Cheer camp is one of the most exciting and intensive elements of cheerleading, especially for first year cheerleaders. Whether camp is one day or all week, it sets the tone for the entire year to come. From spirit building activities to physical training, camp is a memorable experience for cheerleaders.

Even though cheer camp is different for every squad, there are a few things for which we can help prepare you before you pack your bags and hop on the bus!

Cheer Camp Versus Practice
If you're a new cheerleader, you might be wondering what the point is of cheer camp and how it's different from any other cheer practice.

There are a lot of reasons why most squads participate in cheer camp every summer. Cheer camp allows a squad to intensively work on new skills, routines, and team building. Rather than spending a few hours at practice, camp is all day long, usually for several days in a row (and sometimes over a week long!).

Since many are overnight camps, you will share a room with your fellow teammates, allowing you a much better bonding opportunity than you'd normally have at practice. By the end of camp, it'll seem like you've known your teammates for years!

Cheer camp is also a great opportunity for newbies to learn basic stunts and motions they may not have known during tryouts. You'll have a chance to catch up with the veterans!

What to Pack
Cheer camp isn't your typical slumber party. While you will need to pack a pillow, toothbrush, and change of clothes, there are many other items you'll want to bring. Generally, you'll need bedding supplies, several changes of practice clothes, your cheer uniform, snacks,

The best way to prevent forgetting anything is to pack ahead of time and follow a list to remind you of all necessities. Print your list out and check off each item as you pack it into your cheer bag. Make sure to double-check everything!

What to Expect
Expect a lot of hard work! Cheer camp is exhausting but an incredible growing experience. You will harder during those few days than you can imagine. However, the pay-off is worth it. You'll be amazed at how much you'll learn and improve within such a short amount of time.

Other things to expect...
  • Nerves or anxiety. They're normal emotions for newbies!

  • Feeling sweaty, sore, and tired. This will especially be the case during the first few days. If this is your first year as a cheerleader, cheer camp might be the most physically challenging experience of your life so far!

  • Making a lot of new friends! Part of cheer camp is about bonding with your teammates and learning more about one another. Camp is also an opportunity to bond with your coach!

  • Having an increased appetite. After a long day of practice and training, by the time dinner comes around you'll have worked up quite an appetite. Don't worry if you're eating larger portions than normal. It's important to keep up your energy and the best way to do that is to eat (and often!) protein-rich, healthy foods, vegetables, and fruit. During the day, plan on snacking more than you would normally; this will help you keep up your energy and not feel queasy mid-practice.

What not to expect...
  • Panic attacks. While it's normal to be scared of your first experience, it should not cause you any anxiety or panic attacks. If you feel your nerves are affecting your sleeping patterns or appetite, talk to your parents and coach immediately.

  • Dizziness. While you may feel extra sweaty or exhausted, you shouldn't push on if you start feeling dizzy or nauseous. Summer is a hot season and, when combined with extreme physical exercise and dehydration, it can cause heat stroke, fainting, or worse. If you start feeling dizzy or nauseous, speak up and tell your coach. Take a moment to sit in some shade and drink water. If you think you're hungry, eat a snack. Whatever you do, don't push on because you're embarrassed or afraid your coach will be upset with you. Everyone's first priority is your safety and health.

  • Pain. There is a big difference between pain and soreness. If your whole body feels slightly tight, you're most likely sore. However, if you feel any shooting, sharp pain, take it easy. Talk openly about it with your coach and he/she can help you determine whether you've injured yourself or are just sore. The worst thing you can do is push through an injury; it will only make it worse!

  • Extreme hunger. While you're bound to feel hungry more often than when you're not exercising, know when to stop if your hunger is causing you nausea, stomach pain, or dizziness. Ask your coach if you can take a five-minute snack break. Munch on trail mix, a granola bar, beef jerky, fruit, or some other protein- or fiber-rich food.

Have you been to cheer camp before? What are your tips for new cheerleaders? If you're a new cheerleader, what are you most excited or nervous for? Comment below!