Thursday, November 10, 2016

Keeping The Spirit ALL YEAR!

Tryouts in May, Camp and Practices in July & August, School, and Football Games run from September to November, Winter Tryouts in November, Basketball Games, and Competitions from December through March. Nine months is a LONG time to keep kids motivated.  Even longer if you don’t have the second tryout in November.  Keeping your athletes from getting bored is an art!  There are many, many ways to help them stay motivated and excited all year long.  Here are just a few.

No Cheering Allowed!
No Cheering Allowed
For one practice each month, have a team outing or gathering that has nothing to do with cheerleading.  Go bowling, roller skating, or have a team dinner and watch funny movies.  Have a rule that they are not to talk about cheerleading or wear anything cheerleading related.  It will be a bonding experience for them.  Play a game that is a variation on the baby/wedding shower game.  Give each girl a necklace or a pin and if anyone is caught saying the word Cheer, they lose their item.  The cheerleader with the most collected items wins.

Themed Practices
Have dress-up days.  One day we had a day where the cheerleaders had to wear the t-shirt of a different school to practice.  It could be any school, but they were not allowed to wear our school colors!  You can have superhero days, idol days, color days, etc.  The limits are endless.  Just make sure that they are safe for practice.

Team Bonding 
Have team bonding activities at least once a week at practice or instead of practice.  There are a million different bonding activities that range from mushy to sappy.  You can play games that force them to work together.  Sit in a circle and talk about things, such as; Why are you here? Why do you appreciate the person next to you? What is your favorite commercial? Etc?

Community Service & Volunteering
If they can work together off the field they will be amazing on it.  Taking time away from cheer to help others and spread kindness can really help to motivate a stagnant team.  It gives them goals to work toward that are not skill based and are very attainable.  This section is brought to you by the letter C.
Weekly Praise
Weekly Praise
Choose a stuffed animal or a trophy to give out to a cheerleader each week.  This traveling trophy can be a source of motivation.  Give it out to the best all around cheerleader from the week.  They take turns with it and on Friday when the new winner is announced they can ceremoniously hand it over.  Take a picture of each week's winner and make a collage at the end of the year.  If your mascot doesn’t lend to a good animal or trophy you could use a stuffed COW.  For Cheerleader of the Week!

Rotating Captains
Until your team votes or your captains are chosen you could have a captain for a day.  The daily choice can lead stretches, take turns calling chants, choose the dance or material to work on that day.  They could even take turns teaching the team material or bringing the team a snack.  You may like this setup so much you will keep it all year long!

Team Journal
Each week, sit down with a notebook and your team and have them contribute comments, notes, anecdotes, and stories from the week.  Have someone write them all down and then journal them.  At the end of the season put them together and give a copy to team members to remember the season.  You could also do this with a Video Journal.  You could film throughout the week and at the end, they could each take turns talking about the week.

Material Update

Take a look at your chant lists for both Football and Basketball.  Are you in need up updating them? Take some time in between seasons to review and remove any that are no longer effective, or simply not fun.  You may have some football chants that you can change up the words to and carry into basketball.  You could break your team into small groups and have them come up with one revision and one new chant. Then they all could take turns teaching their chants.

When trying to motivate your cheerleaders, make sure you stay motivated too.  Your enthusiasm for the sport carries through to your team.


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!


Monday, November 7, 2016

Ten Tips for Tryouts

Ten things the Cheer Coaches REALLY want to see.
Cheerleading is not a sport that you can just jump right into and be great.  It takes some time to learn the techniques and nuances.  Each coach and each program are different.  Use these tips to get to know the coach and program and to understand what will be expected of you.  

Take all the opportunities offered to you.
Coaches offer parent meetings, information meetings, and open gym time for you to be the best cheerleader you can be.  They do it so that you can be prepared for what is expected of you and have a great experience.  Take advantage of it.  While most of the coaches love working with their teams, it can be frustrating when only one or two students is participating.  Those that do participate will have the shown dedication that others did not.  Coaches will have the opportunity to get to know the participants that attend and they will have a better chance of making the team.

