committed Leaders stirring-up spirit, building excellence & character

    * Who remains positive the whole game?
    * Who demonstrates the most commitment?
    * Shows leadership (managing, facilitating and setting an example- not JUST directing)
    * Stirs-up school spirit (in crowd, team, and within the squad)
    * Strives to improve
    * and has personal integrity, principles and character

Those are pretty subjective, I admit, I can't see into your soul, after all, so I look for what's a lot easier to see. Things like:

    * School Spirit
    * Sportsmanship
    * Energy
    * Expression
    * Encouraging/supportive

And, I hope you'll read the posts I make about John Wooden's Pyramid of Success, because some of his"bricks" also embody the meaning of the spirit stick:

    * Friendship
    * Loyalty
    * Cooperation
    * Enthusiasm
    * Self-Control
    * Team Spirit

I will be awarding our spirit stick on a weekly basis. Winners will receive it each Monday and are responsible for returning it the following Friday before the game. They're also responsible (of course) for not letting it touch the ground. That's not actually about bad luck- it's symbolic of the fact that you should always keep your spirit up!

Yes, I welcome your input, but no, it's not a democracy, it's definitely a coach-ocracy. I want to hear who you all think deserves it. I especially want to hear from past recipients, but I do reserve the final word.

I don't believe that the NCA founder and inventor of the "Herkie" jump meant for the spirit stick to be a mere consolation prize. I think he'd agree that being positive, having good sportsmanship, and encouraging others is more important in cheerleading than impressive stunts, choreographed routines, or sharp moves and jumps.

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