BRING IT ON
Power-lifting. High-flying gymnastics. Through-the-roof jumps. Cheerleading is the sport that’s making scads of you switch from dance, gymnastics and track (to name a few) to shouting it out full-time. When we heard how many GL readers were rah-rah-rah for cheerleading, we knew we had to provide an all-out guide to doin’ it right. Here are tons of tips for making the team, upping your skills and getting along with the squad.
By Katie Abbondanza
STEP UP YOUR SKILLS
There are a couple of months left before summer camp and eons before football season kicks off. So now’s the time to start your training. Keep on reading for some cheer-tastic tips. Your coach is definitely gonna notice your over-the-top improvements!
IMPROVE YOUR OUTLOOK
Whether you’re a rookie or the team captain, put last year behind you. Take time to get to know this year’s squad—there might be lotsa fresh faces—and to practice some new skills—the latest routines, cheers and chants. “Be open to change,” says Misty Hodges, University of Louisville’s all-girls cheerleading coach. “It takes time to learn the ropes.”
SHOW OFF BETTER FACIALS
Cheering is all about getting the crowd pumped, whether you’re rooting on your school’s basketball team or competing in regionals. So, um, you’ve got to look like you’re having a blast. But between all the mental gymnastics (5, 6, 7, 8…where the heck am I supposed to be now?) and the super-physical stunting, it can be tough to look like you’re genuinely stoked. So rehearse your game face in the mirror before brushing your teeth. Your smile will be bigger, and you’ll perfect that ’tude-filled head toss. Wink!
GET HIGHER JUMPS
“Flexibility will allow one to improve the height of her jumps,” Coach Hodges clues us in. Make some time in your schedule for a stretch sesh. Feeling crunched for time? We won’t tell anyone if you limber up in front of the tube. When asked how she gets her jumps sky-high, Samantha, 14, whose rec squad won major competitions last year, says, “I stretch every day to stay flexible, which really helps. Leg lifts help, too.”
MAKE YOUR MOTIONS KNIFE-SHARP
If your coach has told ya once, she’s hollered it 100 times: Keep those arms rigid! It’s time to grab a pair of free weights for curls, or drop and do some push-ups. The more toned your arms are, the easier it’ll be to make those high V’s sharp. Make it a point to really practice them—don’t just mock the motions when you’re rehearsing a cheer. Going full-out will help you be more prepared come competition time.
ROLL WITH IT
If you really want to impress the masses, kick your tumbling skills up a few notches. Your round-off might have cut it in the past, but now the team is attempting to stick back handsprings. “Always learn the proper technique before moving on to more difficult skills,” Coach Hodges reminds us.
Adds Kate, 18, who has been cheerleading since she was just 7 and is now a squad trainer, “During the summer, I practice my tumbling on the trampoline, which helps a lot for when the season starts up again.” No more throwing those tucks…and hoping to land safely, especially on the hard floors of the gymnasium. So let’s hear it out loud: Three cheers for soft landings!
Have about a million questions before you face the judges? We’ve got answers. University of Maryland’s cheerleading coach Jarnell Bonds tells you how to ace your audition.
I’ve never cheered before. How can I prepare for tryouts?
All squads are different, so you’ve gotta go right to the source. “Communicate with the coach and current team members about what the team is looking for. Focus your prep based on their feedback,” Coach Bonds tells us. That way, you’ll know whether you should double up on dance or make the most of your motions. E-mail your coach to ask if you can watch a practice or two.
What will make me stand out from the crowd?
“I always prefer the athlete who shows the strongest desire to join the team. They’re the ones who’ll work the hardest,” says Coach Bonds.
I can’t really tumble. Do I still have a shot?
“Strong tumbling is essential,” Coach admits, “but no more important than stunting and showmanship. All-star teams value these categories, as well. Many times, high school squads don’t have as big a focus on their score sheet for tumbling.” Show the coach what you can do—safely!
What should I wear?
“Wear a practice uniform that mimics something you have seen current team members in—look like you are already part of the team. This helps the coach picture you as a future team member,” Coach Bonds informs us.
I haven’t worked out in a while. How can I condition?
