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High School Cheerleading: Is It For You?

Updated on August 11, 2016

Cheerleading: What To Expect

Stunting, drama, uniforms, team work, cheering, tumbling, and dancing; cheerleading, although may seem easy and a simple activity to participate in high school, must not be taken lightly. Even though there are several arguments as to whether or not it should be considered a sport, there are actually two different cheer teams. There is the cheerleading squad for the school’s sports teams and the competition team, which is more rigorous and serious. When asked if cheerleading is sport, people usually refer to the competition team as more of a sport than the school cheerleading squad. Although the uniforms, smiles, and amazing stunting may be the selling points to join the cheerleading squad, it is more than just the appearance. It takes dedication, skill, and teamwork to survive the drama and hardcore training behind the scenes. So, my question for my readers who are considering in trying out for the high school cheer team is are you cheerleading material?


The Process of Joining The Squad in a Nutshell

  • Finding flyers scattered around classrooms giving the tryout dates and information night for more details about what to expect while being a high school representative

  • Going to the information night and receiving forms to fill out in order to try out in the first place

  • Get your physical from the doctors

  • Thinking about whether or not to try out for the junior varsity or varsity squad

  • Thinking about whether or not to also join the competition squad

  • Going to the practice days to learn the dances and cheers that will be evaluated in the tryout process

  • Practicing at home to be the best

  • Getting your tryout date and time

  • Practice some more

  • Trying out and receiving the results as to whether you made the team, and if you did, finding out whether you are on the junior varsity or varsity squad

  • Time for the real work

If you are absolutely new to cheerleading, do not be discouraged! Although you may be against girls who have been cheering since they were wearing booties, motivation is one of the key traits that a cheerleader must have in order to be positive. As a cheerleader, you are representing the school. The uniform is not just for show. Just because you are new to the activity and may not pick up dances and stunts as well as the other girls does not mean you are going to hit rock bottom. Remember that people start off somewhere. Also, always ask questions when something is not clear in order to reduce the amount of drama and injuries in the group, especially while stunting. Stunting is one of the most dangerous aspects in cheerleading, next to tumbling. Knowing your role in the stunt group is crucial because everyone needs to work as a team in order to get the stunt right without leading to broken broken bones.

If you are only trying out for the uniform or the popularity, then cheerleading may not be for you. Being a cheerleader is not just for bragging rights. Sure, you wear the uniform to represent your school, but that is not all; you are also there to show off to the other schools that your school has the drive and leadership.


The Process of Practicing for Trying Out

After the information night, you need the gear to try out. Usually, the coaches require a fitting, plain, white T-shirt, black shorts, and white shoes. Of course, the hair needs to be up as well. Also, do not forget a water bottle because tryouts can be intense since there is a limited time in learning the routines.

Before learning anything at all, people need to warm up their bodies to prepare for physical activity in learning the dances, cheers, and maybe stunting. Warming up may include running around for a while and yoga stretches. You don’t want to pull a muscle, so I suggest you take warming up seriously.

If you are one of the shortest girls, I recommend going in the front rows in order to see the dance or cheer easily. It is difficult to know what you are doing when you cannot even see what you are supposed to learn, right? Coaches tend to teach the dances or cheers in counts, so pay attention to what step correlates with what count. It helps when you are at home and practicing the routine yourself. If you did not get the steps, do not let that get to you. When the coach asks if there is anyone who did not understand the steps, speak up! If you are too shy to speak up, then cheerleading may be difficult for you in the future practices. As a cheerleader, you are a leader who is selected to give a positive example to the school, which includes not being afraid to speak up.

While you are practicing, smile. Even though you are sweating all over the place with your hair all messed up and frizzy, smile. Show your pearly whites. If you are performing in front of a crowd, imagine how you would feel like if a dance was staring at you with a frown. It’s not attractive, right? Smiling assures confidence, especially if you mess up the dance. Smiling is a beautiful quality to have because it makes you feel less threatening and more welcoming.

