So tryouts are over and you have successfully selected your perfect team! Ideas for new and innovative skills and routines are running wild in your mind, and you can’t wait to jump in head first. Embrace the excitement, jot down all of those great ideas, and then put them on the back burner. It’s tough, but it is critical that every season start with the basics. Bringing in cheerleaders from varying backgrounds with varying skill levels requires starting your season at step one and proceeding from there. Skipping the basics is like tying your shoes before you put them on; it’s just not logical. You don’t have to dwell at this level forever, and each team’s progression will be different and dictated by their skill level.
So now that you’ve conceded that starting with standing tucks may not be the best idea, where do you begin? The foundation elements of cheerleading can be broken down into five individual categories:
- Cheers and Chants
Depending on the type of team you’ll be coaching, some of these categories may not be applicable to you (i.e. non-mount or non-tumbling teams). Motions and dance skills are core elements used by nearly every cheerleader worldwide. These basic skills also smoothly transition into other categories, like jumps and cheers and chants.
Before diving into these five basic categories, there is one other topic, stretching, that should be thoroughly covered with your team to ensure your athletes are operating safely and at full capacity. Teaching your team how to properly stretch shouldn’t take long to complete, but should be a topic that is frequently reviewed, and is a skill set that should be actively monitored due to the overall importance of good stretching.
Starting with motions is a great stepping stone that will allow your cheerleaders to build up the skills that will help them progress quickly through the other categories. It is important when teaching motions to teach correct placement, wrist position, thumb position, and how to aggressively hit motions. Once your athletes are aware of the correct placement, there a multitude of entertaining games and activities you can incorporate into your practice schedule to drill correct motion placement.
Having a solid knowledge base in motions should lead to a seamless transition into teaching cheers and chants. Allow your team to actively participate in this process. Returning cheerleaders should be able to assist in teaching and correcting while the team is learning cheers. It is always nice to allow your team members to put their creativity to use by helping to create new cheers and chants to spice up your arsenal!
Motion lessons also transition well into teaching jump preps. Prepping correctly will ensure that you are maximizing all of your strengths to achieve the best jump possible. Teaching technique first always helps athletes grasp the main goals of the skill, and this is no different with jumps. Explain step-by-step what each body part should be doing on each count. Once your athletes understand the technical aspects, they should have no problem producing stellar jumps!
Tumbling and stunting follow in the same suit. Start at the very beginning and proceed with caution. Because of the potential for injury associated with these two categories, it is important that there is always a qualified supervisor actively participating while working on these skills.
Starting at the basics may not be the most entertaining way to begin a season, but it will certainly set your team up for great success as the season progresses!