Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Surviving Cheer Tryouts as a Coach

How to survive cheer tryouts as a coach.
Tryouts are an exciting, albeit stressful time of the year.  The athletes are excited, worried, and nervous.  For the coaches, it is all of those things plus the stress and pressure of assembling a team.  It is not easy to stand in front of someone or a group of new people and perform material that you are not familiar with.  If you are a coach, it is not easy to judge people on their abilities without hurting feelings.  Unfortunately, it is unavoidable.  The best way to get through the process is to remember the feelings of the tryout candidates and make it as easy on them as possible.  Make it easy on yourself by getting organized, writing out a checklist and staying on top of it. 

There are many ways to run your tryout.  Here are some ideas.

Many cheer companies send try out material on a DVD and include music each year.  If you are not receiving these, you can go on to and request them.  On these DVD’s are dances, cheers, and chants.  You can make copies of these and distribute them 1-2 weeks in advance of the tryouts.  Have the tryout packets available, when the candidate turns in their tryout packet they receive a DVD.  The sooner they get the packet, the more time they have to work on the material.  For the actual tryout, it can be 1 or 2 days depending on how much time you want to review with them.  Teach motions, jumps, tumbling, and review the material from the DVD.  At the end, of the 2nd day have the cheerleaders perform for judges. 

Host a tryout clinic for 2-3 days.  During this time, teach all the material that the cheerleaders will need to know and perform on the Tryout day.  At the end of the clinic have a “mock” tryout where the cheerleaders get to practice trying out in front of their peers.  At the actual tryout, the athletes will perform in small groups in front of judges.

Coaches Evaluation
This is a lot like the Clinic-Tryout-Judge form for tryouts only at the end of the clinic the coaches make the decision on their team.  Bring in outgoing seniors or other helpers to teach the material so the coaches can watch and evaluate progress, performance, and attitude.  See how well they take direction and how quickly they learn.

Video Tryout
This is again like the Clinic-Tryout-Judge form for tryouts only at the end of the clinic the candidate’s tryout in front of a camera.  The coaches can then take the camera and review it with other coaches or by themselves to make their decision.

A more difficult form of the tryout is one where you would host a cheer clinic for 1-2 days to teach all the skills and drills necessary to become a cheerleader.  You would also teach the candidates a dance, a few cheers, and chants.  They athletes would then have 1-2 weeks to make up their own original material to perform for judges at the tryout.  This tryout does not work well in areas where the cheer team has a high turnover rate.  It tends to scare away some newer athletes.  This works best in programs the draw quite a bit of talent each year, or in programs where the choreography is student-lead.  It does allow the coaches to test dedication and creativity. 

Once you have decided on how you want to select your team the planning starts.

About 8 weeks before set the date for the clinic and the tryouts and reserve all facilities.  Make sure that you check with your admin and the school calendar to avoid conflicts with exams, prom, spring break, etc.  Make considerations for those students who might also participate in other activities, sports, drama, and leadership.

At 6 weeks out, contact your judges.  Let them know the dates and times along with any requirements you have for them.  If you are issuing a check to them, check any requirements from your school and district.

4 weeks – publicize the dates and times for tryouts.  Post in the school newsletter, website, local paper.  Hang flyers in high traffic areas and on bulletin boards.  If it’s allowed, get the tryout information to your feeder middle schools.  Post signup sheets and packets in the office or at your classroom. 

With 2 weeks to go have a tryout meeting for anyone who is interested in trying out.  Invite parents to attend.  Review expectations, fundraising, fee requirements and what to expect at tryouts and during the season.  If you are using outgoing seniors, start assigning duties.  When delegating, be selective about the jobs you assign.  Possible jobs could be teaching the material, running warm-ups, playing music, and organizing groups.  Be aware of relationships between outgoing students and returning cheerleaders.

The week prior get all your forms in order and make copies of judging forms.  Send out copies of the forms to the judges so that they can familiarize themselves.  Give any directions or last minute requests to judges.

The week of tryouts, start gathering paperwork from the cheer candidates and verify eligibility.  Pick up the judges checks, or make final arrangements.  Check on the sound system and any other things that require set-up with the facility director.

On the first clinic day, review all requirements and expectations.  Take a picture of the candidatures to help remember them when you are reviewing your notes.  Take attendance and collect any medical releases. 

Each clinic day, take roll and monitor progress.  If you have a large group of candidates, assign numbers and take notes.  Be available to answer questions and make decisions.

On the day of tryouts, meet early with your seniors and helpers to give last minute direction.  Provide snacks and refreshments for your judges.  Meet with the judges and distribute score sheets, pencils, calculators, scratch paper, etc.

Close your tryout except for judges and helpers.  Make sure there are no distractions.  If you are videotaping, make sure that the lighting is good and your groups are all visible.  Keep your groups to 2-4.  This is easier for the judges. 

Announcing the team
Announce the results as soon as possible to help avoid any concerns of unfair scoring.  When telling the students who made the team, do it in person or with an individual phone call.  They have just worked hard and performed for your approval you should at least tell them personally how they did and what they can work on for next time. 

During the process, remember what your goal is.  You are trying to assemble a group of cheerleaders that will BEST represent your school and program.  Sometimes kids just simply do not fit.  Do your best to keep a level head.  Once you have finalized your roster, enjoy your season!


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