You hear a lot of talk about cheer camp and for good reason! Every year as summer approaches, cheerleaders everywhere get excited (and maybe also a little nervous!) and start thinking about what to pack.

Whether you're a senior heading off to your last camp, or you're preparing for your first one, here are 10 things you should know about cheer camp.

  1. 2013 marks the 45th anniversary of cheer camp! What started as a "clinic" in 1948 for 52 students has dramatically increased in size and reputation. Camp creator Lawrence Herkimer would be proud to see just how many cheerleaders now attend camp.

  2. Speaking of numbers, more than half a million cheerleaders attend camp each year. That's a lot of pom poms and herkies!

  3. All camps are not the same. There are numerous different styles of cheer camp, but there are three general types: traditional, private, and resort. Traditional is what most people think of when they think about camp. At a private or specialty camp, a team gets more individual attention but no opportunity to interact with other squads. Resort camps are held at swankier locations and more like an expensive vacation.

  4. You want to get in shape before cheer camp. You might be thinking, "I thought the point of cheer camp was to get in shape for the year?" Camp is where you build on your skills, learn new stunts and routines, and bond with your teammates. If you want to be able to keep up with long days and hard work, you need to already be in shape and well prepared.  At least a month in advance, start training. Stretch daily, work out in the gym, or start jogging around your neighborhood. If you're in top shape, it'll be one less thing you'll have to worry about at camp.

  5. You will sweat. A lot. This is important to remember when packing your bags. Bring extra changes of clothes. Make sure you have light, breathable practice wear.

  6. You might meet a not-so-friendly rival team. If you attend a traditional cheer camp where multiple squads participate, unfortunately not every squad may be as friendly as yours. While there should be some friendly competition, some squads may take it further or be a bad sport about winning or losing at an activity. Let this be a learning lesson for future competitions or performances! It's important to be the bigger team and stay spirited.

  7. Take the time to bond with all of your teammates. After a long day of training, all you'll want to do is crawl in bed and sleep. However, if you can, find time to spend with your teammates. Cheer camp is the best place to do this because it's at the beginning of the cheer year and before school starts and schedules get even more hectic. Cheerleading is even more fun when you're cheering with friends.

  8. Always strive for the spirit stick. Set a high standard and work as hard as you can at camp. Even if your squad doesn't necessarily give out a spirit stick, you should still try hard to be the most spirited cheerleader on the squad! It won't just make you a better cheerleader; it will make your entire squad better.

  9. You will learn a lot of information in a short amount of time. Don't let this frustrate you! When learning something new, take notes if possible. Ask teammates or your coach for help the moment you start falling behind. The worst thing you can do is wait until you're really behind! Coaches understand that not everyone learns at the same pace. Some things will be harder to learn and vice versa. If you see a teammate struggling, offer some extra help. You're a team now; you've got to work together!

  10. Compare your squad's before and after skills so you can see how much you improve! Before attending camp, see if the coach or a parent can record your squad performing a routine. Spend some time evaluating the performance and taking notes. Record another version of the same routine after your team attends camp. Compare the two videos with your team and point out areas where they have improved. Sometimes a person's achievements will really sink in when they can get a visual on them! It's a great spirit booster.

What are you most looking forward to at camp? Do you have any cheer camp tips?