Long time, no see!

Hello Cheer Friends,

Welcome to our new and improved BLOG!   We have missed you!   In the coming weeks, you will be seeing new cheer articles, postings, pictures, you name it!   Be sure to check back often for exciting tidbits and cheer tips. Also, be sure to check our previous blogs.   They are a great resource!

This weekend is the crème de la crème of cheerleading events – WORLDS!!!   We have two seasoned WORLDS correspondents who will be sharing their insights and behind-the-scenes views from the 2014 Cheerleading WORLDS.    Stay tuned to our Facebook page and this blog for more info this weekend! We are also looking for guest bloggers!   Are you a cheer mom, coach or high school, college, and/or All-Star cheerleader?   We want to hear from you!  If interested, please send a brief bio and a short writing sample to social@cheerleading.com.

-Cheers from your friends at Cheerleading.com!   We SPEAK Cheer!

                                                                                                           

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Experience the Majors

Over the past decade, all-star cheerleading has become one of the most competitive sports in the country, and it is quickly spreading across the globe! As new programs and gyms pop up annuall,y the demand for competitions has rapidly grown, leading to a plethora of competition companies claiming to host the best of the best! In recent years, the true test of the elite in competitive cheerleading has played out at the annual cheerleading Worlds competition hosted by the U.S. All Star Federation (USASF). January 2012 marked the inaugural year for the The Majors competition, the closest rival to the USASF World competition.

To participate in the USASF World competition, a team must receive a bid at a qualifying national competition. Contrary to this method of eligibility, The Majors prides itself it being the most selective elite all-star competition to date. Participates are hand selected based on past performances, popularity, and overall program success.

In 2012, a total of nine teams were selected from seven programs. The competition included only two divisions (arguably the two most popular and entertaining divisions), level five large all girl and level five large co-ed.

The competition took place January 14, 2012 in Indianapolis, Indiana in conjunction with the sponsoring organizations Super Nationals. Each team performed once, and awards were announced immediately following the competition. The participating teams are listed below in order of how they ranked (final scores are listed in parenthesis).

 

Level 5 Large All Girl Level 5 Large Co-ed
1. Cheer Athletics (93.50)        1. Cheer Extreme (92.22)
2. Maryland Twisters F5 (92.21)        2. Cheer Athletics (90.24)
3. Cheer Extreme (90.50)        3. Top Gun (89.67)
4. Fame (89.46)        4. ACE (89.08)
5. Maryland Marlins (87.08)

 

The Majors also differ from other competitions in that each team is chronicled through multiple video posts. This gives fans a peek inside these elite teams while they are practicing at their home gyms. The event is a must-see for any fan of competitive cheerleading or elite sports. During most competitions, audience members make an effort to watch these teams no matter how much extra time must be spent in the arena awaiting their performance. The Majors gives you the best of the best, one after another, all in one setting! It doesn’t get better than that!

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Raising Cheerleaders to have Positive Body Images

Cheerleading is a sport that, by default, centers a lot of focus on weight and body shape. Flyers are expected to be dainty, and bases are expected to be strong and have a body that can easily support flyers. It is easy to see how, without careful attention, cheerleaders can develop very dangerous complexes about their body. Below you will find tips that every parent, coach, or friend can use to ensure that your cheerleader is confident in her own skin.

1. Talk about who your cheerleader is and what your cheerleader does versus what she looks like. If you are constantly reinforcing that actions and character are more important than appearances, your child will act accordingly. This message must also be backed up by your own actions.

2. You are the first line of defense, and in many cases you will be your cheerleader’s first introduction into body image. Children in general are largely shaped by what they see on television and in magazines. Take time to discuss these images with your cheerleader. Let them know what are realistic images, and share facts about healthy body weights. Be aware of what your cheerleader is reading or watching, and discuss it openly. Encourage your cheerleader to talk about and question what is both seen and heard.

3. Be conscious of what the clothes your cheerleader is wearing say about her body. Allowing young children to wear clothing that is too tight or too sexy can open them up to unwanted scrutiny.

4. Don’t shy away from the tough topics. Explain the effects of puberty and genetics. Make sure your cheerleader understands that weight gain is a normal part of development, especially during puberty. Explain that body shape also is largely influenced by genetic factors.

