There's nothing like the view of thousands of ponytails with bows, bright red lipstick, and a big blue mat to get you excitedand maybe a little nervousduring competition season.

When you go out there to compete in front of the judges, you want to know that you've given your team members the best tools possible to show their skills and make their mark. But you might be making one of the common mistakes that could cost your team some valuable points and (even more valuable) team morale.

1. Not choreographing to the score sheet

Every routine typically contains the same general categories of skills, but every competition company has a different way of assigning value to those categories. It's important to adjust your routine based on the score sheet to maximize your point value.

So if there are three categories that all relate to stunts, you better believe that you'll need to beef those up and make them clean. If spirit and presentation is a big category, you've gotta focus on performance.

The score sheet will guide you to the highest score every time.

2. Choosing the wrong music

You don't realize how important music is to a cheer routine until you watch someone warm up and find it underwhelming. It doesn't always happen, but it happens more than you think (at least for me).

Music is crucial, and it's usually part of your score. If it's not on the score sheet, you better believe it's still counting because the judges are weighing it in their minds. So you want to make sure it stands out in a good way.

Don't just use the hottest new song. Everyone will be using it. So go back a little farther to mix it up. Make sure what you're using is appropriate for your age group and throw some oldies in for the grown-ups.

As always, make sure it does justice to how awesome your team is and doesn't get in your way.

3. Very blah formations and transitions

This is one of my biggest pet peeves as a judge. I am incredibly picky about smooth transitions and interesting formations.

Transitions should be seamless. You shouldn't notice they're in a new formation until they've arrived. Add motions and make sure everyone is close to the right spot so there's not a lot of paths crossing or general messiness.

Formations can make even the smallest skills seem more interesting when done right. So be sure to vary where people stand and use them in a cool way by changing up parts and ripples for visual impact.

When done right, it makes all the difference.

4. Stunts above your level

I see this every. single. competition.

Choreographers or coaches want their teams to get big scores, so they give them mega skills. The trouble is that sometimes you just don't have 'em.

Let me tell you...it's oh so painful to watch a team in this situation.

So instead of going for all difficulty and missing on the execution, focus on skills you do well and make them clean and solid. When you don't, we usually deduct more and we gasp each time you make a bobble. So it's not good for our health or your team's.

You can add interesting transitions and nice visuals to help punch up some lower level skills and get bigger scores in stunting categories without endangering your team (or terrifying the judges).

The most important thing to remember is that your team needs to have fun and feel confident on the floor. Give your team members a routine they love, and it will always show and impact your scores.

By avoiding some of these mistakes, you can be sure to stand out from the pack and give your cheerleaders the chance on the mat they deserve for all their hard work.