Trying out for a cheerleading team can be one of the most exciting and scary experiences in a young girl's life. To make a high school or lower cheerleading team it is essential to come prepared for try-outs. Here are some tips to help you be ready for your cheerleading experience.
First of all, make sure you know the requirements for your cheerleading squad. Many teams require at least some basic tumbling skills, such as proficient cartwheels and round-offs, and quite a few are now requiring more advanced skills including back handsprings or even back tucks. Other requirements may include passing grades for a school cheerleading squad, a knowledge of basic cheering skills and jumps, splits, and the ability to make cheering and fund raising events. Talk to the cheerleading director or coach if you are considering trying out for the team to learn what requirements your squad has. This person may also be willing to help you learn these important skills before try-outs begin.
Once you have determined the requirements for your squad, you should get to work right away improving your cheerleading skills. Many of the things you will need to learn take time for your body to be able to do. For example, learning the splits is a process that can take several months depending on your current skill level. I will be writing articles with recommendations on stretches you can do to be able to do the splits and to improve overall flexibility.
I recommend getting ready for try-outs by first improving the flexibility of your body. If you are new to cheerleading and tumbling, you should spend at least 20 minutes every day just stretching. There are many stretches you can do to increase your flexibility in your legs, back, and arms. Flexibility is important to have in everything a cheerleader does.
Tumbling is another important aspect of cheerleading. It is important to take one skill at a time and learn each completely before moving to the next skill to insure confidence and gracefulness. Some things to watch for when doing any tumbling skills are hand placement and alignment. Your body should always travel in a straight line. Start with the cartwheel. It may to helpful to draw a chalk line to make sure your leading foot, hands, and landing position are in one straight path. Once you are confident with your cartwheel, switch to learning round-offs. Video tape yourself performing these skills and see how you look. Make sure your legs are straight when in the air and that tumbling looks smooth and easy.
Once you have learned the tumbling skills mentioned above, you are ready to learn to do a back handspring. When learning more advanced tumbling skills, it is important to have an instructor and spotter present. This will help insure that you learn these skills correctly and prevent injury. An instructor can also trouble-shoot your tumbling and help you develop these skills more quickly than on your own. An instructor will likely have you start by learning to do a walk-over and practicing handstands. You can work on these skills on your own so you are ready to advance more quickly when you begin working with an instructor. There are mats that are designed to assist learning back handsprings including handspring trainers and the training wedges. Back handsprings are designed to be done on their own and in tumbling passes. Standing back handsprings are sometimes incorporated into cheers and are often more difficult than round-off back handsprings. A back handspring can take up to a year for a dedicated beginner to do it confidently on her own. If you have previous tumbling experience, that time can be shortened significantly.
For try-outs, you may have to show that you can do a standing back handspring if your squad requires this skill for cheers. Squads are more likely to require this skill if they compete in national cheerleading competitions. You will probably also be required to put together a tumbling pass to perform before the judges. This tumbling pass will require your best tumbling skills and should begin and end with cheering. When cheering in a tumbling pass, as with every time you cheer, it is appropriate to yell from the diaphragm cheers such as "go team" and "we're number 1". Yelling from the diaphragm will protect your voice and sound better than screaming. Yelling sounds like "Whoo" is not appropriate for cheering, and most judges will doc your score for doing so.
You will also need to be able to do jumps for cheerleading try-outs. These include the spread eagle, toe-touch, front hurdler, and right herkie and left herkie (also know as side hurdler). Ask the cheerleading coach or someone else like a former cheerleader to help you with technique for your jumps. Important things to remember are to point your toes, place your arms correctly as they should be for the particular jump you are doing, and above all smile, smile, smile. Once you have the technique down you should work on improving the height of your jumps and the height of your legs when in the air.
You will probably be required to learn some new cheers and a dance the week of try-outs. New cheers and dances are generally used to make try-outs fair for all the participants. Everyone has the same amount of time to learn the try-out material. Be sharp in all of your movements. Your arms should remain tight when doing cheers so they do not look sloppy. Cheer loudly, clearly, and not too fast so you are easy to understand. Work on your facial expressions. Pull out that video camera again and record yourself doing the cheers and dance. This will help you see where you can use improvement or to make sure you look happy and confident. Practice all you can so you know the material completely. You don't want to be the participant who is watching and copying others doing the dance beside you. Ask other people including the cheerleading coach if they will watch you cheer or dance and critique you. This will help you get over the try-out jitters and can be really helpful.
When tryouts come, be prepared. Bring a water bottle, towel, snacks, extra hair bands, your good luck charm, and anything else you think you may need to help you feel prepared and relaxed.
That is it. These are all the skills you will need to know for try-outs. Once you have done all you can do to prepare, try not to be nervous. Just remember to smile all the time and make eye contact with the judges. Be as confident as possible. If you don't have the best techniques for all the skills, don't worry. Many times, cheerleaders who can't do more than a cartwheel make the team over girls with more advanced skills because they are fun to watch and look like they love cheering. Be positive during the try-outs and once again, SMILE!