Five Respectful Suggestions
I’d like to respectfully offer 5 training suggestions to the SLCS Training Staff. Each of these is a small thing, but I believe they also carry big implications.
I worry that our training may over-emphasize the technical aspects of being an SLCS cheerleader at the expense of of the personal, emotional, sororal, and spiritual aspects of being a part of SLCS.
I do not know a lot about our SLCS Training process. But from the Panels I’ve sat on, I feel that we put great weight on the technical. So many questions on the Cheermaster HUD. The infamous “Allison Moore is driving and Allison Float calls ‘Dismount'” trick questions.
Does the technical matter? Of course it does. We all want a beautiful, precise, impressive squad that gives great performances. Is that everything? Is that all that matters? I hope not.
The Voyage Home
In Star Trek: The Voyage Home, a resurrected Spock demonstrates impressive technical ability in testing, but doesn’t understand the question
How do you feel?
Is SLCS Spock? Technical mastery at the expense of feelings?
Here are 3 things that I constantly notice with SLCS Trainees, and 2 new ideas. Each is small. Very small. Even so, I feel that each indicates trainees being in a more technical and less sororal headspace. If we can teach technique, can we not also teach sorority?
I’ve put my 5 suggestions in 3 categories: Presence, Engagement, and Leadership. How can trainees be more truly present with SLCS? How can trainees more fully engage with squad members? Even though their SLCS journey is just beginning, is there a way for them to begin to think in leadership terms?
Trainees and cheerleaders alike put in time with SLCS. Sometimes a little, often a lot. But is it quality time? Are we truly present? Or are we more like some Physical World (PW) friends who look at their phones more than they look at us?
Panels – Thoughtful Answers
Many Panel questions are technical questions about Protocol, the Cheermaster HUD, other technical issues, and of course, the ubiquitous trick question. This is fine. We do want to know that trainees have paid attention and learned.
What I most want to know is why they’re here, who they are, and what about SLCS speaks to them.
Trainees pretty much always have an acceptable answer for these questions.
I want to be a part of SLCS because it’s awesome.
I signed up because my friend/sister is in the squad.
These are acceptable answers. But they don’t say much. They don’t tell us much about the heart, soul, and passion of the trainee. While acceptable, they’re mostly just words to fill in the space in-between Panel questions.
Perhaps the drills to learn Protocol, Cheermaster, and History combine with Panel Nervousness to make Trainees feel like Panels are a game of Whac-A-Mole.
Oh, oh, what mole just popped up!? How fast can I whack it back down?
I have tried to get panelists to “think live”, to actually work through ideas in our Panel conversation. I’ll ask them about the training experience and how it could be improved to help trainees more. As above, they’ll offer acceptable answers, but they won’t slow down enough to truly think through ideas and experiences as we talk and reach new insights.
Panels are stressful. I do appreciate that! Yet even when I’ve tried to be as gentle, reassuring, and time giving as possible, I can’t get Trainees to stop, think, and have a real conversation with me.
I once took a class on human vision with a German neurobiologist Christof. One day in the middle of a lecture, someone asked Christof a question. He stopped and said, “Okay, let’s think about that.” For a few minutes he paced back and forth in the room, looked up at the ceiling a lot, and worked through ideas, eventually piecing together an answer to a question he’d never been asked before.
In all my years of undergraduate education, graduate education, and the many additional classes I’ve taken or audited like that one, I’ve never had such a powerful classroom experience. We had a chance to see a mind at work. To see someone work with ideas and draw conclusions. Not just narrate PowerPoint slides.
Trainees are not professors! Yes, Panels are stressful! Nonetheless, I wish we could teach, or encourage, them to slow down and think. To be prepared not just to do panels like it’s a Driver’s License Exam, but like it’s a conversation with people you are here for the purpose of having conversations with!
Even if stressful, Panels are a great opportunity. The Trainee will never have an audience more eager to listen to what they have to say. We shouldn’t let Panels be thought of as a burden to be gotten through. We should present Panels to Trainees as what I believe they are, a rare opportunity to share your thoughts, your whims, and your deepest self with a half dozen sisters who truly care. Cheerleading is performing, and a Trainee will never have a better audience than their Panel where a half dozen cheer sisters are there for the sole purpose of deeply listening.
We ask Trainees to do a lot. Learn Cheermaster, it’s techniques and hidden features, how to pull someone in, how to dismount, and more. Protocol. History. Friend many dozens of squad members. We keep them busy! But are they jumping through hoops like a student in a required class? Or deeply engaged in the special experience that I believe SLCS can be?
Panels – Ask Questions
At the end of every Panel I’ve had the privilege of sitting on, the facilitator has turned, at last, to the Trainee and asked them,
Do you have any questions for us?
And every single time the trainee has said “no”.
Is “there’s nothing I care to know from you” the response of someone who cares about sorority? Or the response of someone who just wants to get through the Driver’s License Exam and move on?
I’ve even called trainees on this,
Aw, c’mon, Suzy Trainee, I know Panels can be stressful, but take your time. Try to relax. This is your chance to turn the tables on us. Ask us why we’re here? Or something about SLCS process? Or what it means to us? Can you think of something to ask us?Aero
And what answer do I get?
I can’t think of anything.The Suzy Trainees of the Virtual World
Again, I wish our Training process could encourage Trainees to think of Panels as a conversation. As an important part of why we’re here at all. And to tell them that they’ll probably be asked if they have any questions and that they should have a question in mind. And not just a superficial, “OK I said, something” question, but a truly thoughtful one.
