A view from the Cheer Crew
I’ve had the opportunity to be on the other side of the uniform during several events this summer. Just like the athletes have a race strategy, the Cheer Crew has to form their own race day strategy. When we arrive for packet pick-up the day before a race, part of checking out the course involves finding the best spots for cheering on our athletes.
In our family, the “mom” portion of the Cheer Crew is up well before the athlete. She has to get herself ready and make the pre-race meal of French toast in the hotel room. Yes, I have tried to convince my son that he would love to eat a bagel with peanut butter or a bar like everyone else. But no…I drag the electric skillet and all the fixings in to the hotel room for every race.
We always plan to arrive at the race site when transition opens. Coach Joe is a firm believer in making sure you are there early, so it’s not uncommon for all the ET athletes to be in the same section of the parking lot. It was fantastic at Pleasant Prairie to hang out with all the athletes and their families before the race, even if it was 4:30 am. You can feel the camaraderie – a few jokes and funny stories, words of encouragement and well wishes as the early waves move towards the swim start. Of course the Cheer Crew has to move along with the racers to get in the best position for watching each swim wave go off. This might involve perching on large rocks on the edge of the lake (being careful not to fall off the unstable ones) or on a pier that sinks in the water when too many spectators get on it. It’s important to be in position for the cheering and to get the best photo-ops.
As the swimmers come out of the water, the Cheer Crew has to run to where they can see their athletes head out on the bike course. I’ve decided it’s just way too stressful to stand near the mount line at bike-out. There is far too much falling over, not being able to clip in and being in the wrong gear for my liking. Just to clarify – this is not our athletes, but watching it makes me nervous knowing they could take one of our athletes out with them (ok, that’s the mom part of me). After Pleasant Prairie I decided to make my way further down the course and cheer as they are safely out of the chaos. The Cheer Crew stands near the road watching each of our athletes head out on the bike. If we happen to be under some trees in the shade, all the better. We love to cheer for them and send our good (and safe) vibes with them. We’ve had so many athletes at the last couple of races that we’ve joked that we need a spreadsheet to keep them all straight. We’re thrilled as they head back in from the bike. (Coach Joe made a great choice in uniform design. We can spot the yellow dots on the jerseys from quite a ways out.) We know they’re tired from a long, fast ride but they give us a smile as we’re shouting their name when they go by.
We get even more smiles and some arms in the air as we’re cheering for them when they head out on the run. For many, this can be a tough part of the race. It’s hot and they’re tired, so we are super happy to see them as they finish up the run and head towards the finish line. I think they’re happy to see us too – they know they’re almost done. We’ve had a few tell us that even if they’re having a tough race, they can smile because they know we’re there (either that or they don’t want a bad picture). Once we’ve got all of our racers back in, we meet up to congratulate them and hear all of their stories. Some had great races that day, others barely managed to get through it, but they’re all happy they had team mates to share the experience with.
It’s a privilege to be part of the ET Cheer Crew. I’ve been inspired by our wonderful athletes and how they encourage each other during their training and at the races. They have wonderful family and friends that I’m able to hang out with. Coach Joe, I don’t know how you do it, but ET has the BEST people – from the coaches, to the athletes, to the Cheer Crew.
Thank you, Sherri and the rest of our wonderful Cheer Crew, for being there for us! You make us smile. 🙂 – Coach Joe