5. Set a good example. Explain to your daughter that you eat a healthy diet and exercise for your health — not just to look a certain way. Also, think about what you read and watch as well as the products you buy and the lessons your choices send.

We hope that you will take these tips and incorporate them into your life, as well as share them with other parents and coaches. Cheerleaders that have unaddressed negative body images are subject to many harsh consequences. Prevention is always the best solution.

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Spreading Holiday Cheer

Holiday cheer is a major component of a successful holiday season.  So it only makes sense that cheerleaders play a major role in spreading this cheer across their communities, schools, gyms, and households. So what can you do to help ensure the holidays are full of cheer?

  1. Show off your holiday spirit! Embrace holiday traditions as a team. This can be as simple as sporting Santa hats during games or performances during December.  
  2. Create a holiday themed routine to be showcased throughout the Holiday season.  Use the holiday season as a platform to increase your team’s appearances. Most communities host holiday parades, lighting ceremonies, toy drives, etc. Volunteer to perform or participate in these types of events. It will not only give you the opportunity to strut your stuff, but to be involved in making the season a bit more cheerful.  
  3. Give back. Take some time out of your busy schedule to give back to your school or community.  Consider hosting a free clinic for young aspiring cheerleaders. You can add an additional element of service by asking each participant to bring a canned good or a toy to be donated.  
  4. Say thanks to those who have supported you. Find a creative way to say thanks to your coaches, advisors, or teachers who have supported you throughout your season. This doesn’t always require a large monetary contribution. A great low-cost holiday gift idea for a coach or advisor is a personalized scrapbook. Give each member a page of the scrapbook to complete on her own. This way the coach receives a special something from every member. Photos create lasting memories and great gifts! 
  5. Team up with others. The holiday season definitely embodies the saying “the more the merrier”!  Don’t be shy about asking other local teams to join in on the fun. The holidays are about unity and celebrating the goodness in life, and joining up with others is a great way to demonstrate this. Uniting with the rival school would be a great holiday surprise! 

In the end, the holiday season is all about sharing and caring. Share with others your strengths. Share with others who may be less fortunate. Show those who are constantly working to assist you how much you care. 

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Staying Fit through the Holidays

Family dinners, holiday parties, sweets galore, hours dedicated to finding the perfect gift: all things that signify the holiday season is near. There are many joyous things associated with the end of the year celebrations spanning from Thanksgiving through New Year’s, but these joyous moments can also be accompanied by over-eating, ditched workout routines, and a serious case of apathy. So what is the recipe to avoiding this holiday haze? CELEBRATE and you’ll conquer the holidays with no trouble!

C E L E B R A T E

Control your eating.  The holiday spirit is one that embraces over-eating. Avoid this at all costs. Remember to eat manageable portions. The saying the more the merrier doesn’t apply to your plate. You don’t have to say no to all the delicious holiday desserts; instead, limit yourself to one.

Eat before you go. This will help to avoid the urge to pile it on your plate if you’re heading to a family feast. And if a family feast isn’t your destination, eating before you depart will ensure that you have the energy to make it through your day with adequate holiday pep.

Location doesn’t matter – fit in exercise wherever you can. Also, look for non-traditional opportunities to get in some exercise. One example is to take the steps instead of the elevator. Or don’t waste time circling the mall parking lot for that front row spot; a swift walk from the back of the parking lot can certainly serve as a healthy dose of cardio.

Exercise when you can. Hectic schedules usually accompany the Holiday season. Don’t ditch your exercise routine completely. Short sessions beat nothing at all. Get it in where you can fit it in! Keep in mind that exercise will help keep you stress-free and smiling throughout the holiday season.

Beware of liquid calories. Filling up on the holiday punch can be just as bad as over-eating. When the opportunity to choose water presents itself, select water.

Recruit others to join in. Encourage family and friends to work out with you. “The more the merrier” most certainly applies in this instance. Take a break from holiday cooking or shopping, and work out together.

Avoid skipping meals. Although it’s tempting to skip meals in hopes of making room for future feasts, coming to the buffet line with an empty stomach usually leads to making poor food selections. Eating small meals throughout the day not only allows your body time to digest all of your food adequately, but will also help you to avoid over-indulging.

