The original purpose of sideline cheerleaders is to lead and motivate a crowd of fans at a sporting event. Cheerleaders have various tools to accomplish this task. They can use Cheers, Chants, Dancing, Stunts and Tumbling. For safety purposes, we do not stunt or tumble while a ball is in play nor does the band or music play. Because of this, Cheerleaders lose some of their tools. This brings us to the ‘bread and butter’ of what sideline cheerleaders do – Cheer. They stand on the sidelines in front of a crowd and using a combination of motions, jumps and yells they keep the crowd engaged in the game and supporting their team.
Most people outside of the cheer world (and some that are in it) are not aware that there is a difference between cheers and chants. A chant is a short phrase or a few short phrases that repeat. “Go Big Blue” or “Lets Go Lions” would be something you may have heard at games. They are usually done with simple sharp motions and can be effective in getting the crowd motivated.
A cheer is longer, more like a story. It usually addresses the crowd, tells them what to say, when to say it and then asks them to repeat it. “Tiger fans up in the stands, we wanna hear you yell! We say blue and you say gold, Blue, Gold! Blue, Gold!” In this cheer, each line would only be said once and have specific. The Blue, Gold portion of the cheer would be repeated by the cheerleaders and crowd. Almost all cheers and chants use stiff motions to punctuate words. Some also incorporate jumps to highlight certain parts.
Many times when I watch cheerleaders at games, they do not look crisp and sharp on the cheers and chants. This tells me that there is not enough time dedicated at practice to making the basics look good. When we break down a football or basketball game and look at the actual time spent cheering versus the time spent performing dances, stunts and tumbling it tells a lot. A quarter is typically 12 minutes long, a quarter break is 1-2 minutes and halftime is between 1- 15 minutes. That means that 48 minutes (or more) of a game will be cheers and chants and only 18-20 minutes are for stunting and performing dances. Yet, in a 2 hour practice coaches tend to spend only 30-40 minutes on cheers, chants, motions and jumps while they can spend an hour or more working on stunts and tumbling.
I don’t want to say that less time should be spent on stunts and tumbling, but it would be great to see coaches emphasize that the basics look just as good. For safety purposes we need to spend time on the more athletic elements and we need to make sure that what the crowd sees most of is equally as good. Stunts and Tumbling are what the kids and the crowd focus on, but making sure that the cheers and chants are good it what makes a cheer squad great. Make sure that the motions are sharp and strong. Work on core strength and flexibility to make those jumps higher and more graceful. Don’t neglect your voice work at practice either. Learn to yell from your diaphragm and not your throat to save your voice and be louder. You should practice yelling in the stadium or crowded gym to see how loud you really need to be. Concentrate on chopping your words and not singing so that the crowd can understand and have a better chance to yell with you.
Making sure that your cheerleaders have the complete package will make them successful. Cheerleaders that are focused on one element get tedious because we never use just one element in cheerleading. Your crowd may or may not notice the time and effort spent on being a well rounded team, but you will know and they will have a better understanding of how to budget their time.
If you are in need of skill drills for motions, jumps or conditioning, please feel free to contact me or you can find lots of great information online.
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