It’s spring already. Can you believe it? You’ve got a new team in the door or on their way up, and you’re swimming in all of the possibility they hold. But, hold on. Just for a little bit anyway. Spring time is cheerleading off-season, and it would be a mistake not to take advantage of this time of year to clean up and prepare for the season ahead. Instead of jumping right in to new skills, routines, or music selections (even though they may be more exciting), take a step back and work on some of the basics to build a good foundation for the rest of the year. Fundamentals By the end of the season, I’m usually too worried about nailing the stunts at the competition to look too closely at the bad habits my cheerleaders may have developed. That’s why it’s good to go back to basics in the spring. Now’s the time to get everyone back on the same page and focus on technique in every area of cheerleading–stunts, motions, jumps, and style. You may have to get creative to keep it interesting, but work the fundamentals every day and be relentless when it comes to technique–pointing out both good and bad. Not sure what those bad habits are? Grab my stunt mistake cheat sheet so you can keep your eyes open for the major mistakes and correct them on sight. Team Building Team dynamics are established in the early stages, so it’s vital that you don’t let the spring pass by without actively creating a culture of trust and positivity. Spend lots of time letting your team get to know each other and bond, and take time to get to know each of them and show them you care. It can save you from major drama down the line. It’s also important to establish your standards for behavior. This is the time of year that a new team will test your boundaries. So be very aware of what you let slide and to what degree. You don’t want to set undesirable precedents for the future. Reinforcing good behavior and attitudes through encouragement and intentionally designed character lessons will help too. Strength and Flexibility Most sports spend their off-seasons getting strong. Why shouldn’t cheerleaders do the same? You may be saying, “We have way too much to do to focus only on strength.” And I hear you, but I like to say that you have way too much to do to not focus on strength. Don’t spend all of practice stretching and conditioning (that’s how you get a revolt!), but do dedicate a portion of each practice to focusing on strength and flexibility. In the long run, you save headaches that come from all of your cheerleaders being injured and ensure that your team has the physical foundation established to accomplish all the awesome things you have planned. Camp If you thought tryouts came and went quickly, you will not believe how close camp is, and you know your team won’t be all in one place this summer other than camp. So it’s important to go ahead and get them ready. Part of this is simply in working on those fundamentals. Get your progression stunts super solid and get your team to work together. Once you’ve got that covered you may need a camp cheer prepared. Check your registration materials and get those skills in order so you just have to review before heading to camp. Scheduling This one’s just for you. There is no time like spring to clean up your calendar and your systems. So it’s time to start scheduling. Look forward and backward then do a rough outline of when things should happen and what you would like to see happen. Someone very wise once told me, “If you don’t schedule it, it’s not real.” So take this (slightly) slower time of year to go through and make notes, set some dates, and make goals for you and the team. As you get more information, you can refine the calendar. But give yourself the chance to see the big picture before all the little stuff gets in the way. Spring is the best time to wipe the slate clean. So start the season on the right foot by focusing on building the foundation of skills, team unity, and big picture vision. That way when the busy times comes, you know your team is ready to face them all head-on.