Last week my daughter came to me in a panic. She’s 12 and it’s her first year on our senior team. She said, “Mom, I heard some of the girls talking that they’re not coming back next year. They’re going to just do high school cheer instead!” 


I am sure I gave a little bit of a smirk and then proceeded to explain what I’ve learned in the last 11 years of owning a gym. 


“Addy, some of those girls might not come back, and that’s OK. Others are saying those things because they’re overwhelmed with schoolwork, school sports, and competition season, and quitting something is the easiest option for them to think about right now.”


If you’re a newer gym owner, or you’re new to having junior and senior teams, you might be hearing this float around your gym right now too. It’s pretty common this time of year for teens to start thinking about next season. If they’ve done this for awhile, they know our packets are likely coming out in the next few weeks and by mid-February the buzz will be all about All Star Worlds (or Summit or Worlds) and tryouts. 


So how do we know what to take seriously and what to assume is just an athlete who is trying to figure out how to better manage their lives in the upcoming year?


  1. Do you have a positive culture on your team? Are the majority of the kids coming to practice happy and ready to work? (I’d like to exclude the occasional sigh when you tell them it’s time for a full-out, because my kids don’t usually cheer for full-outs by this age.)
  2. Are your athletes talking about going to other gyms or are they just saying they need a “year off”? The discussion of going to other gyms is the one that usually puts my alert a little higher. We’re a small gym in Central Missouri. If they’re talking about going to a level 5 gym in Kansas City, I get that. If cheer is the only thing they do outside of school and they’ve got the skill level for that team, I’m not upset about that. However, if they’re looking at doing that and they struggle to make it to my practices on time because of basketball games, I might help them understand the realities of that decision. 
  3. Are your junior and senior kids overwhelmed in life right now? If there is one thing all star cheer will teach a teen, it’s how to manage your time effectively. If you think about it, it’s sort of like a job. You have a uniform and a practice uniform (or guidelines of some kind anyway), you can’t be late, you can’t be absent often, and you are expected to work hard and produce some sort of result. For kids who have never had a job, this can be a lot. For kids who have a job in addition to cheer, it’s a lot of demands for a 16 year old kid. 


The first thing I’d tell any gym owner dealing with this right now is to not panic. This happens every year. The teenagers in my gym start talking about their ailments (most of which I believe stem from tumbling on a basketball court if I’m being honest). They start thinking about how early they have to get up in the morning to finish homework they didn’t get done because they had practice the night before. They have parents telling them they’re not buying them the new iPhone 14 Pro Max, so they start thinking about getting a job. 


They’re overwhelmed, and the best thing you can do is support them. Talk to your athletes and give them tips for better managing their time. There is a little bit of a generational difference here. I’m 38, and when I was in school, everyone thought I was crazy for doing all the activities at the same time. I played school sports, but when I say I did it all, I mean it. I played basketball, volleyball, cheerleading, band, choir, student council and theater. The difference is – my seasons maybe overlapped by a few weeks at any given time. I was busy, but I was never as busy as kids today. I got a job at 15 years old, because I wanted to work. I still played a Varsity sport and was involved in Student Council. I remember having free time though. My school sports didn’t extend to the weekends very often, so I still got downtime. I wasn’t pushed to take honors classes and dual-credit enrollment. 


Kids today are doing all the things, and it’s a lot for them to handle. 


So, if you’re an owner or coach who has had to learn time management the hard way over the years, start to impart some of that wisdom on your athletes. 


  1. Have them do an audit of their time. Teach them how to look at their screentime report on their phones. They likely don’t realize how much time is being wasted on Tik Tok and Snapchat.
  2. Ask them what things they do that truly make them feel relaxed and refreshed. When is the last time they did those things? I did this with an athlete a few months back. She didn’t realize she was spending over an hour a day on Tik Tok, but rarely spending time taking a bath or snuggling with her dog – two things that actually DID make her feel relaxed and refreshed. A lot of athletes don’t know what this “thing” is that makes them feel this way, so you’ll have to help them. Have them try some stuff and note how they felt after they were done.
  3. Teach them how to use Google Calendar. This was a game changer for my 16-year-old when she had to start managing her time with high school cheer and all star. She started putting all her obligations in and then looking at them ahead of time so she could make sure she was ready.
  4. Help them create a list of everything that needs to go in their all star backpack. When my daughter was all over the place, I found she was trying to use the same backpack for everything, so finding practicewear in her room was her biggest vice. It turned out buying another backpack just for all star stuff helped her a ton. She’d wash her practicewear and it would go right back in the backpack rather than on the floor next to her bed.
  5. This next one is on you. Give your athletes adequate notification time before you schedule an extra practice or other obligation. When I owned a restaurant, we had two athletes who cheered on a Worlds team at another gym. There were times they were told on Tuesday that they would have an extra practice on Wednesday. The stress it put on these kids to rearrange their lives was rough. Just because they’re your athletes does not mean they’re at your mercy. I can understand someone breaking a bone right before competition and a last-minute practice being called, but this should not be the norm. Coaches – we can do better, and if we want these kids to be in this sport for the long haul, we’ll have to.


Talk to your athletes. Start to understand what their lives are like, and instead of making it harder, be the mentor they need. Some of their parents may not be good enough at time management to help them, but as a business owner, you likely have skills the average adult has never had to learn. 


Think outside of cheer skills and start teaching life skills. This is how we keep our athletes for the long haul.