Check out the Complete Guide to Conflict Resolution Tips For Cheerleading Squads! In cheerleading, “cheer’ is often given all the glory, but coaches and captains know how important it is that the “leader’ part isn’t overlooked. Being in a leadership position for a squad isn’t about popularity or just putting on a cheerleading uniform; it is about responsibility, dedication and passion. Anybody that is or has been in a leadership role on a cheerleading squad knows that the job requires much more than just running practice. A team is like a family, and like every family, someone sits in the head seat at the table. Being a leader isn’t about being a bully, it’s about being the type of person that people can and do look up to. The cheerleading season is only going to continue to intensify. If you are new to the game, find yourself struggling mid season, or just need a refresher, here are some tips to help you take the lead and steer your squad toward success. 1.) Efficiency. Coaches and captains should make practices as effective and efficient as possible by showing up early to make sure all equipment and music is ready to go when practice is supposed to start. By staying focused and on track during practices, coaches and captains will inspire their team to stay focused too. 2.) Attitude. Coaches and captains are responsible for handling younger and older kids, as well as parents. They need to practice patience and negotiation and stay away from pride and tempers. Squad members and their parents need to feel comfortable coming to the leaders with their conflicts. Cheer squad leaders could benefit from some introductory training into psychology. 3.) Respect. You have to give it to get it. Being bossy, rude or demanding is not going to motivate anyone to do what you say, or inspire them to want to make you proud. A leader should not only think about what words they use, but also about how they say them. 4.) Communication. How can you lead, coach or teach if you can’t communicate? The key to successful communication is to recognize that it is about evolving. Learn what words and tones your squad responds to and use those to reach them. How you want to say things isn’t as important as them hearing what they need to, so adjust your strategy and learn at every opportunity. Make sure each squad member, including all people in a leadership role, are clear on what is and isn’t expected of them during the season. 5.) Knowledge. A cheer squad leader has a lot of rules to keep straight. They should know the ins and outs of each game they will cheer for. They should understand their school or organization’s handbook and know how to enforce those rules. And they should study and adjust for the rules of any competitions that they enter. In addition, they need to have a working knowledge of basic first aid and CPR procedures. If you don’t all know all of these things already, learn them ASAP. 6.) Organization. Trying to keep all of the rules straight, as well as managing practice and game schedules, team member records, competition deadlines and game and competition choreography can get overwhelming. That is why the coach, captain and, if needed, co-captain all need to work together using the same organizational system. It is great if everyone is organized on their own, but using multiple systems to organize the same or similar information will only lead to confusion. Figure out the best approach for your team and give anyone that has a leadership role a quick training session. 7.) Accountability. A leader needs to be accountable for their actions, but they also need to give their squad the tools to be accountable for their own actions. By clearly communicating the goals and requirements for being a part of the squad, you will have an easier time managing the squad, keeping everyone eligible to participate and motivating your squad members. 8.) Energy. Keep your energy high and positive. Instead of a demerit system, focus on rewarding the good work that your squad members complete. This positive reinforcement will motivate the team and help remind everyone what cheerleading is all about – fun! Remember, the key to being a great leader is to know what your responsibilities are and to perform them to the best of your ability. The way that you lead will teach your squad or teammates something about the world. You are not only teaching them cheer and dance moves, you are teaching them life skills and defining all the action words above: efficiency, attitude, respect, communication, knowledge, organization, accountability and energy. Set a great example for your squad, and they will give you back loyalty, hard work and dedication. Come back next week to get coach and captain tips for managing team conflicts!