If you are participating in your first-ever cheerleading competition this season, you may be wondering what to bring with you and what to expect when you get there. Here's a brief on what it's all about.

Cheer Competitions 101
At cheerleading competitions, several squads perform their routines and receive points from judges based on unity, difficulty, creativity and other performance factors.

Cheerleading began as a college activity, and did not become competitive until the 1960s. There are several companies that hold multiple competitions annually, but these are all fairly new, and there are still new competitions being developed. Competitions and cheer events continue to form and gain popularity today "“ the US Finals just debuted 3 years ago in 2009!

What exactly is a cheer competition?
A cheer competition is just what it implies "“ a head-to-head, winner takes all, "this is what we have worked for" moment where the best of the best of cheerleading is showcased! For cheerleaders, competitions are a chance use the techniques and new motions, cheers, chants, stunts and tumbling that they learned at cheerleading camp over the summer.

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.

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

Competitions feature a panel of judges that can include cheerleading celebrities, coaches, and other individuals with an intense knowledge of cheerleading.

Who attends cheer competitions?
Your team, and other local and regional teams, will compete together in competitions "“ depending on which level you are competing at.

There are many different levels of cheerleading competitions, which means that each squad can compete with other squads at their level. A squad's level may be based on its size, dynamics and experience.

Coaches, assistant coaches and choreographers will attend to lead their team and manage schedules. Some coaches and teams attend competitions as audience members so that they can decide if they want to compete during the next season.

Cheer parents and cheer siblings attend competitions and bring the noise when their team is on the mat!

Where are competitions held?
Cheerleading competitions are held all over the world, but most squads attend local or regional events.

If a team qualifies for a bigger event, they will likely end up traveling to another state, and if they advance far enough maybe even another country!

When is competition season?
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.

What should I expect at my first competition?
If you are competing for the first time this season, don't be nervous! You will work hard and push yourself, but you'll also learn more about yourself and your team "“ while you create life-long memories!

Cheerleading competitions are crowded, loud and fast-paced. You may get confused about where you need to be, and when you need to be there, so make sure that you clarify anything that you are not sure about.

There will be practice space at the competition, so expect to work hard even before you hit the stage.

If your competition requires that your team stay overnight, you can expect some fun team-bonding time! Most hotels have indoor pools that your team can visit to unwind and reward themselves after a long day.

What should I bring to a competition?
Pack your cheerleading competition bag with these essentials:

Help us expand our tips by leaving your advice in our comments!