Five Ways to Be Competition Ready

Cheerleader doing a tuck jump.

Competition season is right around the corner. If your squad is competing, it's time to get ready and pull it all together for the final performance. Competitions can be unnerving, especially for rookie cheerleaders. . .and the key to calming those nerves is practice, practice, practice. Get yourself and your squad competition ready by following a few timely tips.

Tip #1: Don't Neglect the Basics

Often times, it's not the difficult stunts that cause a squad to lose a competition, but rather a lack of attention to detail. Movements aren't sharp, or perhaps even girls are not all together during the routine. Regardless, these little idiosyncrasies will be picked apart by judges and sometimes it can mean the difference between first and second place. . .or even not placing at all.

It's important not to neglect the basics and the best squads spend time working on both new and challenging components to their routines as well as basic movements. After stretching and warm up, take the first fifteen to twenty minutes of practice by practicing basics together as a squad. This can be performing a jump together, working on your transitions and formations or even working on various moves and making sure that they are together. The extra effort will pay off on competition day.

Tip #2: Embrace the Eight Count Method

One of the easiest mistakes to make during your competition routine is not having all your girls moving together. Since cheerleading routines are taught in eight counts, one of the best ways to really make sure everyone is together is to learn the routine, and then break it down and perform it slowly without the music.

Having the opportunity to watch the entire squad move slowly will help coaches and captains see who is just a tad behind in the movements. It is painstaking and tedious work but if you want to win, diligently attending to the tedious will help your squad go from looking mediocre to spectacular.

Tip #3: Build Your Stamina

Most competition routines are two to two and a half minutes long. On the one hand, that might not sound like a long time. However, remember that you're going to tumbling, dancing and cheering your way through those one hundred and eighty seconds.

Top notch cheerleading squads take aerobic training seriously and dedicate some time apart from practice towards aerobic activity. Making sure that you have the opportunity to get regular aerobic exercise apart from any cheerleading will help ensure that every single movement you make on the competition floor is sharp, crisp and full of energy.

Tip #4: Build Your Squad Morale

Although going to competition is a lot of fun, it's also very stressful. Every squad member is likely to be feeling the pressure whether or not she is a flyer or a base. While you don't want to overburden the squad with extra work, competition time is also a great time to play "secret pals" (similar to secret Santa).

To play, have each girl draw a name and have her keep the name she has a secret. Then the girls should send a note of encouragement, a poem, or an inspiration quote each day before competition. Start the secret pals a week before competition and reward the girls with a big "reveal" after it's all over. Having a little fun during this time will help keep your squad tight knit and encourage the bonding that really helps set a squad apart.

Tip #5: Make a Timeline and Plan a Dress Rehearsal

One common mistake that squads new to competing sometimes make is to not give themselves enough time to thoroughly learn the routine. By the time competition week rolls around, you want to have already performed the routine at least once if not a few times. By that final week, you do not want to have to tweak anything, but instead you should be ready.

Starting too early however, can make the routine seem boring. To help keep it fresh and new, introduce bits and pieces incorporating new things into routines you're already familiar with. Pick and choose your squad's best elements and add them one by one into your routine. How early should you start? That depends on when the competition is and what other responsibilities your squad has to the other teams of your school. Plan on getting a full performance of your routine during a half time break of a basketball game or during a pep rally.

Competition Day Ready

The day of the competition is not the day to run through your routine. This is the day to encourage your fellow squad members, make sure that hair and make up are perfect, and mentally prepare for the rigors of competition. Go through the routine in your mind dwelling on how perfectly you can stick your stunts and tumbling. Remember that each year is a learning experience. If you don't place as highly as you'd like this year, get a copy of the judge's feedback sheet (if they'll allow it) so you know what you have to work on.

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Five Ways to Be Competition Ready