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All About You

Want to be a cheerleader? Here’s how to prepare for tryouts.

It’s almost springtime, and besides turning forward the clock, you’re likely seeing ads around campus advertising tryouts for next year’s sports teams. One of the most popular sports—as seen with the success of the new Netflix series CHEER—is cheerleading. While it hasn’t always gotten the respect it deserves, cheer is a challenging, rewarding way to stay fit, have fun and be a part of your school community.

Scared about trying out? We’ve got you—Girls' Life spoke to Jill Norgaard, former owner of University Cheer Force. As you can probably guess, she’s judged a *lot* of tryouts. Read on to get her advice on preparing your skills, what to wear and what not to do when trying to make the squad. Best of luck!

Be Prepared
Whether your tryouts are in one week or three months, you should be doing what you can to prepare. Go to your local competitive cheer gym to see if they offer cheer clinics, says Jill. Look for classes that teach the fundamentals—”motions, cheers and dance, jumps and terminology”—as well as signing up for a tumbling class or two to work on your ability in that area. These classes are often advertised this time of year, though Jill assures that if the clinics cost too much, you can seek out some friends (bonus if they’re already on the squad!) and practice together. And if you’re a guy, don’t be shy! Guys and girls are equally encouraged to try out.

Experience Isn’t Everything
As mentioned above, you may have less time to prepare than you’d like. Don’t sweat it. “Talent is only a small contribution to a spotlighted team environment,” Jill says, noting that traits such as “positivity, self-confidence, dependability and responsibility” are equally important to have. Even if you’re going in over-qualified when it comes to skills, you should try to demonstrate your positive traits off the mat. This will show the judges you’re well-rounded and ready to be part of a team. Jill adds that your academic performance is often another factor. Before you try out, check if there is a minimum GPA required.

Practice Makes Perfect
Memorizing routines, dances and chants can be intimidating. “Attend every opportunity the school team gives you to learn a routine from their instructors,” Jill suggests. Working with your potential teammates will help you learn the timing and get your moves clean and sharp before tryout day. If you’re afraid you’ll forget what you learned, ask if you can film the demonstration of the routine before tryout day. This way you can review at home.

Dress For Success
Baggy clothing and loose hair can be a distraction, and even a potential danger, when trying to cheer. Keep your hair in a tight ponytail or bun, neat and away from your face. Jewelry is usually not allowed, since it can be sharp and constricting. Jill says to make sure you wear what the instructors ask for—often it’s a pair of bike/athletic shorts and a plain shirt in school colors. “Makeup is okay,” Jill notes, “but not normally a requirement.” If you do decide to apply some, keep it simple—and sweat-proof.

Do’s and Dont’s
You’ll likely get feedback as you rehearse for tryout day. Do listen to your critiques, both from coaches and current squad members. Don’t let them get you down—applying critiques and focusing on the areas where you need improvement will help make you the best cheerleader you can be. And lastly, do have a positive attitude. “[It’s] always a welcome plus,” Jill says. “Stay positive and always smile!” The judges want to see the energy and positivity you’ll bring to the sideline, so don’t hold back.

After Tryouts
Results will often come in the week after you try out. If you made the team, congrats! Make sure to look into any summer camps or training that you’ll be required to attend. Also, look out for when you’ll have to get your measurements taken for a uniform, and find out what times practices will be held. If you didn’t make the team this year, don’t get down. Jill encourages you to use this time for improvement. “Start learning. You can seek out cheer gyms to gain skills, [or] research the net for learning tutorials.” Many cheer gyms offer a spot for everyone on a competition team that matches their skill level. It’s more expensive than being on a school team, but it’s worth considering.

We hope this advice has been helpful—now hit the mats and start practicing!

Have you ever tried out for cheer? Let us know in the comments below.

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by Bailey Bujnosek | 3/3/2020
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