After the dance and cheers, there’s the five-minute water break and then back to practicing. Once the break is over, the coach may move to the stunt groups. The coach separates people into stunt groups and assigns the roles of a front-spot (sometimes unneeded depending on the amount of people), base (right and left), back-spot, and of course, the flyer. Depending on the role, bases should have strong legs, back-spots should have strong arms, and the flyer should be flexible. If you want to be a flyer and are not flexible, do not fret. Conditioning is crucial, especially if you want to be a flyer so you can become and stay flexible in order to do advance stunts, like the scorpion or bow and arrow. Besides flying, bases can condition their legs by squatting so they can help the flyer prep, depending on the flyer’s height. Back-spots can do push-ups or lifting weight in order to build up strength in the arms to lift the flyer. The front spot, although not always needed, can be there for support and catching.

The types of stunts used in tryouts are the prep, which involves the flyer being lifted and putting the arms up in a high V while the legs are spread apart. The next stage is usually a cupie, which is almost like the prep except the legs are not spread out. Instead, the legs are positioned together. Once a cupie is achieved, the next stage is an extension or full, which is basically the same as before except the flyer is lifted higher. Being a flyer requires more work than the other roles because the flyer is technically the star of the group. All eyes are on her when performing. If you are scared of heights, flying may not be the best option.

Besides stunting, cheering, and dancing, there is also the jumps. Some of the most common cheer jumps are the toe-touch, pencil, pike, and hurdler. If you are extremely new to cheerleading, then it might take time to execute the jumps perfectly. It takes stretching and practice to finally land a jump. Make sure your legs are fully stretched or you might pull a muscle.

After practice is over and you do not fully understand anything in the routine, ask a fellow student for help and make friends in the process. You can even ask if you can record them doing the dance or cheers so you can practice at home. If they are uncomfortable, then ask them to help you learn the parts you do not know and ask them to record yourself doing it so you do not forget it later on. Also, find other girls and schedule a date to practice together. It helps in making new friends and meeting friendly faces within the team.


The Process of Trying Out

Trying out may seem terrifying, but think of it as preparing for your driving test or getting interviewed for a job; not everyone passes their driver’s test the first time, and not everyone gets the job they are looking for. All that matters is to learn what to do next time. Just calm yourself down. Performing in front of others and being judged is a huge portion in cheerleading, especially in competition. Eyes are on you and your squad. Just focus on the routine, and you’ll do fine. When it is tryout time, girls are split into groups with their stunt groups and try out in the school’s gym in front of the head coach and a couple of judges. The order of what is being evaluated differs depending on the coach’s decision. They look for how sharp your moves are, whether or not you remembered the entire routine, your facials, and loudness when cheering. If you cannot tumble, that is fine. For my tryouts, tumbling was just for extra points. Even a simple cart wheel, when executed well, gained a decent amount of extra credit. For some schools, trying out for the competition team is later in the year. For my school, it was not until the middle of the year until the competition tryouts took place.


After trying out, the anxious part begins. The coach announces who made the cut and then who is on junior varsity and varsity. Not making the cut does not necessarily mean cheerleading is not for you; there is always next year if you are not a senior. Just bring back a positive attitude, and you might do better next year.


The Aftermath of Tryouts

Once stunt groups are rearranged and the teams are set, it is time for the rigorous parts. Dances get more complicated, more cheers must be learned, and stunts get more advanced. Although everyone is a team, that mindset may add pressure to fellow teammates, and that is when the drama ensues. Gossipping, plotting, and blaming cannot be escaped within a bunch of adolescent girls, but if you can handle it, then that is a positive sign. Be prepared to be punished as a team when someone goes too far, even if it did not involve you. I remember having to run for twenty minutes in the hot sun in front of the football players just because of a stupid rumor being passed around the team. I was not part of the rumor-spreading, but I was punished nonetheless since I was part of the team.


Back to the Question

Cheerleading is brutal, especially during cheer camp. It is recommended to be able to handle large portions of physical activity, drama, the balance of school work, and to maintain positive feelings throughout the cheer season. If you believe you can handle the stress and insane amount of practicing, you may be a contender in cheerleading. So, dear reader, is high school cheerleading for you?

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