Impress Cheerleading Judges

The day of your cheerleading competition is the most anticipated event of the year. After investing countless days, weeks and months on long, grueling cheer practices and conditioning for a three minute show, you want to make sure your squad is ready to compete. 

We have compiled an extensive list of tips to help you prepare for that emotionally-exhilarating competition day you've worked so long and hard for. Our list covers everything you'll need to know, from the first day of choreography, to that final moment when your feet finally hit the blue mat.


Here is a basic list of what judges look for in a cheerleading competition:


  • Jumps: a high number of jumps aren't always a good thing. Judges are looking for quality over quantity. Meaning placements, execution and poise of the movement are everything. Most of all, POINT THOSE TOES!

  • Timing: Judges pay close attention to timing and rhythm of the moves, jumps and dance routine. Smooth transitions from dance routines, to stunting, to the cheer, itself, are very important as well.

  • Choreography: Judges will give extra points for originality and amplitude of movements. All movements must be crisp and everyone must look like they are in sync with the performance. Also, make sure to choose exciting music that will pump up the crowd.

  • Cheer: Judges are listening for loud and enthusiastic voices that are clear. Don't slur or mispronounce. Make sure the content of your cheer is appropriate, as well.

  • Spirit: Judges want to see if you make a connection with the crowd. They want to see the crowd react to your performance and your cheer. Keep eye contact, smile, and make enthusiastic facial expressions. Another note: no one on your squad should be yelling, "Whoooo!" Instead, use mascots, the school name or initials, or school colors in your efforts to boost crowd participation.

  • Tumbling: Judges look for the number and execution of tumbling moves. Not just that, but they look for complexity of the combination of back somersaults, handsprings, cartwheels, dive rolls, splits, and tumbles that make the routine stand out.

  • Stunts: Judges look for creativity, difficulty, and how solid the team is when performing the stunts.

  • Overall Appearance: Your squad's cheerleading uniforms should all be clean and fit correctly. Hair and makeup must also be uniformly styled. It's important to apply more makeup than you generally would on a day-to-day basis. 

Cheerleading judges want your squad's performance to be full of confidence. By remembering to focus on things like facial expressions (that reflect you're interested in what you're doing), enthusiastic smiles and eye contact will all help you out with competition judges.

Once you've got the basic guidelines for what to do and not to do, it's time to impress the judges!

Now, from the top:
Make the beginning of your routine memorable. Whether it's a music cue or your entire team starting with a standing tumble, make it as unique as possible.

Be careful of awkward silent moments between your dance and cheer routines. Be sure to make the cheer portion of the performance engaging for the audience and focus on creating an "interactive" experience your squad can share with spectators. One of the most powerful ways to involve the crowd during your routine is through body language. Using signs, banners, flags, hand gestures and anything else that may pull the crowd into your cheer will only positively impact your team's score.

Perhaps most importantly, make sure your team's performance looks polished and effortless! Details are one of the most important elements of your squad's routine and it's important to make sure everyone is smiling. Additionally, make sure your team's crazy three minute, high-cardio routine is full of flips and tricks that look effortless. Easy right?

On Competition Day:


On competition day, make sure every member of your squad removes their nail polish and/or jewelry. Since cheerleading competitions are oftentimes judged on visual elements and generally take place during winter, applying a light-colored self-tanner to skin may be necessary. Applying a lotion self-tanner a week in advance will also help you avoid potential fake-looking orange coloration.

For the hair, have it pulled back as tightly as possible. Putting hair up in a bun or tight curls are great for teams with long hair. Make sure there is no loose hair around the facejudges want to see expressions and will deduct points if facial expressions are hidden by hair. Make sure uniforms are ironed the night before and shoes and socks are washed and white as possible.

For team make up, make sure it is worn heavier than usual as the judges will be sitting at a distance. Use dramatic mascara and eye makeup to play up the eyes, heavy powder to combat shine, blush for facial contour and lipstick in a dark pink or red to play up big smiles.

From start to finish, here's everything you need to succeed and come out number one for the competition season. So get out there, have fun, and compete your hearts out! This will be one of the most memorable times for your team. Most of all, good luck! Hope to see you at nationals!