Some squads will learn their routines at cheer camp over the summer. Others don't tackle that choreography until the season has begun. Everyone has a different system, and there's no right or wrong way to learn a routine
; squads should do what works best for them.
Even so, with how quickly competitions sneak up on us once the season has begun, most squads want to spend precious practice time perfecting a routine instead of learning it. Here's a plan to learn your full routine in just one practice.
- Stretch and Warm Up: No injuries, please! Before you do anything, be sure the team stretches properly and is ready to jump right into practice.
- Discuss the Routine: While you're stretching and warming up, talk about the order within the routine (for example: cheer, stunts, transition, jumps, dance, transition, tumbling, transition, dance, pyramid). Decide which stunt groups will do which stunts and who your tumblers are. Listen to your routine music, paying attention for cues for motions to hit.
- Go Step by Step: Spend 20 minutes going over stunts and another 10 or 20 going over tumbling and jumping. You don't have to start practicing the tough stuff now; practice what you can, and mark everything else. If it's a usual group doing a stunt you often do on the sidelines, you can probably practice it once and move on. Have new groups watch carefully while old pros throw up a stunt. For new moves, watch a video on YouTube or use a magazine or printout as a reference.
- Learn the Cheer: A straightforward step! When choreographing beforehand, try to recycle moves from your favorite unique or complicated cheers that you use on the sidelines. Muscle memory will give you a nice break in the middle of practice! Go line by line, and start at the beginning with every new segment you learn. Practice slowly. Mark all stunts, jumps, or tumbling that will be used in the cheer.
- Learn the Dance: Probably the most time-consuming part of your practice, the dance requires high energy and coordinated movement. For the purpose of learning everything in one practice, focus on going over the steps slowly. Getting to the actual speed would be great, but you can also speed up the dance as you practice it later. Prioritize getting through all the choreography.
- Review and Run the Routine: For this step, have your coach, assistant coach, or other volunteer record what you're doing on a phone or camera—high quality video is a must! Go over the routine step by step, marking stunts, tumbling, and jumps. Perform the cheer and dance slowly so that you will be able to review the video later. For parts of the routine where different groups are doing different moves, record each group performing individually, then record everyone together for the full effect.
- Cool Down: As with warming up, this is a self-explanatory step to ensure cheer safety. Be sure you are also taking water breaks throughout practice.
- Practice Makes Perfect: The coach, or whoever took the video of the squad reviewing and running the routine, should distribute that video via e-mail that night. It is the responsibility of each cheerleader to go over the steps at home. Maybe try to get together to work on the dance or cheer motions if there's enough time. Come to your next practice ready to get into tackling stunts, tumbling, and running the cheer and dance portions at real speed.
The key to learning a routine in one practice is marking the complicated parts. It's not hard for a squad to spend hours and hours on stunting alone, and many teams attend tumbling or gymnastic gyms as well. Focus on learning as much of the structure of the routine as you can in your first practice, and add the tougher parts as you progress. It's a lot easier to power through a pyramid knowing that you can already do the cheer in your sleep!
Bear in mind also that it's OK if learning your routine takes more than one practice. You certainly don't want to rush! As long as you plan your time well, you'll be ready for competition season before you know it.