Turn down the heat. When you are a little chilly, NOT FREEZING, your body will work a little harder to warm up, thus burning extra calories. So hold off on putting that snuggie on so soon.

Embrace the Holiday Spirit! Remember, stress is not conducive to a healthy lifestyle. Live in the moment and enjoy the festivities while they last!

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Dealing with Problem Parents

The terms “cheer mom”, “cheer dad”, “dance mom”, and/or “dance dad” will literally cause some people, particularly coaches, to shudder from bad memories. There are televisions shows dedicated to following parents in these industries just to highlight some of their unusual and out of line behaviors. This is not to say that every cheer or dance parent is a problem. There are MANY parents that will never present even a single problem, but inevitably, at least once in every cheer coach’s career, she will have an encounter with a shudder-causing cheer parent. It’s simply par for the course. The ironic thing about this topic is that although cheer and dance parents seem to have gained quite a negative reputation, these issues are common in all sports. The bright side of this universal nature is that the solutions are just as common. This article will outline some of the typical issues associated with “problem parents”, and offer some tips on coexisting peacefully, with the minimum amount of stress possible. 

The most important thing to remember as a coach, or even as a parent, is that every parent’s goal is usually the same – she wants the best for her child. This is the root of many conflicts. It is helpful to try to view each situation as if the child in question is your own. What would you do? How would you react? This mindset will immediately win you many battles before they ever begin. 

1. Establish boundaries and rules for parent conduct before the season begins. It may seem silly, but parents need to know what is expected of them just as much as the athletes need to know. If you establish that you accept no nonsense from day one, parents will be far less likely to test you. Schedule a mandatory parent meeting to verbalize your expectations. Direct communication is always best. If you’ve had problems in the past, solidify your rules by creating a parent contract with rules by which everyone must abide or face consequences. 

2. Explain your coaching style and philosophy. The clearer everything is made for parents from day one, the fewer the problems that will arise. Be up front with parents about how you coach. If you are the type of coach that is stern and by the book, let them know. That tidbit of information will make a difference when the choice between going to practice or skipping to go to the waterpark comes up. If you are the type of coach who awards effort equally to skill, parents should know that as well. That way when children other than the star are front and center, there aren’t any questions as to why. 

3. Require cheerleaders to speak with you first. This suggestion may seem subtle, but it is HUGE. Many times, it is solely the parent with the issue and not the cheerleader, and at the end of the day you are there for the best interest of the cheerleader. By mandating that cheerleaders make the first contact with you about any issues that they have, you can truly gauge the motivations and emotional connection to the issue before dealing with the parent. Many times, issues can be handled directly between you and the athlete, and the parent can simply be filled in on what took place. Some parents may argue that their child is too intimidated or scared to speak with you directly, but make it clear that not only is this your standard, but it is also preparing them for the real world. Athletes need to be able to articulate themselves effectively to adults. Life lessons come in all shapes and sizes, and this is certainly means to teach a valuable lesson. 

4. Develop a relationship with your athletes. As a coach, you have to make a decision as to whether you will treat your athletes as faces just passing through to enhance their skills, or young people looking to be developed through skill enhancement, character development, and mentoring. That doesn’t mean you have to spend hours outside of practice with each individual athlete, but taking the time to invest in their lives will pay off big. Be a supporter of the child, not just the athlete. This may mean sending a two or three line good luck note home for an athlete with a huge recital coming up. It’s truly the small things that really make an impact. Be conscious that once you have set the standard for one athlete, it will be expected for all, so be wise in how you choose to go about investing in each child. At the end of the day, if your athletes buy into your system, your coaching, and you as a coach, they will be your greatest cheerleaders and greatest defenders. 

5. Don’t be afraid to draw a line in the sand. There has to be a point in which you are not afraid to say, “No more.” Situations like this are very difficult because you hate to lose a child over a parent, but the negativity of one parent can spread like a wildfire, or cause major rifts with other current and future parents. So stand strong and say, “If you don’t like what I’m doing here, you are welcome to take your athlete elsewhere.” Unfortunately, sometimes someone has to be an example for other parents to realize how serious you are about your rules. It is critical that you don’t waiver at any point leading up to this action, however; that will send seriously mixed signals. 

General Tips: 

- Deal with problem parents quickly. Issues should always be handled immediately. Allowing negative behavior to continue shows them and others that this is a behavior that will be tolerated, and is likely to incite other parents to do the same. 

