You’ve survived all of the practices, and now you’re on the road–it’s competition time. While you’re en route, you might be wondering what to expect, especially if this is your first time around. One thing to remember is that even professional cheerleaders get nervous under pressure! So, whether you’re about to arrive at your first competition or your fortieth, it’s helpful to know what NOT to do when you get there! Make sure you don’t sabotage your competition score by avoiding these four things:

1. Having your nerves get the best of you. What most cheerleaders do not realize is that everyone at a competition has anxiety to deal with–all the coaches, parents, and (yes) even the judges are nervous too! You’re definitely not all alone in how you feel, but the worst possible thing you can do is freak out. By keeping your cool, you’ll not only feel better when you take the mat, but also not set off a chain reaction with your teammates (who are equally on edge)! You might spot other teams who let their emotions take over, but you better believe that that kind of behavior does not sit well with spectators. Or judges.

2. Skipping stretching. There may be a lot to see and take in when you arrive, but the last thing you want to do is forget to stretch before the high-impact, cardio-intensive outburst you call your ‘routine’. Your body needs to be just as prepared to perform as your mind does. And you can kill two birds with one stone by calming your pre-routine jitters through therapeutic stretching. Take long, deep breaths as you wake up your muscles from the long car-ride through stretching, and make sure you use this time to meditate on your motions while you’re at it. Now, doesn't that feel better?

3. Forgetting to eat. As stated above, you are about to do a very demanding routine that requires a lot of energy. Of course eating right before your slot is a bad idea, but not eating at all is even worse. That means the best time to eat on competition day is at least a couple hours before, probably while you’re still traveling. Light snacks are great closer to when you perform if you didn’t have time for a full meal, but make sure they are easily digestible choices, like fruit or nuts. Once you’re full of necessary calories, your body won’t shut down unexpectedly when you push it to the maximum for the two minutes and thirty seconds that make up your routine.

4. Not engaging the judges. Yes, they are judging you and your team on every move made on the mat. But, that doesn’t mean they must be avoided–in fact, that should make you pay more attention to them! By maintaining eye contact, smiling, and waving at the judges, your team has a much better chance of getting higher marks; this is because the judges are supposed to be your only audience and not merely part of the audience. Most cheerleaders forget to direct their motions to the judges due to having a larger audience there, filling the entire auditorium. Keep your eyes on the prize, and realize who really holds the fate of your team.

What else is detrimental for a cheerleader at a competition? Tell other cheerleaders what hasn’t worked for your team in the comments below.