Monday, April 9, 2012

Game Time!

Getting your team prepared for games.

You have worked hard to select the perfect team, conditioned through the summer, and gone to camp to learn new material.  You’ve done the team bonding, and fundraised for uniforms and spirit packs… Now it’s time for the main event!  Cheering for Games.  The sole purpose of cheerleaders.  No matter the amount of competitions, camps, community service, etc. that you put into your season it would not be an option if it weren’t for those athletic teams! 

Most schools cheerleaders cheer for Football in the fall and Basketball in the winter.  Some cheer for Volleyball, Soccer and Wrestling.  We'll go through the process of getting ready for football, since it is the most common.

First things first: Cheers and Chants.  These are the meat and potatoes of your program.  Cheers and chants serve MANY purposes.  They are used to fill dead time between plays.   They let the crowd know what is going on in the game so they can socialize too.  They also drown out the inappropriate comments from the crowd so the referees don’t hear.   They also can keep your team warm in cold weather.  

When assembling your chant list make sure that you have enough cheers and chants to make it through a game without repeating more than twice.  I usually teach 10-15 each of offense and defense and 20 or more general chants.  Have them learn 5-6 Cheers to perform for timeouts and quarter breaks so they don’t have to repeat those during the same game.

Teach the cheerleaders the basics of the sport you are cheering for.  In football, they want to know the difference between offense and defense most importantly.  They also need to know what to do when the team scores, kicks, time outs, and half times.  Many schools already have traditions in place for these things so don’t be afraid to ask outgoing cheerleaders what has been done in the past.    If your school has a band, you will need to communicate with the band director who will be performing when.  Have the cheerleaders learn dances and motions to perform when the band plays.

Offense – this may seem obvious to some, but it means your team has the ball.   There are a few ways to tell if the team has the ball.  Look at the field, your team will have the ball.   If you cant see the field because the team is in the way, your scoreboard may have an arrow that points to the team with the ball.  The easier way, is to know the team.  Who is the quarterback and what number does he wear?  If he’s not in the line-up he’s probably on the field.

Defense – When the other team has the ball.  Again, all of the ways that are used to find the offense can be used to find the defense.

Kicking – One of the teams will kick off at the beginning of the game; most cheerleaders have a kick-off type cheer or traditional cheer that they do at this time.  They scoring team also kicks the ball after they score points. 

Timeouts – sometimes these can be hard to hear from the sidelines.  Train your cheerleaders and captains to listen to the announcer and the football coaches to hear the call.  Time outs can involve cheers or chants, stunts, tumbling, dancing with the band, etc.  Material that will entertain the crowd when there is no action on the field.

Halftime – this is when your cheerleaders get the opportunity to shine.  My team performs at every game, every halftime and each halftime is different.  We always perform at least a cheer with stunts and tumbling.  Sometimes we add a dance.  As the season pushes into late fall/winter we have two halftimes planned.  One with stunts and tumbling and second that allows for rain and snow.   After they perform my team takes a quick restroom break, chat for a few minutes, grab a quick snack and we line up for the halftime run-through. 

Some teams do a run-through for the football players at the beginning of the game.  My football coach prefers that we do it at halftime.  Each week the cheer captains paint a long sign on butcher paper and they hold it up for the team to run through as they come back onto the field for the second half.

During the second half of the game, keep up the energy.  As the game comes to an end it can get very intense.  Use the crowd involvement cheers to keep the crowd focused and excited.  At the end of the game, win or lose, perform the schools fight song or other traditional cheer that shows support and camaraderie for the school and team.

When cheering at games focus on the positive.  Try to cheer FOR your team not AGAINST the other team.  Good sportsmanship should be the most important key in cheering.  Avoid the cheers that make derogatory comments toward the other team.  You know your team is the best cheer so loudly that the other team is jealous of your school spirit.

If your cheerleaders have never watched a football game, get a video of one that you can show at a practice.  During the film, explain to them when to cheer, what to do during an injury, kick-off, touch down, etc.  There are also situational CD’s that have an announcer that talks like he would at a game to help prepare.  If your football team participates in scrimmages, attend these and have someone talk to the girls about what is happening.

Make sure the cheerleaders have the right tools and knowledge to feel prepared.  The more they know, they more fun they will have at the games.  

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