- Be honest with parents. Don’t simply tell them what they want to hear, with no intentions on following through. For instance, telling a parent that her child will be a flyer at some point in the routine, with no possibility of her child flying, is setting the family up for disappointment and you up for a huge confrontation. Be honest. They may not like what you are saying, but at least they know what to expect. There are no surprises. Try to justify disappointments with a positive when possible. For instance, “Susie isn’t going to be flying this season, but she has become such an incredible backspot I just can’t afford to lose her in that position.” In this example, the truth is stated clearly, and the parent was also provided with some positive reinforcement. Many coaches resent having to provide positive reinforcement for parents, but at the end of the day, they are the ones making everything possible (paying bills, transporting, etc.), and a happy parent usually leads to a happy athlete. 

There is no such thing as a perfect team, but you can certainly work towards that goal. The above tips will help to ensure you the opportunity to do what you were hired to do: coach! Always remember that is why you are there, and the athletes should be your main focus. 

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Heel Stretch Help

A heel stretch is a popular flexibility skill used primarily in cheerleading by flyers. In this skill, a flyer stands on one leg (typically the right leg) and extends the other leg out in front of them holding while holding their own heel. To get a feel for the correct placement of where the stretched leg should be while in the air, hit a high V motion. The outstretched leg should come directly to your hand on the corresponding side as the lifted leg.

It is important to establish good habits from the beginning when performing this skill. There are several common mistakes that you should avoid. First, keep your base leg straight and locked out. Many beginning flyers feel like they have more control when they bend the leg they are standing on, but bending your base leg makes your bases’ jobs more difficult. Locking your base leg helps evenly distribute your weight to your bases. The moment you bend your base leg, your bases will feel a difference in weight and stability.

Your arms are critical to the success of this stunt. You should be in a high V motion with one hand holding your foot. The other arm is equally important. The tighter this arm is the more stable and balanced you will feel. Loose motions are never helpful while flying. Pull yourself up through your high V. Your bases will appreciate you holding your own weight, and the act of pulling up through your shoulders stabilizes you.

Avoid the urge to put weight in the direction of your heel or toe. You must imagine your foot resting on a perfectly flat surface and hold your foot placement accordingly. Pulling your toes up toward the top of your shoe may also help you to balance. The resistance created by this upward force against the downward force of your base’s hand should provide a stabilizing feeling.

Do not bend your leg; grab your foot and then straighten your leg to get to the heel stretch position. You should kick up to the stretch position, and this should only take one count. Be sure that when you kick your leg up to the heel stretch position, you are contracting your muscles during the swinging motion. This will help to ensure that it is a controlled motion. Keep in mind that you are creating momentum with this swing, and you alone will be responsible for stopping this momentum by catching your foot. Slow and controlled is the goal.

Do not look down! This tip is somewhat universal when it comes to stunting, but oftentimes flyers need a friendly reminder when they begin learning this skill. It is tempting to look down to see exactly where your foot is. It gives you a visual connection with the shoe that you are supposed to be catching, but it will cause you to fall! Looking down will throw off the entire balance of the stunt, especially when kicking up to a heel stretch. Spot something directly in front of you if necessary, but do not look down. You will undoubtedly know when your foot needs to be caught.

What can you do to improve your heel stretch? Splits are one of the best stretching techniques that you can use to prepare for a heel stretch. If your split is all the way down to the ground with both legs completely straight, try elevating your front foot (set your foot on a mat, step or a stack of books) and holding it with your nose to your knee. It is also good practice to stand on the ground and practice kicking up to your stretch in one count, but in a controlled manner.

In the end, practice makes perfect. It will take some time to learn what works best for you, but these tips should give you a good beginning foundation.

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Score the Perfect Core

Solid core strength is crucial in preventing injury while cheering, and is critical to performing a majority of the skills demanded by cheerleading. Perfecting quick and easy methods to fine-tune your core muscles will help you make a smooth transition into getting in shape and being a better performer.

Beginner Exercises

The following drills will ensure you and your core are at their peak, helping you to be the best cheerleader you can be. All of these exercises can be performed in the comfort of your own home and should be done only as physically tolerated.