Go Ahead, Make My Day
How would I feel if one day I sat on a Panel and at the end the facilitator did not ask “do you have any questions for us”. If the facilitator said, “Thank you, Suzy Trainee, you can go back down to the locker room now.” And instead of simply exiting, Suzy Trainee interrupted and said,
Before I go, would it be OK if I asked the Panel one or two questions?
OMG! It would make my day!
Trainee Friend Requests
We ask Trainees and Cheerleaders to SL “Friend” each other. This is a wonderful thing to do. Let’s connect!
Sadly, every single Trainee Friend Request I’ve ever received is a cold, blank, perfunctory Friend Request. No
Hi, Aero, I’m Suzy Trainee, I’m in the February class. It’s nice to meet you. I’m hoping to learn as much about SLCS as I can this month. Would it be OK if I Friended you?Suzy Trainee, Aero’s Dream Edition
Asking permission is a formality. We all know that I, and every other cheerleader, will be happy to connect. Still, it’s a politeness. A blank Friend Request is kind of like throwing a cold plate of dinner in front of someone. Why can’t they take one extra minute to do the thing that in theory they came to SLCS to do, engage with other people?
Blank Friend Requests would be cold and I’m-only-bothering-to-friend-you-because-I-was-told-to in any context. Imagine being a trainee on a PW cheer squad and going up to another trainee you’ve never spoken to with no “Hi, I’m Aero…” but just, to a stranger, “Can I get your cell number?”
Worse, this is Second Life! The land of randos at dance clubs throwing friend requests at you without even speaking to you. Half the profiles I’ve looked at have a section pre-cussing-out these randos and telling them not to do that! Granted SLCS isn’t SL, still, we’re in SL, and I see no reason Friend Requests can’t include a bit of engagement. A bit of humanity.
My previous 3 tips are for tiny things that have always rubbed me the wrong way. Felt like a lack of engagement with the squad.
Finally, here are 2 ideas about participation and, hopefully, about retention. Large and successful as our squad is, it’s also true that we accept a lot of new cheerleaders who disappear before long.
As a Trainee, it’s mostly about being trained! So much to learn and practice!
Medical Residents in Teaching Hospitals have a slogan:
Watch one; do one; teach one.
If there’s some procedure you’re unfamiliar with, watch me do it once. Then you try it. Then you teach it to someone else. I don’t entirely love this concept as a patient! But as an educator, I know that it’s the best way to learn something. Watching is a start. But then you’ve got to try it. And nothing beats teaching it to someone else.
Even though they’re brand new and very novice, is there some way Trainees could teach something? Could practice some small bit of leadership within SLCS?
SLCS GNO (Girl’s Night Out) events are a fun way to play and bond with activities outside the stadium. The last GNO Shopping trip I went on was 8 cheerleaders. A nice, modest sized group. Even though Trainees are new to everything SLCS, they’re probably not new to SL $hopping! 😀 One or more trainees could lead a GNO Shopping trip.
- Meet @ Stadium
- Shop #1 – 15 minutes
- Shop #2 – 15 minutes
- Return to Stadium & have a fashion show of anything new anyone bought
As a small leadership activity, it’s important that our Trainee Host(s) not just drop us off to shop, but also say a few words about why they chose this particular shop and what about the designer’s aesthetics speaks to them. Then back at the stadium they could host a very informal, impromptu fashion show.
The J-1 Edition!
When I took Journalism-1 my first semester in college, we were the “trainees”. We listened to lectures, tried activities, and maybe wrote a story or two for the campus newspaper. It was the advanced students who wrote, edited, and assembled the campus newspaper every week.
Until one week toward the end of the semester. That week was “The J-1 Edition” and we novices edited the paper, wrote the editorials, and so on.
Could the week of Class 4 – Panels week – be “The J-1 Edition” or “The Trainee” or “New Cheerleader” edition of SLCS?
Cheerleaders who pass panels on Tuesday could be given the opportunity to run the squad for the rest of the week.
- Host Wednesday Game Nite
- Pick the uniform and send the details for Thursday Practice
- Organize Drivers and other details for Thursday Practice
- Host the Friday Party
- and so on
It’s a small thing. But instead of “congratulations, head to the back of the line”, they could immediately be given the car keys and encourage to take it for a spin.
The Voyage Home, reprise
At the end of Star Trek: The Voyage Home Spock and his friends have saved the world, again. Saved humankind from its own shortsightedness. And practiced the best of human values in doing so.
Spock’s daddy says he’s going back to Vulcan, and do you have a message for your mom?
Tell her, I feel fine.
So those are a few suggestions I have to make the SLCS Trainee experience not only about technical mastery, but also more sororal. Do you think I’m right? Am I wrong? Do you have other ideas on how to help Trainees best connect with the squad? Or other ideas on how to improve our New Cheerleader Retention Rate? I’d love to hear your ideas in the comments below!
More Tips for Trainees
Back in August ’22 Raelyn Night Rayne and I put together some “Tips for Trainees” which offers these and other suggestions to Trainees for the best SLCS experience:
I’ve worn many hats and tried on many identities as an avatar. I’ve been young and I’ve been old. Skinny and full-figured. Black and white. And red and green. A cheerleader and a derby girl. A barista and a host. I’ve seen so much love and beauty, so much desire, so much hunger for love and connection in the virtual world. I’ve seen that hunger and need expressed in unhelpful and destructive ways. Ways that can make living in this world as frustrating as living in the first life we came from. I’m touched by the tiny acts of kindness that surround us every day. If we can make it here, we can make it anywhere.