It was 1979 when the Universal Cheerleading Association (UCA) first demonstrated the basket toss at a summer camp. This advanced cheer stunt, in which three or four "bases" toss a "flyer" up into the air, has since become a staple of most cheer routines - with variations possible to raise the level of difficulty.
Parts of the Basket
The bases provide the foundation for the stunt. For a basket toss, there are three to four bases, including a back spot and sometimes, a front spot. Forming the "steps" for the flyer are two bases to the side. Facing one another, the bases interlock arms to form a square. Each base grabs her own right wrist with her left hand; with her free right hand, she holds onto the other base's left wrist, forming a small circle or square. This is the basket.
The Back Spot
The back spot stands behind the stunt and helps the flyer load into the basket; then spring into the air. One of the most important jobs of a back spot is to help push the flyer straight up into the air, not forward. If the flyer launches forward, the bases will not be in a position to catch her when she falls back down.
The flyer is the squad member who is tossed into the air. To gain maximum height, she pushes off the shoulders of the bases and then "rides" the basket with her arms extended straight up (her shoulders close to her ears).
The Front Spot
Sometimes a front spot is added for power. Her position is in front of the stunt, where she places her hands beneath the basket created by the bases. Once she helps launch the basket, she needs to step away. The front spot does not help catch the flyer.
The Steps of a Basket Toss
As with all cheerleading stunts, precision is critical to performance and safety. To perform a basket toss properly, a team follows the basic steps below, typically while counting off "one, two, three..." to keep everyone working in unison.
- Form the basket
- Load the basket (on either the first and/or second dip)
- Dip again
- On the second dip, launch the basket
- Flyer rides the basket straight up
- Flyer performs a jump
- Flyer falls back down into basket in the cradle position
Loading the Basket
In order to execute any cheerleading stunt properly, all members must do their part perfectly. This requires teamwork and practice. In the case of a basket toss, one of the most important elements to master is loading the basket.Once the bases have interlocked arms, the flyer can step into the basket. She can do this is in one of two ways:
- The step-in: Placing her hands on the shoulders of the bases, the flyer steps into the basket with one foot. On the second dip of the stunt, the flyer puts her other foot into the basket as well, and is launched into the air.
- The jump-in: Here, the flyer again places her hands on the bases' shoulders, then waits for the count. On the second dip, the flyer jumps into the basket with both feet, landing exactly in the middle of the square. Once loaded, she is immediately launched into the air.
Regardless of how the basket is loaded, it is critical that all members are on the same page. If the flyer isn't centered for example, she'll likely not leave the basket. The power in a basket toss is generated by the spring the flyer gets from the basket and the bases' shoulders. If she is not centered, she won't have enough spring to create airspace to perform a jump. The more airspace a flyer has, the more difficult the jump can be.
Options for the Toss
As said, there are variations to the basket-toss stunt. The most basic is the "straight ride," in which the flyer elevates straight into the air, her arms pointing up. As she falls down, she pikes her legs and falls into the basket in the cradle position. This drill is commonly used to get all squad members comfortable with the toss: Where to stand, how to catch the flyer, and how to transition. Once they master the stunt, a squad can add a jump. The most common are the toe-touch and the herkie; the latter named after National Cheerleader Association founder Lawrence Hermkimer. Other jumps you might incorporate include:
- Pike open
- Ball out
- Tuck arch
- Back tuck
- Pretty girl
- Kick full
- Front layout
- Star twist
- Full twist
Perfecting the Stunt
Though it is a standard stunt now for most cheer routines, basket tosses still require a great deal of repetition. Each toss is a challenge, as squad members must precisely execute their roles to ensure safety and quality of performance. It takes concentration and timing to get the stunt right. However, when done properly, a basket toss is indeed impressive and exemplifies what can result from patience, practice, and teamwork.