Ask questions.
When you attend a meeting or an open gym, ask questions.  The coaches would rather you ask and show an interest in what you are doing then have you wander lost.  If you are unsure of a rule, where to be, what to wear, how a skill is done, anything.  Really, they don’t mind the questions.

Know what is expected of you at Tryouts. 
This shouldn’t be a problem if you have read the handouts and asked questions at the meetings and open gyms.  If you are expected to dress a certain way, show up at a certain time or hand in paperwork on a certain day – do it.  Coaches have things they need to do to stay on track and keep the program running smooth.  If you forget your paperwork it means the coach cant do their job.  If you are late to tryouts or practice, you are holding up the rest of the team or you are missing out.  Coaches do not want to have to repeat announcements or instructions to people that were not prepared.

Dress for the part.
Cheerleaders are a highly visible group at any school.  Typically, they are seen at games, assemblies, open house, parent night, orientation, the list goes on.  Coaches do not what their team to be messy or look like they just rolled out of bed.  Before any tryout practice, make yourself look ‘game ready.’  
  • Hair - do your hair how the coach prefers. Make sure that it is brushed and not just thrown up lazy style.
  • Wear a little makeup – just a little.  Mascara, eye shadow, and lip-gloss are fine.  Coaches want you to look like your ready to participate.
  • Neat and clean clothing – wear clothes that fit.  Your clothes should not be baggy.  It is distracting and unsafe when stunting and tumbling.  You also want to skip clothes that are too tight.  You need to look comfortable and be able to move freely.
Be on time.
This should be simple, but very important!  If you are supposed to be at practice at 3pm, be there.  Coaches probably want to start on time so that they can get the most out of practice.  Being late means that you are missing what the coach needs you to know or warm-up.  If you do have to be late, let the coach know. Call or send a text (if that is allowed). DO NOT tell your friend to tell the coach that you will be late.  It is not your friend’s job to be your messenger.

Good attitude, Help each other and be a role model.
This is probably one of the most important things coaches want to see.  Cheerleading is not easy for someone that is just starting out.  There is a lot to remember and they know that.  They want you to give it your best shot each practice and be positive.  If you don’t get it the first time, it will come.  If you see someone struggling, help him or her.  Work through it together.  Coaches want to see you off to the side helping and encouraging each other so when they ask you to perform something you don’t stare blankly at them.  If you are a returner, be a role model.  They know that you already know some of the material, don’t take that time to chat with your friends.  Chances are you could use the work too. 

Know the material.
You are taught material during tryouts that will be a sample of what you will do during the season.  You need to practice this material.  Don’t just expect that the time you spent at practice is sufficient to how well you know it.  You need to go home and practice.  You're going to get judged on how well you know the material and the progress you made from the first day to the last day.  Improvement will help in making the team.  Yes, returners are judged harder than newbies.  They are expected to know the basics so their mastery of the new cheers or dances should be better.

Cheerleaders are athletes.  They need stamina, conditioning, flexibility and timing.  High school coaches do not typically have weight requirements, but no one wants to see an unfit girl jumping up and down in a short skirt.  I do not mean that to be disrespectful, but you need to be healthy.  On my team, I do not care so much what your body image is.  I have tall, short, thin, heavy, strong, weak, etc.  However, all the girls on my team can display the athleticism and perform the requirements needed to be a cheerleader. 

Handle the Results with Grace.
Tryouts are stressful.  Coaches know that.  Do your best to stay calm and keep the nerves down.  The more you practice, the less nervous you will be.  When it comes time for the team announcement you need to handle it with respect and pride.  If you made the team, do not immediately call all your friends and brag or gloat.  You may have some friends that didn’t make it.  If you were not chosen for the team, there was a reason, and it was probably a good one.  Don’t get mad, don’t yell at the coach don’t blast negativity on your social media.  If you can, find out what you need to work on and try again next time.

Being a cheerleader is time-consuming and hard work.  It requires a lot of time in the gym and on the field.  You are not going to have much time for friends and hanging out.  Time management is key.  Make sure that you know what is expected of you so that you can make the commitment and stick to it.  Go to the open gyms to see if cheerleading is something that you like enough to give up half your summer for and most Friday nights.

