Sports such as cheerleading, dancing, and figure skating are often criticized because they appear to be very subjective when it comes to judging. In reality, when people are involved in judging, there is certainly a subjective nature. However, major steps have been taken in all of these sports to eliminate the subjective nature to keep the judging fair and unbiased. So let’s just assume for the moment that every team begins with a clean slate, and each routine will be judged fairly and accurately – how would your team stack up? Oftentimes, coaches, parents, and athletes are quick to place the blame on faulty judging when they don’t receive the results they expected. But the question must be first asked, “Is your routine losing the score sheet battle?”
Sadly, far too often teams are beating themselves by not maxing out on every category of the score sheet. This mistake alone can easily cost you at any competition. The skill level expectations in competitive cheerleading have been made very clear by the USASF and correspond directly with each level’s score sheet. If your team’s routine is not capable of maxing out in 80% or more of the score sheet categories, you should really evaluate your level placement. Teams have become so advanced recently that at most competitive venues, the majority of teams will be capable of maxing out in every single category.
So what exactly does it mean to “max out” in a score sheet category? In plain terms, maxing out in a category means that your routine possess the outlined skills necessary to receive a perfect score in that particular section of the routine. It is very important to become familiar with the scoring procedures and the actual score sheet for each and every competition you plan on attending. Guidelines do vary from competition to competition and may warrant minor routine adjustments. Typically, there are three major portions of the score sheet in competitive cheerleading: Tumbling, Stunting/Pyramids, and Jumps, Motions, Dance, and Transitions.
Within the tumbling section, your team will be evaluated as a whole on their standing and running tumbling. So when it comes to maxing out in these categories, you truly have to take an honest look at your squad’s abilities. If you are competing in Level Five and only 25% of your team has standing tucks and 25% has fulls and above, you may want to evaluate your level placement, because you are simply not capable of maxing out in these major categories. The key to remember is that your entire team is being evaluated. Most teams usually have a few people that excel in one particular area more than their teammates, but level decisions should not be made based on these standouts. Consider the big picture when making these types of decisions. Additionally, you cannot successfully max out in tumbling categories if the skills are not completed safely, cleanly, and successfully. One of the things judges cite most often as making them cringe is seeing teams who are attempting skills that they have yet to fully master. Not only does this make for a painful routine to watch, but also creates dangerous situations for the athletes.
Stunting is very similar to tumbling, and the same theories typically apply. 1) Don’t attempt what you have not mastered, 2) the level you are competing at should be reflective of your team’s abilities, 3) both quantity and quality are important.
The third category is a little more complicated, being that it contains so many important routine elements. Dance, motions, jumps, showmanship, and transitions tend to be the main elements of focus within the third category. Again, it is important to know the requirements for each individual competition company, as they often vary, especially within these categories. Some competition companies, for instance, want to see a minimum number of eight counts within your dance to max out in that category, whereas many others make no mention of length requirements. Remember these keys when it comes to maximizing your dance points:
1. Utilize music and moves that will engage the crowd.
2. Make sure your moves are clear and defined. No judge wants to wonder what is going on.
3. Ensure that your team can maintain their energy throughout the entire dance portion of the routine. The dance should appear to be effortless and fun!
The area where points are typically lost unknowingly is Transitions. Your athletes should move quickly and creatively from one section to another throughout your routine. It should be seamless. At no point should an athlete run from one side of the floor to another (with the exception of tumbling). It is important to take this into consideration when choreographing your routines. In most cases, to move into the next formation, an athlete should have to take no more than three to four steps. There are always exceptions to every rule, but please ensure if you do have an athlete traveling more than the recommended distance, they are doing so in a clean manner or creative fashion. The routines that max out in the transition category leave you wondering “how did they get to that formation” and “how did this routine progress so quickly?”
Overall, the most important recommendations when it comes to maxing out the score sheets at competitions are:
1. Know the guidelines and expectations of each competition.
2. Be sure that your team is competing at the level that will give them the best opportunity to max out.
Competitions are full of surprises, but knowing whether or not your team has the potential to succeed should not be left to chance. Being knowledgeable about the score sheet will help you to create a routine that is sure to set your team up for success.