Spring is right around the corner, and, for cheerleading coaches, that means it's almost time to select your new team. You may know what your goals are for your team, but how do you select the right cheerleaders to make them happen? If you find yourself stressing out about the upcoming months, here are five things to look for during tryouts to ensure you are on the right path for a successful season:
- Ability and technique. The first things to look for during tryouts are ability and technique. Of course not everyone will be an experienced cheerleader, and some of your new additions will require more work than others. However, the skill level of your team as a whole will strongly affect your success throughout the year. If you are not comfortable with cutting someone completely based on their skill, consider developing a JV team to help some of your weaker athletes develop the skills they need to keep up with the varsity squad. This is a great idea for those teams that have a large number of upper classmen. If you are worried about the direction your program will go in once your seniors graduate, a JV team can help to ease some of your concerns.
- Sharpness. Sharpness is one of those things that is difficult to teach but very easy to recognize. Take full advantage of a cheerleader that has sharp, clean motions, even if she/he needs a little work with stunting. You'll find that as the year goes on, it will be much easier to polish your cheerleaders' other skills if they already have the basics down.
- Jumps. When I am judging a tryout, I like to look for more than height when it comes to jumps. I look for extension, which is not how high the cheerleader jumps off the ground, but how elevated her/his legs are. I also always look for pointed toes. Flexed toes in a jump is the biggest habit to break and can make a high jump with great extension look sloppy.
- Enthusiasm. Even the most athletic of cheerleaders with the best technique can be a drag on the competition mat or the sidelines if they don't have enthusiasm. Make sure everyone knows your expectations when it comes to cheering on the school's sport teams and that their spirit will be a large factor in their tryout score. It's a good idea to have a section on the score sheet that focuses on the cheerleader's spirit and enthusiasm.
- Confidence. Confidence is an important factor for a successful cheerleading team. Even without the most difficult stunts and the sharpest motions, your team can shine with the right level of confidence. Stress to your potential cheerleaders that an incorrect or missed motion during their tryout will not automatically discount them from the team. Let them know that it's more important to pick back up as soon as they can and smile while doing it. Having the confidence to come back from a mistake is just as important as knowing the right motions and counts.
Tryouts are stressful for both the coach and the cheerleaders. But if you know the right things to look for, picking your new team can be as easy as 5,6,7,8!