Woah, who hit the fast-forward button on the school semester?? One second, sideline season was just starting, and then–BAM–your cheer team is ramping up to go to the playoffs. No matter if your school basketball and football teams are making the cut or not, a cheer team has to be prepared for anything. And, as a coach, it’s your job to make sure the transition from the regular season into overtime goes smoothly if the time comes. This is no easy task, considering that you have a million other cheer-related activities to take care of, so we’ve made a checklist for cheer coaches to follow in order to avoid letting anything fall through the cracks!

1. Change-up the routine. You’ve been performing the routines you planned back in the beginning of the season, so halftime routines (as well as a good chunk of the cheers and chants) have gotten a little stale. If your school’s basketball or football team has secured a playoff spot, why not act like your cheerleaders did, too? Shake up the halftime show by pumping up the spectacle: add sparkly poms, trickier tumble passes, or more personalized signage. Make the playoff games opportunities to communicate the dedication your team takes to their sport and their school. And, you better believe the players are going to notice the difference… and up their game as a result!

2. Make an effort around the school.
Your school is in the running to grab a state or national trophy–make it known that your cheer team is proud! Not all kids are athletic-oriented at school, and championship games–although usually bolstering higher attendance–aren’t on every student’s radar. You can get outlying students interested in the playoffs by posting supportive signs around school, adding some fun blurbs to the school’s morning announcements, or having your JV or freshman cheerleaders set up something fun at the games–like a school spirit photo booth! Even if you can’t get the whole student body to show up to the playoff games, the school athletes will appreciate how your team is showing love off the field.

3. Mentally prep your team. Your cheerleaders have had a fun season, and there’s nothing like ending the season with a title! However, your cheerleaders need to be prepared for a big loss just as much as a big win. If you have new cheerleaders on the team, they might not understand the pressure these athletes are under until it’s too late; if the basketball or football players end their senior season on a loss, there will be tears. Seeing the athletes that you’ve cheered for all season break down like that can be more than disheartening, and cheerleaders can feel that they played a part in the loss–like they didn’t pep them up enough. It may seem petty to assure your cheerleaders that, win or lose, they did a great job, but it might be necessary in order to keep your team uplifted for next season.

4. Fit in some fun. Your cheerleaders are ready to buckle down and get serious about their sideline cheering, now that it’s being taken to the next level with playoffs. And, playoffs are not the time and place to have your cheerleaders slack off. However, it is necessary to fit fun into the mix as you go, whether that be with silly games in between quarters or off the field with a team slumber party or pizza night. Whatever you think is best for your cheer schedule, make sure your team bonds in a festive end-of-season way!

How else can cheer coaches prep for playoffs? Share your playoff experiences with us in the comments!