So you’re on your way to cheer tryouts. Maybe you’ve been a Pop Warner girl since you were old enough to compete, or maybe you’ve never cheered in your life. Everyone has to tryout and everyone should have a fair opportunity to be part of his or her school’s squad.
Here’s what to expect at cheer tryouts:
- Who attends cheer tryouts: Aside from potential new members, coaches and squad captains always attend tryouts. They’re the tryout judges who ultimately decide who makes the team. Sometimes assistant coaches, a school’s athletic director or advisor, or other members of the squad may attend.
- What happens at tryouts: Coaches and captains are looking for new squad members who will work well with the team. They ask about previous cheer, dance, and/or gymnastics experience. If you have cheered before, they’ll ask you about stunting and tumbling and may ask you to demonstrate. If you haven’t, have no fear. They’ll walk you through it. A standard tryout will include learning and performing a few cheers and possibly doing a short dance, basic jumps, stunting, or tumbling.
- When and where tryouts are held: Tryouts often take place either after school or in the evening, depending on when the coaches are available. They may be held in a school gym, auditorium, or field. Be sure that you know where and when you should arrive, and that you have a ride to and from tryouts. Sometimes parents and guardians are invited to stay, but not always, so make sure your ride is okay with dropping you off or waiting for you. Tryouts can take up to a few hours, so plan accordingly.
- Why tryouts are held: Tryouts are held to add new members to the team. Sometimes squads are only looking to fill one spot, and other times everyone—including returning members—tries out. Most tryouts are somewhere between these two points in which squads are looking for a handful of new cheerleaders. For competitive squads, choosing new members who work hard and mesh well with the team is especially important.
For those of you who are new to cheering, here are some pointers on what to expect from tryouts and how to prepare for them:
Every tryout will include potential members learning and performing at least one cheer. Senior members of the squad will demonstrate, and you’ll be expected to do the cheer yourself as part of your tryout. Usually you’ll be given time to practice. Here are three things to pay attention to:
- Voice: When you cheer, try to pull a deep, loud voice from your stomach instead of just yelling from your throat; your words will be clearer and stronger, and you won’t have a sore throat after trying out. Be sure to enunciate.
- Facials: Smile and show off your confidence! Everybody trying out will be nervous, but smiling can boost your energy. Cheerleaders have to smile through tough games and competitions, so the tryout is good practice.
- Motions: When you perform the cheer, be aware of how you are standing. If the cheerleader showing you the moves has her feet together or shoulder-length apart, that’s where your feet should be. While you’re practicing, it’s most important to learn the steps, but once you’re trying out for real, keep your motions as tight as possible. Remember, when the whole squad cheers together, everyone’s arms and legs have to be uniform to give the cheer a clean look.
- Dancing: Some tryouts may include learning a few counts of a dance, which is usually something short and easy that the squad might do with a cheer during halftime. Like with the cheer, you want to follow the example cheerleader’s moves precisely; dancing is less rigid than doing cheer motions, but when the group performs together, cleanness is still top priority.
- Jumping, Tumbling, and Stunting: If tryouts involve jumping or stunting, the senior members will walk you through the steps. For tumbling, you may be asked to do somersaults, cartwheels, or handstands. Don’t worry, first-time cheerleaders, nobody expects you to whip out a back-handspring on your first day! Stunts are done in a group, so you will probably be working with an experienced group if you’re asked to try it.
To prepare for tryouts, be sure to stretch every day for a few days in advance to make sure that you won’t hurt yourself. Even hitting a motion can leave your arms sore if you haven’t stretched. Drink tea or water before the tryout to soothe your throat, and take deep breaths to calm yourself if you start getting nervous. If you haven’t been told, ask what to wear to your cheer tryouts.
The most important thing is to relax and have fun. Tryouts can be intimidating, but whether you make the squad or not, coaches and cheer peers will respect you for doing your best and putting yourself out there. Going out for the cheer team is the first step towards new experiences and friendships, and it takes a lot of guts. Remember that you are a superstar and strut onto the mat with confidence!