Whether you're a cheer parent, coach, or cheerleader, a new cheerleading team presents new challenges. No team is ever the same (and even the same team can change over the course of a year!). Each year, with the changing of a team or level, it's important that you set new, realistic expectations for the coming year. Follow our tips for knowing what you should and shouldn't expect:

As a coach, it's crucial that you first understand the level of your new team (as opposed to last year's team). Are they at the same maturity level? Skill level? Were you more lenient at tryouts because of a smaller turnout or were you strict due to a high turnout? Before you can set any expectations for your team, you have to understand where they're at physically and mentally.

When setting expectations and goals, ask yourself the following, first:
  • What is my team's current age group?

  • What is their average level of cheer skills and experience?

  • Do any of these cheerleaders have a competitive background or experience at competitions?

  • Is this team's predominant task to be on the sidelines or at competitions?

You can't transform a group of six-year-old cheerleaders who have only ever cheered on the sidelines into a couple of lean, mean competing machines (especially if the team is Pop Warner or a non-All Star or competitive team). You have to work with what you have. If your team is a group of younger girls, don't expect the same level of focus and dedication as a group of older, more experienced cheerleaders.

So what should your goals and expectations be? Your goal is to stretch, challenge, and develop your team. Set the bar to a level that your cheerleaders are capable of reaching. If you push them too much, you'll only demotivate them. Don't try to transform your team into something they aren't; if you are coaching a sideline squad, don't expect them to have the same tumbling skills as an All Star team. As a coach, focus on general improvement and inspiring passion and dedication for cheerleading.

Cheerleaders themselves should also be setting realistic expectations for their teammates and new team. Your expectations and goals will slightly be different, depending on how your new team evolved -- whether you joined a new team, or whether new members joined your current team.

Let's start with the first: you joined a new team. If you're the new member, first set goals for yourself. Push yourself to get to know your new teammates and discover their level of cheer skills. Then, you can work on trying to match their level, whether they're more advanced at tumbling or are more familiar with intricate choreography. Don't expect to completely match their skills after a few practices. It will take time! However, you should set monthly goals for yourself to reach, like mastering the splits, learning more tumbling, etc.

If you're on the same but with new members, it's crucial that you don't compare these new members with your previous members who graduated or left the team. You're just setting yourself up for disappointment! Every cheerleader is different and, especially at the beginning of a new season, practice and synchronicity may be a little rough at first. When setting goals for your new teammates, allow them time to pick up on your team's traditions or habits. Don't expect them to be identical to your previous teammates and instead, look for ways you can help them improve!

Did your son or daughter join a cheerleading team for the first time? Or did he or she join a new team at a different level? Whatever the case, it's important that you, as a parent, set realistic expectations for your cheerleader. Like a coach, your expectations should be dependent on your cheerleader's age, level of maturity, and level of cheer skills. If your cheerleader is young and in Pop Warner, don't expect her to be planning her tryout routine for an All Star squad years down the road. Instead, set goals for her to understand and realize her interests and passion in cheerleading. What does she like best about it? What doesn't she like about it? Does she want to continue cheering next season? Don't push your cheerleader into making a full-time commitment to cheer. Give her at least a season to see if she likes the sport.

If you have an older cheerleader, raise the bar every season, but don't punish her if she doesn't surpass your goals for her. Encourage her to work harder, but don't stress her out by telling her that she needs to try harder or that she's not as good as her teammates. Be available for her to express her self doubts or fears. Help her face those fears, but don't force her into trying something she doesn't feel comfortable doing (like attempting an advanced stunt).
How do you set goals for your team?