Coach Bonds recommends push-ups for core strength, as well as lunges and squats to give ya a good base for stunting. Flyers should work on core muscles (think crunches!) for stability in liberties and scorpions. Don’t forget to do cardio three to four times a week so you can get through a 3-minute routine (it’s waaay longer than it sounds!).
Be the girl who makes the cheerleading squad!
The competition looks fierce? Don’t hide behind your pom-poms. Real cheerleaders spill their tryout secrets.…
GET A STUNT PARTNER
“I got the guts to try out for cheerleading through my friend Kayti. She was cheering and really enjoyed it. Next thing I knew I was trying out for the team. I was nervous because I had never cheered in my life. Tumbling classes helped me out a lot. Give it your all, and leave them with a lasting impression.”
“Smile and show off your personality as much as your cheering ability. I followed this advice and made the squad. When we had tryouts, I was always my bubbly, friendly self. I also put all my energy into cheers and stunts, and I kept smiling through it all. Now, I’m a smiley, enthusiastic, spunky cheerleader!”
“One thing my coach said stuck out to her at tryouts was my attitude. Being able to twist and flip is important, but those things can be taught. I had a very positive attitude, and that helped. And be honest about your weaknesses. Coaches are looking for girls who are confident, cheerful and full of energy!”
Be A Top Gun Teammate
Being a cheerleader is a year-round commitment, even if you only cheer for one season. Between camp, homecoming, fundraisers, pep rallies and competitions, you’ll be logging major hours with the team. Here’s how to be a total squad all-star!
RAISE YOUR VOICE
Spending time together outside the gym is key for squad bonding. Have the girls over for a cheer film fest, or suggest everyone claps it up for the softball girls. It may be a li’l tough to break the ice at first, but the team’ll follow your lead. Next time, Ashley may step up and invite everyone to her pool. For now, be cool being the girl who brings everyone (not just squad faves) together.
The squad is stoked—matching duffels arrived just in time for camp. Now, um, which is yours? Break out the poster board, markers and stickers to make cute name tags for the bags. Laminating paper from the craft store will make them extra sturdy. Punch a hole, thread some string through, and they’re ready to roll.
IT’S A CHEER EMERGENCY!
So you can’t heal a twisted ankle. But you can be prepped for any other mini-disaster teammates might face. Your girl’s cool new cropped ’do won’t stay up? No prob. You have bobby pins and plenty of hairspray. Keep a Cheer 911 kit in your bag. Stuff it with tampons, glitter, hair elastics, deodorant and extra socks. Toss in some energy-boosting trail mix, too! You’ll def be the go-to girl.
Cheerleading camp is the ultimate experience. Where else can you talk about double-downs and people actually get you? GL searched the country, and we’re giving out our first-ever honors for the best cheer camps. Gimme an A-W-E-S-O-M-E!
Crowd Fave UCA Summer Camp, varsity.com
Right-on if: Your squad’s spirit is legendary!
Raves: GL readers can’t stop gushing over the camp’s exciting atmosphere, not to mention the staff’s commitment to cheerleaders at every level. “There are always amazing instructors who help each girl individually,” Katie, 12, tells us. “They really know what they’re talking about. It’s a week of non-stop cheer-mania!” This camp has locations all over.
Miss Congeniality Pine Forest Cheer Camp, cheerleadingcamps.com
Right-on if : Your squad loves, loves, loves the idea of a woodsy, old-school getaway.
Raves: You’ll bunk deep in the Poconos and do all sortsa traditional camp activities (night swimming! talent shows!), in addition to days filled with cheering.
All-around Award NCA Summer Cheer Camp, varsity.com
Right-on if: Your coach has put the kibosh down on any shot at going to sleepaway camp.
Raves: NCA sends counselors to you. Says Sarah Kate, 13, “We learned awesome cheers, chants and killer stunts!”
Grand Champion Panama City Beach Cheer Camp, panamacitycheercamp.com
Right-on if: The team is looking for an amazing vacay and camp seems like a fab excuse.
Raves: We’re swooning over visions of practices on the beach. You’ll share a condo with your crew!