What was your worst cheer year ever, either as a coach or athlete? In terms of injuries, unforeseen circumstances, athlete/parent antics, unwanted policy changes, etc. Mine was this last year. The wildfires in our area affected some of the girls’ families financially so we couldn’t afford UCA. Which meant that our only National comp would be USA. The girls were disappointed they couldn’t go to Florida, but otherwise fine. They’d done (and won) USA plenty of times in the past and after a few years bouncing around in the top five, they felt ready to take their title back this year. Practices were going flawlessly. They were nailing their STUNT routine time after time. And perhaps most significantly, they’d beaten Oak Ridge earlier in the year... aka the team that would take second in D1 large varsity at UCA. And if they could beat a high tier UCA D1 varsity team, they could FOR SURE beat anyone in the room at USA since it’s much less competitive. They were ready. And then the drunk driver happened. One week before USA, the girls were headed home from a pre-Nationals sleepover when a drunk driver T-boned them at 10 am on a freeway onramp. Thank Christ no one was killed or seriously hurt, but it just so happened that five girls from five different stunt groups were in that car and each one was injured just enough to cut our team off at the knees (broken hand, broken rib, etc.). Had it happened like a week earlier, I think I could’ve reshuffled some things last minute and still made a go of it. It wouldn’t have been pretty, but we could’ve done it. However, one week out was too late. So they had to sit out of both their National comps, as well as their STUNT comp. The girls were so sick over it that the injured ones offered to hide their casts under their liners or get their casts removed early for the comp so they could compete anyway and just smile through the pain. It was so heartwarming/breaking to see them try and make it work and how supportive they were of each other. Between the wildfires and the drunk driver, they had every reason to implode. But instead they really impressed me with the patience and encouragement I saw them extend toward each other. No one blamed anyone, no one lashed out, no one pulled passive-aggressive social media tantrums... they’d really grown up and matured when the situation called for it. And seeing that was enough for me. Happy ending though: after this nonexistent competition year, every single senior still made it onto her college/pro team. So as of right now we have alumni on cheer teams from Berkeley, UCLA, Boise State, Fresno state, San Diego state, Hofstra, Rutgers, UNLV, Oregon, Ohio state (sorry THE Ohio state, she keeps correcting me), Morehead, Minnesota, Washington, USC, Central Florida, UNC, and two on the Raiderettes. Additional happy ending: the parents got together and funded a Disneyland trip for the girls that they just got back from, so they got to go anyway. And this time they got to stay at the Disneyland Hotel with UNLIMITED ROOM SERVICE (within reason), so they were happy. And that, hands down, was my worst year ever. Yours?