Summer is the season for hitting the beach and indulging in ice cream (uh, and summer reading‚ while on the beach eating ice cream, of course). It’s also the season for kicking off a new cheer year. While the competitive season takes place in the fall and winter, summer is when cheerleaders prepare for the work ahead. Everybody has their own goals for what they want to accomplish over the summer, but here are a few ideas of what every cheerleader can hope to achieve over the next few months. Practicing Outside When the weather outside is frightful‚ being cooped up in the gym for practice isn’t exactly delightful. After a long winter season of hard work indoors, indulge in summer sunshine and the sweet aroma of freshly-cut grass. Being able to practice outdoors is something that can be achieved during the summer season through early or mid-fall, depending on where your squad is located. Take advantage of good weather while it lasts! If your squad meets officially with coaches or instructors over the summer for practice or cheer camp, see if you can hold practice on campus grounds, at a park, or even at the beach. Don’t forget your sunblock! For unofficial meetings, such as captain-led practices to teach incoming members the cheers they’ll need to know for games, the great outdoors is a great option. Meeting at a park can be especially useful, since many games in the fall are outside as well, and cheerleaders can practice their volume and enunciation from one set of bleachers to the other. Beaches, which are more crowded this time of year, may not be the best location for practicing cheering itself. As an important reminder, if your team is meeting unofficially and there are no coaches or professional supervisors (i.e., a gymnastics instructor or counselor from cheer camp or tumbling practice), do not practice stunts or tumbling alone. Especially on the beach, where the sand increases potential injuries for practicing these types of tricks. Cheerleaders must put safety first. (Pool stunting, we’re looking at you!) Drink More Water When you work hard, especially outside in the sun, you sweat more, and you need more water. Invest in a water bottle that has a good lid or cap and is small enough to fit in your bag, and take it with you on the go for hydrating at practice or sipping throughout the day. Many water bottles are designed to hold both hot and cold liquids as well, making them useful year-round. can fill up your water bottle at water fountains or ask a barista to use your reusable bottle instead of a disposable cup (hooray for sustainability!). Water’s ability to hydrate and keep us healthy is important, and water as a beverage choice has its perks, like healthier skin and rejuvenated muscles. If you want to splash up your water with flavor, try adding fresh or frozen fruit or lemons to your water bottle. Summer is the easiest time of year to want to drink more water. When the sun is strong, somehow nothing tastes better than water. Sip all summer and you’ll find that keeping your water intake up in all other seasons will be easier, too. Master Braiding Cheer curls dominate competitions, and on the sidelines, high ponytails and half-up-half-down looks are go-tos for squad hairstyles that show off matching bows. When it comes to practice, though, braids are the unsung heroes. French braids are perfect for cheer camp, as they keep hair tightly in place for tumbling and stunting practice. Occasionally braids will appear on sidelines or at competitions as well, and they stand out because so few squads bring them to the mat. Braids are the perfect blend of clean uniformity and creative detail. Contrary to popular belief, short hair can be braided as well! Depending on the length and cut, it may be a half-up-half-down French braid that keeps hair out of your face or a mini-braid to pin back long bangs and keep them out of your face during practice. Cute and efficient is always a winning combination! One more reason braiding is a cheer goal? There’s no better way to master braiding techniques than to throw a sleepover with your squad where everyone braids one another’s hair. Team bonding traditions like “curling parties ” are less common with the popularity of using hair clips for competitions, but modern cheerleaders can keep the spirit of these events alive with “braiding parties. ” Even if practice braids aren’t for your squad, let’s face it, learning how to wind a waterfall braid or master the impossibly cute milkmaid braid can only be a good thing. What are your summertime cheer goals? Be sure to share!