Cheerleading: How to Make the Squad
Cheerleading? Been there, done that. My oldest daughter cheered, and my youngest daughter cheered in high school. After my youngest daughter made the cheerleading squad the first year, I became very involved with cheering and ended up being a cheerleading coach. I’m offering this advice to girls who want to make their school’s cheerleading squad.
Every school is a bit different in what they require of a cheerleader. In years past, you could just be cute, bubbly, and know the routines in order to become a cheerleader. I don’t know about the rest of the nation, but here in South Georgia, cheerleading is very competitive. Some schools require girls to be gymnasts and be able to do pretty demanding tumbling and gymnastics moves in order to even be considered. Other schools aren’t so tough, however.
Find out about your cheerleading squad’s requirements before you consider trying out. If your school requires gymnastics and you don’t know any, and if tryouts are only a month away, there’s no way you can learn what you need in such a short time. Go ahead and start training for next year.
If, on the other hand, you’ve seen your squad perform and you think your abilities are adequate, go for it! Follow the advice below to increase your chances of making the squad. Good luck!
Learn the cheerleading routines
Of course, learning the required cheerleading routines and cheerleading cheers is paramount. If possible, have someone videotape the cheerleading routines you have to learn for tryouts. Don’t tape a newbie – tape a seasoned squad member. You’ll have the tape to watch over and over again. You can stop it and rewind it at will. If taping isn’t allowed, take notes. Draw stick figures if you have to! You have to know the cheerleading routines well enough to hypothetically do them in your sleep. That way, you'll be unflappable during cheerleader tryouts.Doing the cheerleading cheers will be second nature to you.
Learn from strangers
Buy cheerleading videos or search the net for them. You can learn an amazing amount of tips this way. I've included three freebies below. Note: You cannot watch too many videos!!
Know the current team
Remember, cheerleading is a team sport, and you want to fit in. Watch performances done by the current squad. Note their expressions, their attitude, and their movements. Notice little things, too, like how they wear their hair and how much makeup they wear. Are they all suntanned? What kind of socks do they wear – lowcuts, crew socks, or ankle socks?
Sometimes there’s only a fraction of a point difference in making the squad and not making the squad, so every little thing helps.
Practice the cheerleading routines
You cannot practice too much! You should be able to do the required cheerleading routines without having to think about them. Practice in front of a mirror. Take note of your hands and arms. Once you learn the routine, have someone videotape you.
If you’re really serious about making the squad, hire an ex-cheerleader to help you. She can make sure your movements are sharp and crisp, and she can teach you proper voice projection.
As with the cheerleading routines, make sure you know the cheerleading chants verbatim. Learn to perform the cheerleading chants by projecting from your diaphragm. You want to be loud, but you don't want to scream. Make sure your words are crisp and clear, too.
This might sound silly, but you have to practice smiling for long periods of time. Ask any beauty pageant queen if you don’t believe me. It’s hard to make a smile look natural and spontaneous, but with practice, you can do it. Remember – the mirror is your friend!
Learn something extra
Learn everything that’s required, plus learn something extra. You’ll get a chance to show it off at tryouts. Whatever extra move you learn, make sure you can do it really well.
A week or so before tryout day, you’ll most likely have practice sessions every day. The cheer coach will be watching the newbies. They want to see which ones are team players. Don’t be a “suck up,” but be friendly. Always offer to lend a helping hand to the other girls. If you don’t know how to do something, ask for help and show that you’re giving your best effort.
Why is this so important? Most cheer coaches award “coach’s points” to tryout scores. These are subjective points the cheer coach gives, based on what kind of cheerleader and team player she thinks you’ll make. These points are usually a HUGE part of making the team! Impress her!
Most cheerleading coaches will require you to have paperwork filed out by your parents and by your family doctor. Turn yours in early.
Most cheer coaches will also require you to have assessments filled out by your teachers. They want to know about your grades and your general attitude. Teachers usually fill these out and return them directly to the cheer coach, without your seeing them. POLITELY ask your teachers if they’ve returned the forms.
It’s also important to always show up to practice on time.
ON THE BIG DAY:
Dress for success and look the part
- If it’s allowed, wear your school colors.
- Don’t wear loose, sloppy clothes!
- Shorts should be fairly short, but not too short.
- Wear a good, supportive bra.
- Wear sparkling white socks – brand new ones.
- Wear sparkling white cheerleading shoes unless a certain shoe is required.
- Wear your hair up and away from your face in a simple style – a ponytail or a French braid.
- Wear a simple matching bow in your hair.
- Wear just a little makeup. You want to look like the girl next door!
- Don’t wear any jewelry.
- Tattoos are generally shunned. Cover them up if you can!
- I know this is politically incorrect, but I’m just being honest. You might have to tan. Are all the current cheerleaders tanned? This should be your guide.
Make sure you stretch properly before going on the floor. Your muscles, ligaments, and tendons need to be ready for a workout!
Make a great entry
When your number is called, make a great entry onto the floor. Do your best to look happy, confident, and enthusiastic. The judges will be watching.
Your posture and other forms of body language say a lot about your attitude. You want to look confident. Stand up straight, with shoulders slightly back. Between cheers and jumps, return immediately to this stance.
Always smile! Don’t look like you’re having to concentrate. If the cheerleading routines call for you to turn your back to the judges at any point, use that opportunity to relax your face and lick your lips. Just be sure to put your smile back on before turning around!
Give them something extra
Most likely, you’ll have the opportunity to do tumbling, gymnastics, or jumps of your choice. This is where you can really shine. Show the judges something you excel at. It might be a special jump, a standing back handspring, or a front tuck. Just make sure you can do it well. It’s better to do something less impressive well than it is to mangle a difficult move.
Look ‘em in the eye
Be sure to make eye contact with the judges – all of them. Of course, you don’t want to be constantly shifting your gaze from one to the others, but each judge should get some eye time from you.
If you make a mistake, keep smiling and continue your routine. Some girls give up after making a mistake, thinking they’ve totally blown their chance. This is incorrect. Show the judges you can’t be rattled easily!
If you don’t make the cheerleading squad, be happy and supportive for those who do. There’s always next year, and believe me, if you’re a sore loser, the cheerleading coach will remember, and it could hurt your chances later.