Flutter Kicks – Start by lying flat on your back, with your arms by your sides and your palms face-down on the floor. Extend your legs fully, and lift your heels approximately six inches off the floor. Make small, rapid up and down scissor-like motions with your legs (when your right leg is up the left should be down, then switch). The object of this exercise is to focus on having your midsection do the brunt of the work, and to keep your abs constantly contracted throughout the exercise.

Bent Knee Ab Hip Raises – Bent knee abdominal hip raises target the lower and middle abdominal muscles. This exercise also works the secondary muscles of your upper thighs and lower back. This is an especially great ab exercise to use if you’re looking to really work the difficult to tone lower portion of the stomach. Begin by lying flat on your back, with your hands at your sides and your knees bent, with your feet shoulder-width apart. Bring your pelvis up and your knees up toward your chest, contracting your abdominals and hold this position for a two second count. Your feet should come together at the peak up your upward movement. Return to the start position, and repeat for your designated amount of reps.

Finger to Heel Touches – Lay flat on your back with your knees bent and your feet spread shoulder-width apart. Keep both arms straight and resting flat on the floor by your sides. Begin this exercise by lifting your head and shoulders off the floor and reaching your fingertips to touch your heel on one side. Continue by rotating around to touch the heel on the opposite side of your body. Your abs should remain contracted throughout the duration of this exercise.

Hollow Body Rocks – This exercise is conducted while laying on your back. Lift your head, shoulders and arms off the ground (arms should be extended straight above your head), while also lifting your feet approximately six inches off the ground. Once in the hollow body position, contract your abs and begin to rock back and forth. This exercise should be performed for a pre-established amount of time.

Planks – Begin this exercise on your stomach. You will then push up into a modified push-up position. Bend your arms so you are resting with your forearms on the ground. Your arms should be bent at a 90 degree angle and you should be balancing on your toes with your body forming a straight line. Avoid allowing your butt to elevate higher than the rest of your body, creating an upside-down V shape, or sagging your hips, creating the opposite effect. This exercise is also done for a set period of time.

These five basic exercises will help you to create a solid foundation to get you on the road to perfecting your core!

Advanced Exercises

These additional five exercises require more skill and endurance, and should only be completed if you are able to master the beginner exercises listed in the previous section.

Inchworm to Pushup – In this exercise, you will begin in a downward dog position. Your legs should be straight, and both your feet and hands should be resting on the ground. Your hands should be as close to your feet as possible without bending your legs. Once in this beginning stance, lower yourself down into a push-up position by walking your hands out one at a time. Once in the push-up position, do one push-up, and then walk your hands back to your initial beginning position. Repeat this exercise for a predetermined amount of reps.

Around the World Lunges – This exercise combines lateral squats with basic lunges to make one hardcore drill. Begin standing with your feet together. Your hands should be resting somewhere out of the way and in a place where they can’t be used as counter resistance. Placing them on or behind your head is typically an ideal placement. Your first movement is a forward step with your right leg. You should strive to reach a lunge position where both knees are bent at a 90 degree angle. Your back knee should never touch the ground during this exercise. Hold this position for one second and return to your starting position. Once your feet are back together, your next movement will be to step to the side with your right leg into a squatting position. Hold this position for one second and return to the starting position. The third movement is to step back with your right leg. You will be lowering into the same lunge position as in the first movement, but your right leg will be in the back this time. Hold for one second and return to the initial position. The final movement will be stepping to the side with your left leg into the same squatting position as in step number two. Hold for one second and return to the original position. Completing all four stages of this exercise constitutes one rep.

Side Plank Reach Through – This exercise requires you to rest on the side of your bottom foot and allow your other foot to rest on top of the bottom foot. You will be supporting yourself by resting on your bent arm. If you are resting with your right foot on the ground, your right forearm should be the arm on the ground. Your body should remain straight at all times, and your top arm should be held straight vertically in the air. You will know you have reached the correct position when your heels, hips and shoulders are all in one straight line. This position is frequently utilized in yoga as well. Once in your side plank stance, you will allow your top extended arm to guide you. Reach down with your guiding arm, across your chest, and through the opening created between your base arm and your body. Rotate as far as you can and return your top arm and body to the side plank position. Once you’ve completed one set of reps, complete the exercise on the opposite side.