These things WILL make the difference between cheering from the sidelines and cheering from the bleachers.  Coaches are not scary they just have high expectations.  They are willing to work with you, but they are trying to build a successful program.  Also, remember that cheerleading is an extra curricular activity, you are not required to participate and they don’t have to put you on the team.  They are going to choose participants that fit into their program, not going to change the program and expectations for you.

I hope this incite helps you at your tryouts.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Jump, Jump, Jump! The What and How of Cheerleading Jumps.

Cheerleaders jumping around on the sidelines may seem arbitrary and random, but really, jumps are skills that require athleticism, flexibility, and strength.  Jumps are used to accentuate a point in a cheer or chant, grab your attention during a routine, show spirit at the end of a great play or show of spirit from the crowd.

There are eight different jumps that cheerleaders perform.  Tuck, Star (also called a straddle or spread eagle), Left and Right Side Hurdlers, Toe Touch, Left and Right Front Hurdlers, and Pike.

All of the jumps are performed the same way with the difference being the body position at the top of the jump.  The performance of the jumps can be broken into 4 parts; The Approach, Height, Form and the Landing.  I’ll go through each of these, with some input from the NCA & UCA staff on technique.

The approach creates the momentum to follow through and help get height when jumping off the ground.  It is controlled and distinct in the movement.

Start your up with your feet together and arms in a High V position.  On a designated count, swing both arms downward in front of your face.  As your arms cross dip down a little with your legs.  Timing is key here.  Your arms should be at their lowest point of the swing when the legs are at the deepest part of the dip.  This allows the arms and legs to quickly explode into the air at the same time. 

You should try to jump off the ground and get as much height as possible to give your body time to hit the jump and land safely. This happens when you get an explosive jump timed with the lift of the arms.

Proper jump technique puts your chest up with your shoulders slightly in front of the hips.  The arms (for most jumps) should be in a strong T motion.  Make sure that leg muscles are flexed and straight and toes are pointed.  As flexibility increases, allow your legs to extend as high as possible and relax the hips.

If you have given yourself enough height to hit the motion at the top of the jump, you should have enough time to land properly.  When landing, you should land with both feet together at the same time.  If you don’t land even you can put unnecessary stress on your knees and ankles.  If you are not landing with your feet together lower the height of the skill at the top of the jump until the flexibility and strength have been developed to maintain safety.

Here is a definition of each of the eight jumps:

Cheerleading Jump Positions

At the top of the jump, pull your knees up to your chest and point your toes.  The arms should be in a High V.

Straddle / Star / Spread Eagle
At the top of the jump, the legs should come out to a Low V position with the shoelaces pointed at the crowd.  The arms should be in a tight High V.

Left and Right Side Hurdlers
At the top of the jump, raise either the left or right leg to a straight position out to the side of the body.  The other leg will be in a bent position to the other side parallel with the ground.  The arms should be in a T motion and the chest up.

Toe Touch
In a toe touch, you do not actually touch your toes.  You want to reach for the instep of the shoe.  Bring both legs up and out to the sides.  Try and roll the hips back so that the shoelaces are pointed behind you.  The arms should be in a T motion and the chest up.

Left and Right Front Hurdlers
This jump is performed at a 45-degree angle to the crowd in the direction of the straight leg.  At the top of the jump, raise either the left or right leg to a straight position in front of the body.  The other leg will be in a bent position with the knee stretched out almost like the splits.  The foot of the bent leg will try to kick the seat of the jumper.  The arms should be in a Touchdown motion and the chest up.

This jump is also performed at a 45-degree angle to the crowd in either direction.  At the top of the jump, lift both legs to a straight position in front of the body.  The arms should be in a Candlestick motion and the chest up.

Please remember that stretching before these types of strenuous activities are KEY!  Make sure that you have warmed up all the muscles and worked the ankles, knees, and shoulders.

Flexibility and Core strength training will play a key role in improving the height and extension of your jumps.  Practice them EVERY DAY!