This is a hard word to see. It’s hard to think about. It’s hard to talk about…it brings about feelings of anxiety. However…it must. be. discussed.
Though we focus heavily on the improvement of physical health of our cheer athletes, the emotional and psychological health of these young people is so much more important. As some of you may know, a recent story has come to light of a cheer coach that used his position of power to take advantage of a young lady. It wasn’t until after months of abuse did this brave girl come forward.
There is no question that this is not an isolated incident. The times have changed and we have become accustomed to the new norm of our young female cheer athletes developing much sooner (physically) and the fashion and makeup industries helping to make them appear much older and mature than they actually are. I am not one to censor the way a person dresses or presents themselves to the world, but we cannot allow people to take advantage of them. We must address this issue head on.
To the athletes , please read these next words carefully. If something that a coach or other older person says or does feels wrong or makes you feel uncomfortable….DO NOT ignore that feeling. Don’t feel embarrassed or ashamed or worry that you did anything wrong. Find a person that you trust and talk to them about what happened. I promise, in those situations, you did nothing wrong and should not be scared to talk to someone so they can help you.
Parents and coaches, we must create an open dialogue that allows our athletes to speak freely with us about situations like this. We must educate them (without pre-emptive reprimand) about the signs of a predator and how to properly handle the situation.
Whether it is one girl or one hundred girls, we cannot allow our young ladies (or young men) to fall victim to the heinous acts of a sick person. We support them in every way we can and it is crucial that we do even more in this area.
Athletes and parents, here are some things to keep an eye out for:
Phone calls, texts, and/or social media contact at odd times of the day
Sending pictures without you requesting them
Sending inappropriate pictures and/or asking for them in return
Expressing feelings for the athlete outside of the coach/athlete relationship
Showing excess favoritism in the cheer setting
If you believe you (or someone on your team) has experienced a situation like this , it is important that you speak up. If you are unsure who to talk to, call 1.800.656.4673
The Cheer Doc is an online resource for cheer athletes, gymnasts, tumblers, and other acrobatic type athletes to learn how to improve athletic performance as well prevent injuries.