Burpee (aka Squat Thrust) – This exercise is comprised of four separate steps. Begin in a standing position with your feet together. Drop into a squatted position with your feet and hands both flat on the ground. From your squatting position, leave your hands in place and jump back to extend your legs straight out creating a push up position. Do one push-up. Next hop back into your squatting position and from here the final step is to jump up straight in the air with your feet together as high as possible. This will return you to the original position and you can repeat from that point.

Superman Rotations – In this exercise you will begin laying flat on your stomach with your arms extended straight out by your head. Step one is to lift your feet, arms, head, and shoulders all up off the ground as high as possible, and hold this position. Your legs should have a slight bend. Hold this superman position for three seconds, then use your shoulders to initiate a roll to your back. During your roll, your feet, arms, shoulders, and head should all remain elevated and not contact the ground. Your roll should end in a hollow body position (feet and shoulders both lifted approximately six inches off the ground and stomach contracted).  Hold this position for three seconds, and use your shoulders to initiate a roll back onto your stomach and the original superman position. This completes one rep.

These advanced exercises are to be conducted as physically tolerated, and are sure to have you in tip top shape in no time!

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Avoiding End-of-Season Burnout

As seasons wind down, athletes often experience symptoms of burnout (in fact, coaches often experience burnout as well). This problem is quite common and equally frustrating. When athletes are unmotivated and unhappy, it negatively affects everyone around. Burnout is not a negative reflection of the athlete or coach, but more so the result of monotonous activity.

So what can you do to spice up your season in hopes of avoiding both coach and athlete burnout? Incorporate some of the ideas below into your regular routine, and watch the life come back to your team!

1. Ditch Practice – No, not in the literal sense of simply not showing up, but surprise your team at practice with something different. Maybe begin with your usual practice schedule and mid-way through incorporate some team bonding activities or games. If you can spare an entire practice, consider moving the practice to a surprise location. This may take some parent support to arrange transportation, but meeting at a local ice cream shop or restaurant would be a nice treat for any hard-working team.

2. Be Creative – Allow the team to put their heads together and come up with a theme for a particular upcoming game. Maybe you want to do a “PINK OUT” night where you challenge everyone to wear pink in honor of breast cancer awareness. Allowing the cheerleaders to cheer in their themed outfits will definitely spice up the season. These themes don’t have to be limited to just the squad either. In fact, sharing the theme with the entire school will really bring your theme to life. For instance, maybe sponsor a crazy hair night. Select members out of the crowd that are contenders for the craziest hair, and allow the crowd to vote by cheering for each contestant. You may even be able to find a local salon that will award the winner with a free service! Giving the team and school something to get excited about and involved in will definitely help in avoiding burnout.

3. Change up the Routine – For those squads who simply can’t afford to miss out on practice time, consider simply changing the order in which you do things at practice. Maybe run a backwards practice; run your routine full out to start and then break down individual sections. This will spice up the regularity of the average practice schedule. Also if you can streamline your practice to allow for a few minutes of team bonding at the end, it will be greatly appreciated by your athletes.

4. Make Your Down Time Count – Most teams have a very limited time to practice, so making the most of this time is critical. Evaluate your current practice regime. Are you maximizing every moment to the fullest? For instance, instead of giving your team a set amount of time to stretch individually, consider stretching together as a team. During each stretch, go around and have everyone answer a question. For example, while holding splits, have everyone tell the best part of her day. This will ensure that your stretches are being held for a sufficient amount of time, and lets the team get in some quick bonding.

Ultimately, the key to avoiding burnout is to do things a little differently every once in a while. Doing the same thing over and over for months can wear even the toughest of the tough down. So don’t be afraid to try something new!

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Competition Tips Straight from the Judges

As choreography season spirals into overdrive, we’d like to supply you with a helpful list of routine pointers. We’ve consulted several judges from major national cheer and dance competition companies, and this is what we’ve found.

