National cheer competitions provide the best cheer squads in the nation with the opportunity to come together and compete for top honors. These competitions vary by age and skill level, but always showcase the best of the best cheerleading talent.
Organizations Hosting National Cheerleading Competitions
Two major organizations host the most notable national cheerleading competitions. These organizations include the National Cheerleaders Association (NCA) and the Universal Cheerleaders Association (UCA). National championships held by these two organizations are nationally televised and require that competing teams receive a bid in order to compete. This usually means that a team has won divisional and regional competitions, qualifying them to attend the national competition.
NCA National Championships
The NCA National Championships include the following, separate competitions:
- Senior and Junior High School Nationals
- All-Star Nationals
- Open Nationals
- College Nationals
The Senior and Junior High School Nationals are then separated into junior and senior high competitions, then further separated by the size of the school and competitive level of the participating teams, including advanced, intermediate and novice. The NCA recognizes that these teams cheer at games and pep rallies, and part of the competition includes game day cheerleading skills like fight songs, recreational dances and timeout cheers. All of the competition is televised, but if you can't watch the performances live, the NCA places the videos onto the Varsity cheerleading website.
The All-Star Nationals competition includes competitive cheer and dance squads of all ages and sizes. Competitions include hip hop, jazz, youth pom and senior and junior cheer at six different competitive levels. This competition usually takes place in late February, but you can watch the video after the fact on the Varsity website.
The Open Nationals competition is a high school national competition open to all high school cheer teams without a bid requirement. As long as your team has the desire and the funds to get you to the annual competition, you can show the judges what you're made of. Like the Senior and Junior High School Nationals, competitions are broken down by various aspects of school cheerleading as well as the size of the school.
The NCA College Nationals usually take place in April and consist of teams that qualified during summer camp participation or after submitting a qualifying video. College cheer teams are separated into 15 different divisions based on school size and squad makeup (all-girls, coed, partner, etc.). In 2010, more than 200 teams competed, and all teams had the opportunity to perform at least twice to get a shot at the finals. The College Nationals bring together the absolute best cheerleading squads in the country, so even if you can't watch the event unfolding, you should watch the video.
UCA National Championships
The UCA National Championships include the following, separate competitions:
- The National High School Cheerleading Championship
- National & International All-Star Cheerleading Championship
- Game Day Championship
Like the NCA National Championship events, the UCA offers a wide variety of competitive levels in each one of the national competitions, but unlike the NCA, the UCA doesn't offer an open national competition. This means that your team must qualify to participate at a national event with the UCA.
Other National Competitions
While there are other national competitions that your cheer team can compete at, they won't have the same level of prestige that the NCA or UCA competitions hold. If you just want to compete, and you haven't yet qualified for one of these larger events, consider looking at the following national cheer competitions:
- Midwest National Championship
- US Spirit Nationals
- Any of the national competitions offered through Xtreme Spirit Cheer and Dance
When push comes to shove, the experience gained through participating in any national-level cheer competition will pay off as you advance in your cheerleading role. Even if you're new to cheerleading, ask your coach if its possible to perform at a novice level cheer event or an open national cheer competition. Participating in these capacities will teach you to perform under pressure and in front of a crowd, helping you to push past mistakes and keep on going.