Cheerleaders and pom-poms go together like milk and cookies. This is pretty much a scientifically-proven fact. Poms are bright and fun, just like the cheerleaders who use them, so they should be as much a staple of competition routines as they are for sideline cheers. Here are five ways to incorporate poms seamlessly into a competition routine. 1. Spell Your Team Name. This move requires practice, but looks amazing once the squad gets it down. Spell out a school abbreviation (such as “MHS “) or mascot using your poms. Have half of the squad kneel in a row while the other half stands behind them. The front row handles the bottom half of the letters while the back row handles the top. To spell out your letters, everyone should put their arms straight out wherever they need to be to form a giant letter in front of the squad. This may mean a few diagonal arms or squishing closer together to get the letters looking just right. In a cheer, this can be slowed down a bit, with everyone shaking their poms at each letter for effect; it also works well with the “Give me a (letter) ” sideline cheer to get the crowd going, so you’ll be able to practice a lot. You can also time it to your music, but be wary not to make the timing too fast or it may be difficult to form readable letters. If your poms are a stark contrast to your uniforms, your letters will jump out even more. This move works best with small poms that will make crisper lines, rather than fluffy poms that may overlap. 2. Pom-pom Wave. In a line across the mat or in clusters, create a pom-pom wave by having every cheerleader strike a motion in quick succession. Doing a traditional “wave ” with a fluid rise and fall of arms is fun as well‚ so long as you keep it clean. Poms draw the eye to your hands, so if the squad performs an extended motion across the mat, it creates an appealing sense of movement and grandeur. This move relies on speed and works best choreographed to music. 3. Flyer or Tumbler Poms. Much like holding up signs, cardboard letters, etc., flyers can hold up poms for a little extra pop in stunts. This looks especially nice when incorporated into cheers where fliers can perform motions. If some of your squad is not part of the stunt group and is transitioning to their next positions, the added attractiveness of poms will hold more of the audience’s attention, giving other cheerleaders some flexibility in getting to their spots. Some cheerleaders can tumble while holding poms, but where free hands are optimum for this part of routines, it’s certainly not expected. It can mess up hand placement or hurt the hands, so put safety first. Poms look best with simple tumbling. If your squad has fewer tumblers or less tumbling skills overall, consider including poms to pump it up. Have four or five cheerleaders with poms line up in a single-file row, and either cartwheel or do a standing roundoff at the same time or in quick succession. The arc of the poms will add appeal to simple stunting and create a greater sense of motion. Have a strong tumbler perform a complicated pass down the center of the “aisle’ the pom tumblers create; even without tucks and layouts, the pom tumblers have the ability to make the tumbling section that much more unique and fun to watch. 4. Non-stunting Poms. While stunt groups or pyramids are going up in the background, have cheerleaders in front performing motions or dancing with poms. This gives the routine levels while keeping both parts interesting. A stunt in the background with motions or dance in the front looks fine, but the poms separate the non-stunting cheerleaders and give them an element of interest to keep spectators and judges watching them as well as the flyers appearing in the sky behind them. 5. Finale Poms. When you’re ready to move into a new, pom-less part of your routine, what do you do with the poms? Toss “em! When transitioning from one section to the next, such as going from cheer to dance, make removing your props part of the routine. Toss your poms off the mat when you swing your arms back running into a tumbling pass, or have flyers drop their poms to spots to move out of the way while flyers come down from their stunts. If you’ve incorporated poms into the last part of your routine, consider throwing them up in the air or out towards the crowd as your finishing move. Think of it like graduates throwing their caps in the air. Be careful not to hit other squads, judges, or spectators (which is why throwing upwards and slightly forward is best). For added impact, have the last sound effect in your music be something fun, like a firework explosion. Poms must be included in competition routines carefully. Stepping on them costs points from the judges, and if not enough practice goes into their use, they can draw attention to sloppy motions or missed timing. However, poms have great payoff in presentation and an added pop of excitement in routines. Many squads don’t include poms on the mat, which is a real shame, but it only makes the squad that does use poms stand out more. How do you use your poms? Tell us your spirit tips in the comments below!