It’s been a few months since many people around the world were shocked and outraged by a story in the cheer community. Images began to surface of a young lady being “forced into splits” by her coach and teammates. The video (and subsequent backlash) permeated our news feeds and left many wondering how something like this could happen and what must be done in response. Most responded with anger and reprimanded the coach for his actions. Others came to the coaches side and defended his actions claiming, “this is normal….this happened to me…”
Simply put, this entire situation made me cringe. My initial reaction was a mixture of anger and frustration that an athlete was put in this situation and then had it broadcast across the world. Once the initial sting wore off, I was left with one simple feeling….disappointment. How could something like this happen? What could possibly make anyone (coach or not) think that forcing any type of stretch on anyone is beneficial? No matter what rationale anyone could try to come up with, I’m here to tell you…IT. IS. NOT. GOOD. That is not only my opinion, that is physiology.
Piggybacking off of last weeks blog…when we stretch, or try to get “more flexible”, there is very little actually lengthening of tissue. In the most simple terms possible, we are trying to introduce a new range of motion to the brain enough that it recognizes that it’s safe (not going to tear) and allows us to move more. One thing to focus on is the “SAFE” part. If the brain is in a fight or fight mode (freaking out because it feels like it is endangered or that something is about to be injured), and we force the body into a deeper stretch, it will NOT relax enough to ease into this new range of motion. What happens? We tear stuff. Period. Injury. Bad.
There are ways to increase mobility in the cheer athlete; safe ways to “get more flexible”. If anyone is doing this to an athlete, it simply shows a lack of education to the proper ways to improve skill without endangering the athlete and is simply unacceptable.
Actions like this need to be addressed and changed. ASAP. This is not an isolated incident (this type of “coaching” happens much more than we know) and because of this…our mission to Build Better Cheer Athletes becomes ever more important.