When it comes to cheerleading, one often-repeated mantra is that safety is everyone’s responsibility. This usually is seen as the coaches being responsible for their actions and cheerleaders being responsible for their actions, but it really is much more than that.
Having the responsibility for safety shared by everyone means that each of us is invested in one another’s wellbeing. After all, we aren’t always the best judge of our own abilities or limitations.
Situation #1: Imagine you see a teammate working on standing tumbling. It’s late in the day. She just came from soccer practice with you two hours ago and you know it was a grueling outdoor session that left you both physically drained. She wants to please the coach and push herself by working on her back tucks, but you can tell she is just a few attempts away from possibly landing on her head. You want to say something, but you know she won’t listen. What do you do?
Situation #2: Consider another scenario. Your back spot just got hit in the face with an elbow during a twisting dismount. The coach couldn’t see it, and your teammate says she’s fine. You know that it was a pretty good hit; on the next attempt, she is clearly disoriented and says, “What are we doing again?” You’ve taken the free online concussion course and you also know that if she just sustained a concussion, a second one could be life threatening. What do you do?
HERE’S WHAT YOU DO:
FIRST, FOLLOW YOUR INSTINCTS. If you think you should say something, then say something. Three tries from now may be too late, and you’ll regret not speaking up when it would have made a difference.
VOICE IT TO SOMEONE. Depending on the situation, you can talk to your teammate. However, in most cases the athlete mentality doesn’t allow for perceived signs of weakness or what might be seen as a slacker work ethic. You may want to say something to the coach or team captain so that they can handle a situation before it becomes an injury. In the event of a coach or program issue such as practicing on concrete, not following
rules or even hazing, the best person to speak to may be an administrator or a parent. Whatever you do, find someone who can do something about the situation, and follow up if they don’t.
UNFORTUNATELY, YOU SHOULD BE PREPARED FOR PUSHBACK. If it is a friend, she will likely say “I’ve got this” or “I’m fine.” If it’s a program issue, you may hear “this is the way we’ve always done it” or “I’m the coach and what I say goes.” Again, if it’s a safety concern, stick to your guns and follow through with getting the information to whoever can address it. You may even be vilified if your comments or complaints end up changing things or getting someone in trouble. That is a badge of honor for those who understand that their friends’ safety is more important than their admiration.