How to Coach Cheerleading

Lori Soard
Trainer and cheerleaders

If you are a new cheerleading coach, you may be wondering just how to coach cheerleading. Organizing tryouts, coming up with practice schedules and creating fresh cheers can seem like overwhelming tasks to a first-time coach. There are some tried and true checklists that can help keep you on track. As you gain experience, you will add to and take away from these lists, of course.

How to Coach Cheerleading: Helpful Checklists

One of the most important elements in coaching is being organized. Nothing will frustrate parents and cheerleaders more quickly than a coach that doesn't offer important information such as upcoming practices or when to arrive for games. Checklists can help ensure you don't miss anything important.

Before Tryouts

If you are chosen to coach before tryouts, then you will also be responsible for organizing the actual tryout practices and tryouts. Depending on the school or gym you are coaching for, you may or may not have a say in how the cheerleaders are chosen for your squad. This is a good time to show cheerleaders and parents that you are organized and on top of things. Young cheer coaches may find that coaching teen girls can be a challenge as there is not much age difference. Respect can be an issue. It is important to establish up front what is expected and who is in charge.

  • Create the tryout cheer and know it well. If there are senior cheerleaders who are graduating off the squad, you may want to ask them to help you with this task. Girls who are trying out should not learn the cheer before other girls, however.
  • Unless the school already has a tryout system in place, come up with a list of skills the girls will need for tryouts. Your list should let the girls know how many points each skill is worth. Some items other coaches have included are references from teachers, performing the tryout cheer, performing jump of choice and performing stunts. Some tryouts even require personal interviews with a panel of judges.
  • Choose judges. Some schools may allow you to decide alone who is on your squad, but this is probably not a good idea unless you plan to take every girl who tries out. A panel of at least three impartial judges will help ensure that no talent is overlooked accidentally and that judging is fair.
  • Get at least one other unrelated person to attend tryout practices with you. Have at least one other person help you protects you against accusations of being biased or unprofessional.
  • Decide how many days tryout practices will run and at what time. Get the planned times and days okayed by your superiors. Announce at least a week in advance by passing out flyers. If for a school cheer squad, try to get the tryouts mentioned during announcements as well.

First Practice

The first practice can set the tone for the entire season of cheer practices. Be fully prepared with more material than you will need. Here is a checklist that will help:

  • Create a schedule of practices to hand out at this first practice. Preferably, you will have set days and times every week when the squad meets. If not, then plan the schedule as far in advance as possible so cheerleaders can plan accordingly. If you are coaching younger cheerleaders or a junior varsity squad, many of the girls may also rely on parents and others for rides.
  • Create a packet that has any basic cheer motions you think the girls might need to refer to, a list of rules for your squad (such as no gum, hair always up), and words to all the cheers you plan to teach the squad. Pass out any information about upcoming fundraisers.
  • Plan to break the practice into several phases. Spend ten minutes going over practice times and rules. Spend another ten to fifteen minutes having the girls warm up and stretch. Spend the remainder learning two or three cheers extremely well. Allow time to stretch and cool down.
  • End the first practice on a positive note and remind the squad when the next practice will be.

Ongoing Tasks

There are some ongoing tasks that will make you stand out as a coach and help your cheerleaders be the best they can be.

  • Focus on basics at every practice. Make sure motions are sharp and tight, voices are loud and work on precision.
  • Communicate any schedule changes quickly through a telephone tree you create at the first practice or by sending out an email to everyone. You'll have to find what method works best for your squad and parents.
  • Carry a cheerleading kit with you to all games/performances. The kit should include extra spankies, hair bows, rubber bands, facial tissue, safety pins, small sewing kit, stain remover, lint remover, shoelaces, hairspray, neutral cover-up makeup, white socks (or whatever color your cheerleaders wear), first aid kit, list of emergency contacts for each cheerleader.

After a Few Practices, You'll Be Fine

You may be wondering how to coach cheerleading now, but after you've led a few training sessions, you'll figure out the things that work best for your personal coaching style. After a few practices, you'll find your groove and your squad should begin to shine. Just remember that the best squads know how to work hard, but the practices are also fun and rewarding.

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How to Coach Cheerleading