Competitive cheerleading is done for many of the same reasons other sports have competitions: trophies, recognition, scholarships, honors, prestige. But it is also more than that. Cheerleaders compete for the excitement. They compete because they have worked hard developing, learning and perfecting a routine. They compete because seeing the crowd react to them is a reward in itself.

In the most basic of terms, competitive cheer is when two or more cheer squads compete against one another. Each squad performs a creative and unique routine set to music that lasts between two and three minutes. The routine includes a combination of choreography, stunts, jumps, tumbling, and cheers.

Cheerleading competition season typically starts in October, and can run through April, depending on how many competitions a team participates in, and how far they advance. A competition is a great place for teams to rely on their unity and show off their skills. It is the place to get in full uniform and makeup and go full out.

While pretty much any cheer squad can attend competitions, many squads don't, or can't, compete. Sideline squads that cheer on teams or that don't focus on tumbling aren't typically at the level required to compete. Additionally, if a team doesn't have a lot of financial support, it can be hard going to competitions. Competitive squads can be affiliated with a school (from middle school through college) or an organization at a gym that solely competes and doesn't cheer at sports games of any sort.

And then there's All Stars, which is different from the standard competitive squad. All Star squads aren't affiliated with schools and don't perform any of the cheers or chants we normally expect from cheerleaders. All Star squads focus all their attention on competing, working on extreme tumbling and gymnastics skills. All Star teams are based on age and level of difficulty, with level 1 being a beginner group and level 6 being the most advanced.

General competitive squads also compete within a group that is based on age, squad size, and skill level. This helps even out the playing field so youth and/or less advanced squads still have a chance of winning in their group. Based on resources and finances, competitive and All Star squads will travel all over the country to various competitions over the course of the season.

Competitions feature a panel of judges that can include cheerleading celebrities, coaches, and other individuals with an intense knowledge of cheerleading. They'll give your team a score that is based on a variety of factors, including creativity, technique, skill, spirit, etc.

Some cheerleading teams compete for funding for their program; others compete so they can move on to bigger competitions. It is also common for scholarships to be offered as an award for winning teams.

Whatever the reason for which your squad competes, it's very different from sideline cheering. Competitions are intense and squads practice months in advance to nail down the routine. During competition season, the chatter and preparation gets even more intense. Squads get their new competition uniforms, work on conditioning, and train, train, train.

As stressful and nerve-racking competitive cheer can be, it's an exciting world and you're lucky if you get to take part, even if it's just for one season. Competitions are where cheerleaders are the whole focus, unlike games where cheerleaders are just on the sidelines. We're always excited when competition season approaches and we're sure you are too!
Are you competing this season? What do you love most about competitions?