Cheerleading competitions can be a lot of fun, but they also require hard work and dedication. Competitive cheerleading is different than cheering for a school ball game. Before joining a competitive squad, learn about the different types of competitive squads and what an actual competition will be like.
The Difference Between All Star and Pep Squads
All Star squads exist exclusively to compete, although they may make public appearances throughout the year.
School squads, Pop Warner squads or other community based groups may enter competitions, but cheering at sporting events like basketball or football games is their main objective.
The Pros of Joining an All Star Squad
An All Star squad is not for the faint of heart. All Star members must be able to tumble and need to be comfortable performing stunts. Even at the youngest levels where kids would not be expected to try out with a repertoire of stunts, young athletes still need a certain level of flexibility, agility and some gymnastics experience. However, All Star squads give the serious cheerleader the opportunity to consistently perform her skills at the highest level throughout the year.
The Cons of Joining a Competitive Squad
Competitive squads require a substantial amount of time. You can expect to practice multiple days per week, attend tumbling classes on other days, plus you'll have competitions on the weekends during competition season. If all of your friends are busy hanging out at the mall on the weekends, this might put a downer on participating. Also, if you don't develop tumbling and flexibility while you're young it will be hard to learn as you get older. Another con that many parents don't realize is that All Star cheerleading squads are allowed to perform the most difficult stunts for their age range. Thus, the risk of serious injury is much higher.
There are other squads that compete in addition to All Star squads. Many high schools with large football and cheerleading programs enter at least one competition throughout the year.
Before You Enter a Competition
Is your squad ready for a cheerleading competition? Here are a few pointers to remember before you enter and go to your first competition:
- Know the score card. The score card lets you know the elements judges are looking for, which stunts are illegal, and other limitations and/or regulations.
- Have your music ready. It pays to have a professionally mixed tape done just for competition.
- Have your routine ready. You cannot make last minute changes to your routine. Doing so could put your cheerleaders at risk of injury.
- Only choose stunts that you know your cheerleaders can perform easily. Any stunts or choreography should be "old hat" to the girls on the squad.
- Consider attending a camp. Camps can help prepare you for competition by working on specific areas of weakness, getting you into shape and building team skills.
The Big Day
The day of competition can be exciting and nerve wracking, but overall it's fun.
Failing to register properly can get you disqualified. Generally you will need to turn in medical waivers for each participant, pay any fees that are due as well as receive:
- A score card that lists the criteria by which you will be judged
- The time you are to perform
- Additional instructions and regulations
While You Wait
Waiting is the worst part of the competition. Generally, you'll be in a warm up area while you're waiting for your turn to perform. You should take the opportunity to visualize yourself performing, stretch, and warm up by doing light calisthenics. It is not advisable to watch other squads. Neither is it a good idea to run through your routine just one more time. At this point, you either have it or you don't.
After Your Turn
If you're allowed to do so, you can watch the other squads and finish the competition. Sometimes at bigger competitions they will have a means for waiting squads to watch other teams perform. This is a time to be a good sport and make sure that everyone has a chance to perform to an audience that is free from the distractions of other screaming cheerleaders.This is not the time to critique your performance. There will be time for that later.
At the End of the Day
When everyone is finished performing there is usually a break. Sometimes it is another division of competition or unjudged exhibition to give the judges time to tally scores. Some larger competitions compute the scores electronically. However, the "big reveal" comes at the end of the day when you find out who won the competition! Remember that if you don't win you still gained a lot by coming to competition. Afterwards there is often time for cheerleaders to get together to talk and congratulate one another. Whether you've won the top prize or come in dead last, it's important to be gracious.
Some Major Cheerleading Competitions
Most states have their own cheerleading association, and most of those associations host a cheerleading competition during the year. Here are some of the more regional and nationally known competitions.
- USASF Cheer and Dance Worlds is the big competition that's televised by ESPN. They take place every year in late April at a venue in Disney World in Orlando, FL.
- Atlantic Cheer and Dance hosts competitions up and down the Atlantic Coast.
- Cheer Ltd. hosts the Soffee open competitions for school and All Star squads. They host competitions throughout the southeastern United States.
- JAMFest has one of the largest competition companies across the United States, holding events in every region of the country.
- United Spirit Association holds camps and competitions in cheerleading and dance. Competitions are based in the West, concentrating on California.
Cheer competitions offer a unique experience to meet new people and make lasting friendships. Not only will you forge a bond with the other members on your team, but you'll have the chance to meet cheerleaders from all over the world. Some girls even exchange bows with other squads at nationals and worlds. All your hard work pays off the moment you hit that competition arena and the payment is lifelong memories to treasure.