Traditional Cheer Crimes and Their Quick Fixes

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“Pssst! Hey! Hey you…coach…choreographer… we know what you did last summer!” “No, not that!” We’re talking about the quick fixes you added into the routine to mask potential weakness. Nearly every coach or choreographer can be charged with this cheer crime, but it’s time to right those wrongs! Cheer Crimes are tricks of the trade that have been used for years by many coaches world-wide. They tend to be unspoken fixes for weaknesses in your routine. Well, today we are exposing them all… and offering up creative tips to use in their place.

Cheer Crime #1: Hiding challenged jumpers in the back row.

We chose to use the word challenged, because there truly aren’t bad jumpers, just those who need more work than others. As coaches, it is your duty to work with these athletes to help them gain the technique and strength to improve their jumps, and not become complacent with hiding them in the back row thinking no one will see them through the masses. There are two fundamentally wrong things with this train of thought. First, judges and others familiar with the tricks of the trade know where your best jumpers will be located; although they may boast impeccable jumping capabilities, the trained eye will look past them to determine your team’s average jump level. Second, still photos will effectively expose your sneaky ways! There is nothing worse than going to check out your competition photos and seeing a perfect picture of your jump section with half of your team hitting the peak of their jump, and, beneath their perfectly placed legs, you see stragglers dead center with their feet barely off the floor.

Quick Fix: Creative choreography.

Creative choreography, in this situation, may require straying from the typical jump formation. Straying from traditional jump formations will allow you to place your challenged jumpers in non-traditional positions, preventing judges from immediately seeking them out. Additionally, consider creative choreography that may not require challenged jumpers to participate in every jump (as most routines today have a jump sequence comprised of multiple jumps). The choreography should be appealing and seamless.  If it is not, assigning alternate motions to these jumpers may serve as a distraction from the others jumping. It takes a little hard work on the choreographer’s behalf, but there are plenty of ways to blend your team’s jumping abilities without hiding athletes in the back.

Cheer Crime #2: Fake tumblers in standing tumbling formations.

In today’s competitive environment, it seems like every team competing in Level Four or above has full squad standing tucks . . . or do they? The answer is no – some just hide that fact better than others. If you are going to have non-tumblers faking the motions in the back during your standing tumbling section, please take the time to practice the timing and motions with them! There is nothing more distracting while watching a team complete standing tucks than seeing someone tuck jump in the back a full count ahead or behind the rest of the team.

Quick Fix: Again, creative choreography is the answer.


There is an art to fake tumbling. And as silly as it may seem, it should be practiced. As a non-tumbler, the number one goal is to blend in with the rest of the team. When it comes to tumbling, having every member of your squad complete a specific skill is desirable, but not always a reality. Timing is crucial if athletes are going to be faking the skill in the back. They should know the count that their feet need to leave the ground and when they should return. Judges tend to watch the floor during standing tumbling sections, as it is easier to spot touch downs this way. So again, timing is critical. Creative choreography may not be the answer if you are going for the appearance of full squad tumbling, but remember the trained eyes of the judges know where you best tumblers are and will look past them. If you can live with having 80% of your team actually performing the skills and the others doing something else, simply be sure that their movements compliment the tumbling and do not distract attention from it.

Cheer Crime #3: Poorly timed cheer transitions.

When detailing the evolution of cheerleading, people often cite the advances in tumbling and stunting to illustrate the journey, but there exists an equally vivid image when you consider the strides that have been taken in cheer transitions. There once was a time when the norm for transitions in a cheer routine consisted of running with your heels kicking your butt for two full eight counts. Thankfully, most of us have moved on to more sophisticated methods of transitioning. So where does crime #3 come into play? On occasion, you’ll catch a routine where, all of a sudden, there is a collision of three or four people who are trying their best to make it to their next destination in time, but simply have too far to travel in a short period of time. Or you’ll see a streak run across the entire floor as one or two members are running the length of the floor to get to their next positions. NO. NO. NO! Transitions should be a score sheet gimme, meaning that those are points that can be easily earned and points that you should be able to count on at every competition.

Quick Fix: You guessed it – creative choreography!

Transitions are in a routine to ensure that the routine flows from section to section. Moving from one routine section to another should be seamless and largely unnoticeable. Incorporating motions, turns, rolls, tumbling, and stunting into your transitions will leave the audience and judges reflecting back as to how you even got to this position (or at least that should be your transition goal). Avoid having athletes traveling long distances. During practice, stress the importance of taking the same path every time while transitioning. This will help to avoid collisions during the routine. Ideally, athletes should have to travel no more than three to four steps in each transition. If this is not a reality for your routine, ensure that enough time is allotted for each individual to make it to her destination in time, but also be conscious of your routine having dead space (nothing going on for periods of time).

Overall, it seems the universal solution to most cheer crimes is creative choreography. If you find yourself committing one of these crimes, think outside of the box, and find a creative fix to bail you out!

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