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Cheer and dance stunts are activities that require incredible skill and dedication. Athletes perform intense, backbreaking routines that the average person could never accomplish. From extensions to liberty to air tosses, the result can be breathtaking.

Just like a flyer relies on the support of their bases’ hands as they prepare to lift, personal boundaries can provide strong support for our emotional health. Boundaries help us know what acceptable and unacceptable behavior is and act accordingly. If an athlete makes one wrong move outside the boundaries of a stunt or routine, they may fall and injure themself. With personal boundaries, the impact is equally severe.

At first, discussing boundaries might seem uncomfortable. But talking about and demonstrating healthy boundaries is important because it protects all parties involved. Maintaining boundaries and feeling comfortable enough to speak up about your needs actually makes a relationship safer because you build trust with one another. It’s a sign of respect.

So how do you model good boundaries as a coach?

  • Discuss Personal Space and Privacy: Teams spend a lot of time together, and often travel together too. Teach and enforce the rules around personal space, locker rooms, bathrooms, and sleeping arrangements (for when the team is away). What is acceptable and unacceptable behavior in these situations? Make sure your athletes can verbalize why.
  • Emphasize Respect: Tell your athletes that they should always respect each other’s personal boundaries, and that you will too. No one is above honoring boundaries. Show them that even the adults in charge will be held accountable for their actions.
  • Acknowledge the Rules: What is listed in the gym’s Code of Conduct or child protection policy about touching, personal space, or consent? Explain the gym’s expectations to your athletes, and then show them how staff and coaches meet those expectations. Give them examples of how athletes can meet expectations too.
  • Show that You Can Be Trusted: Reinforce that if at any time someone, either a staff member, coach, or another athlete, is making them uncomfortable or violating their boundaries, they can say “no.” Let athletes know that you are there for them, and will believe them if they come to you about it.

Talk with your fellow coaches and staff on ways they model healthy boundaries and share what works for you!

Looking to help teach your athletes the tools to understand bullying and abuse? Check out Monique Burr Foundation for Children’s Athlete Safety Matters curriculum!

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