For just one year of cheerleading, a coach has a lot of preparation and scheduling to do! While it can be overwhelming, knowing ahead of time what to prepare for (and how to do it!) will reduce a lot of stress and keep you focused on your team. Decide what you want your cheer program to include and find out the preparation basics. Then, plan out an amazing year for your cheer squad! Creating Rules and Policies Whether you prefer to keep your relationship casual or professional with your cheerleaders, all coaches need rules and policies set in place. This isn’t meant to scare any cheerleaders; it’s to make sure the squad knows what is and isn’t allowed. For example, how many practices can one miss per season before she’s benched or not allowed to perform? Another good rule is to require one’s parent to call ahead if one won’t be attending practice. What are the consequences of missing a game, event, or competition? These are questions your cheerleaders might have not even thought to ask, but now know the answers to. Consider any questions you would ask if you were a cheerleader and think about standards you want your squad to follow. Then, create a document with all of the questions, answers, and list of standards to hand out during the first meeting of the year. Parent Meetings Before each season, or just after tryout decisions have been made, it’s important to meet with your cheerleaders’ parents to discuss program fees, schedules, time management, volunteering, fundraising, and more. Plan a meeting ahead of time and make sure to have a sign-in sheet so you can get the parents’ contact information. Explain policies and rules in place for cheerleaders, hours a week required for practice, performances, and events, program fees, fundraising plans, and anything else you think a cheer parent would want to know. Practice Times and Locations One of the biggest decisions that will affect your squad’s entire year is the practice schedule. It can be difficult finding the perfect balance between practicing too often and not practicing enough. While you want to be the best squad you can be, you also don’t want to stretch your cheerleaders too thin and cause them to fall behind in school. When it comes to practice location, you may have to meet with school administrators or other sports coaches to arrange time slots if more than one team needs the gym or field on a particular day. Meet ahead of time and make sure the schedule is shared with all other athletic teams to prevent any double bookings. If practice space must be shared, meet with the other coach beforehand to discuss ways to share the space and how best not to interfere with one another’s practice. Cheer Camp One of the biggest (and soonest!) events for which you’ll have to plan is cheer camp. Most coaches agree that cheer camp is a must for all squads. Not only do you get to intensively prepare for the coming year, you can establish and strengthen relationships with your cheerleaders and they will have a chance to bond with one another. The first decisions you must make are: number of days for camp, location, date, and agenda for each day. Before deciding on what kind of camp to attend, first look at the budget and program costs to see what you can afford. Every school’s budget is different. You may not be able to afford a resort-style camp, but you may still be able to hold an overnight camp. Reserve a camp location and date early. Places book fast and you want to have a schedule ready as soon as possible for the cheerleaders and their parents! If you want to spend more on cheer camp than your finances allow, try budgeting and rearranging fees! Cut back on uniform costs or find less expensive cheer shoes. Every little thing makes a difference. Fundraising Very few cheer squads can afford program fees without fundraising. Many squads fundraise year-round to pay for a majority of the costs! When planning a fundraiser, first decide on the type of fundraiser – are you selling something or are you hosting an event, like a car wash? Then, utilize some of our fundraising methods to really raise money! While you don’t have to immediately make a decision at the beginning of the year, it’s good to think ahead of time whether or not you want to fundraise throughout the year. If you do plan on fundraising year-round, consider an easy fundraising option, like Fun”D” 2 Raise cards, which require minimal planning while still receiving a 98% return on investment. School Sports Games Before the school year starts, meet with a school athletics coordinator or administrator to discuss which sports your squad will be cheering for, the dates and times of the games, and location. Not all sports games require cheerleading and it differs at each school. If you’ll be attending away games, talk with an administrator about transportation. Decide whether or not you’ll need parent volunteers to help and plan on how to keep your squad safe, as well. Competitions While not every cheer squad competes, many do for the opportunity to advance their stunting and learn new routines. If you’re interested in taking part, look over your program funding and availability to see if your squad will be able to participate. Then, research competitions that are local (or national if you want to travel!). Competitions require much more intensive practices, choreography, and stunting so be prepared for a lot of work. However, the opportunity to compete for a gold medal is worth it! Before you create a routine, however, read the rule books for competitions. Many will have certain requirements of what stunts must be included in a routine. Read up on our guide to competitions to prepare! While coaching a cheer squad can be overwhelming, planning ahead will help you de-stress and focus on the important parts – helping your cheerleaders rock the stage!