Uniforms, spotlights, and big crowds may be where cheerleaders thrive, but the reality is that most of your time as a cheerleader is spent behind the scenes at practice. As anyone who has ever actually seen a cheerleading routine can probably tell, cheerleading takes a lot of practice! That’s why it’s one of the most important aspects of cheerleading. Here are five things every cheerleader should know about practice:

  1. You get out what you put in. You have to put more than time into cheerleading—or anything—to be good at it. It’s not the hours you put in, but what you put into the hours that really counts. Work hard at practice, and it will show! 

  2. Taking practice seriously will calm your performance nerves. True confidence comes from quality practice. If you put in the work behind the scenes, when you take the field, gym, or mat, you’ll know you’re ready. 

  3. Skipping practice affects the whole team. You might think you are the only one affected when you skip practice, but the truth is the whole team suffers. This is because it throws off stunt groups and parts of the routine, while also showing your teammates and coaches you are unreliable. 

  4. You can often still attend practices when you’re sick or injured. Even though you can’t participate, going to practice and sitting on the sidelines to watch does you and your team a lot of good. You won’t be behind when you come back since you’ll know everything the squad went over. You also gain a lot just from watching and visualizing. Olympic athletes have won medals right after major injuries because they visualized themselves flawlessly performing their skills in the days leading up to the competition when they couldn’t physically practice. So just by watching and picturing yourself participating, you can still improve from the sidelines. Plus, this lets your teammates know you’re there for them and are still making an effort to be part of the team while you’re sick or injured. (Of course, if you're too sick, it's better to stay home than risk spreading it to your teammates.)

  5. Not all practices are going to go perfectly. And that is OK. We all have off days or weeks, and this definitely applies to cheer practices. There will be times when you are trying your hardest, but you just can’t seem to do things that usually come easily for you. Many factors can contribute to this, from your school or work load to sleep, nutrition, and recent workouts or games/competitions. Talk to your coach or teammates if you’re discouraged or if it seems to be happening a lot, but generally this is nothing to worry about. As long as you’re putting forth your best effort, you’ll be back to normal soon.

What else should cheerleaders know about practice?