Until recently, many people did not think about a need for legless cheers, those cheers that only involve upper body movements. That's because it wasn't until recently that special needs cheerleading really took off. However, there are now numerous special needs squads that cheer at games, competitions and other venues. These squads must utilize a variety of cheer strategies in order to make the most of each member's abilities, and legless cheers can be an important component of the team's routines.
About Special Needs Cheerleading Squads
The benefits of cheering for a special needs squad are numerous:
- Girls get to participate in a regular activity.
- It boosts self-esteem.
- It's good exercise.
- For some, it momentarily frees them from the confines of their wheelchair.
Additionally, many children enjoy getting up in front of a crowd and earning the adoration and applause of hundreds of fans.
Routines and Movements
Don't assume that because the squad members have special needs that this means their cheers are simplistic or uncomplicated. While it's necessary to adjust the timing of the elements in a cheer to their abilities, special needs cheerleaders do perform basket tosses, pyramids and other more complicated stunts according to the squad's capabilities. They are assisted by able-bodied spotters and coaches, but that doesn't diminish their spirit.
Many squads do use a number of simple arm motions to accentuate their cheers, but coaches attempt to challenge the members as much as possible.
Legless Cheers Sample
A special needs squad encompasses a variety of abilities. However, many of the routines still depend heavily on arm motions. Legless cheers, those that don't require any lower body movement, play a strong role in the squad's repertoire. However, each squad has designated spotters who guard the safety of the members who are able to participate in specially choreographed stunts.
'We are the Suns!'
Start out in a victory V, and then go to a broken T on are the, and end with arms down at your sides and finish in a kneeling position. (Girls who aren't able to get down into the kneeling position should start out on the floor in a 'pinwheel'.)
'The mighty, mighty Suns!'
On the, clasp both hands toghether, then slap palms on the floor four times on "mighty, mighty".
'We are number one!'
Starting with hands on hips, move right arm up to make the "number 1" sign with fingers.
'Not two or three or four!'
With arms raised up bring it down at the elbow on two, extend the arm out on three, and bring it in again and on your hip on four.
'We are the S-U-N-S!'
Choose one flyer on the squad. This should ideally be someone who is small and light. Use these beats to set up a partner basket toss. Toss the flyer on the second "S" of SUNS.
'The mighty, mighty S-U-N-S!'
Have several of the girls hold up letter signs spelling out S-U-N-S.
- Designated spotters can help their partners perform stunts. Appropriate stunts would include a one person high pyramid built by having a cheerleader sit on a spotter's back. (In addition to another spotter behind the pair.)
- You can also perform legless cheers on the floor. Girls in the squad who are able to move freely can form a semi-circle around those who cannot.
- To make a legless cheer highly visible, arm motions should be wide and use the entire arm. Too many motions close to the body will not make a big enough impression on the crowd.
- Pair one word with one arm motion. This makes it easier to remember and makes it easier for the cheerleaders to complete the cheer successfully.
- In a legless cheer, find a way to use a physical challenge to the squad's advantage. Do you have a cheerleader in a wheelchair? Have her help hold signs as props. Do you have a girl who is on crutches? Use her to start off the cheering similar to the way a captain would.
Legless cheers may be the foundation a special needs squad initially builds their repetoire on, but coaches should consider each member's unique abilities and use them to the fullest.