Things that excite and wow judges… also known as The “must have” list for competition routines:

  1. Cleanliness – Keep in mind when choreographing, a clean skill always beats a sloppy, more advanced skill. With that in mind, if you have an individual struggling with a double down cradle, make it a clean single. Don’t hesitate to bring difficulty down a notch when the skill cannot be completed safely and cleanly. Cleanliness makes it easier for a judge to see what is happening in front of them. When a routine is not clean, it often appears to be chaotic, making it difficult for a judge to award points appropriately for the skills completed because they can’t determine what the skills they actually saw.
  2. Energy and Spirit – This can make or break a routine. Cheerleading was created with spirit and excitement as core principles, and that has not changed. A routine should get the crowd and judges excited. There is nothing better than contagious energy. Be sure that your routine isn’t so draining that by the end the squad has no energy left. Our panel of judges commented that they often see teams who have crammed an incredible amount of skills into a routine but lack the ability to maintain the energy throughout the routine. In many cases, a routine with far less difficulty can beat the jam-packed routine simply because of the spirit and energy. Another tip is to practice like you’d perform it. Many cheerleaders feel silly giving facials during practice, but it develops muscle memory. So even when the adrenaline kicks in and the routine is moving a mile a minute, the performance aspect has become automatic through practice.
  3. Follow the Rules – This tip seems like a no-brainer, but our judges agreed that they almost always have at least one great team lose significant points because it has not followed all of the guidelines. There are general safety rules that every competition company provides, in addition to skill-level-specific rules. The penalty for not following these rules can range from fractions of a point to several points per occurrence. It is simply not worth the risk, so be sure to read and adhere to the up-to-date version of the rules and regulations for each competition you plan to attend.
  4. Sportsmanship – Judging is a biased job. There are guidelines in place to keep the scoring as impartial as possible, but in reality, a judge is being asked to render her opinion of the skills your team has produced. All this is to say that a judge can take all she has seen of your team and subconsciously factor that in when scoring in categories like overall performance. So be conscious of your team’s attitude and behavior on and off the competition mat. Sportsmanship is important. The last thing a judge wants to see is cheerleaders boo’ing or taunting other cheerleaders. Remind your team that they are being judged all day. The beauty of this is that it works both ways. Good sportsmanship can often yield rewards!

Things that make judges cringe… also known as the “no-no’s” for competition season:

  1. Inappropriate Uniforms – In today’s society, children are being forced to grow up way too fast in many aspects of life. There has recently been an overwhelming push by competition judges and competition companies to take that power back by enforcing appropriate dress rules and guidelines.  Be sure to carefully review the uniform guidelines for every competition company you plan to use throughout the year. Many have recently updated their policies. When asked, our panel of judges overwhelmingly replied that uniforms need to be age-appropriate, as well as appropriate for the body of every girl on the squad. So when deciding whether or not to put your peewee team in crop tops, keep that pointer in mind. There are hundreds of great uniform options that will wow the crowd and judges without baring it all. Check out the incredible options within the Cheerleading Company’s uniform collection. Also, if your team does use crop top uniforms or shorter skirts, make sure that everyone is comfortable in the uniform. It is far more distracting to see a girl pulling at her uniform throughout the routine than to see one member with a full length top or longer skirt.
  2. Inappropriate Movements & Gestures – Again, judges aren’t interested in watching young cheerleaders engaging in inappropriate dance. Our panel of judges specifically mentioned hip thrusts and other provocative gestures and movements as things that make them cringe. This is not to say senior level routines should be made up of these types of movements either, but keep age-appropriateness in mind at all levels. Secondly, judges don’t want to see bad sportsmanship or gestures made directly to other teams within your routine. That sends the message loud and clear that the coach of this squad has little regard for other competitors and/or sportsmanship.
  3. Music – There are several “no-no’s” when it comes to selecting the music for your routine, whether it be for spirit or competition purposes. As stressed in the last two points, keep age-appropriateness in mind. No, your pee-wee team doesn’t have to dance to Hannah Montana, but try to avoid suggestive lyrics. Additionally, avoid songs that provide your choreography for you. Songs such as the cha-cha slide, the cupid shuffle, and the hokey pokey all give verbal cues for movement. The judges want know if you can be creative and innovative, not if you can follow directions. The same goes for trendy songs that have dances associated with them, such as the dougie, the stanky leg, whip my hair, etc. It is almost impossible to have an entire squad do a dance of that nature and look like one cohesive unit. Remember that cleanliness is always a main goal.

 

This list isn’t fail proof, but it will certainly help you to create a routine that is sure to wow the crowd and reap rewards on the score sheets! Good luck and happy choreographing!

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