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Cheerleading Tryout & Technique Tips


Tryout requirements may vary between squads. The following tips are meant to be a general guideline only. This list is also great for someone wishing to learn the basics of cheerleading technique. This list will grow as others submit their input, so check back often for the latest updates.

This section is an information exchange offered in order to promote and better the art of cheerleading. Please be sure to email us if you have any input and articles to add to the Spirit Library. We look forward to hearing from you.



General Tryout Tips


Knowledge is power! For best results, educate yourself on the squad you are trying out for. Know their skill requirements, their tryout curricula, their style, required stunts and jumps, costs, travel obligations, any orientation activities, grade requirements, weight limits, time expectations, etc. so that you can prepare accordingly.

If you are considering participating on both a school squad and an all-star squad, find out any restrictions that both squads may have. Check the weekly schedules of both teams to make sure you will have the time and energy necessary to uphold your obligations.

Look sharp! Find out any requirements for dress so that you come equipped with the appropriate attire. Do they wear activewear? Shorts and tees? Tights or socks? Any particular colors? Find out the appropriate dress for these events and DON"T try to make a fashion statement!!! Wear school colors unless they specify specific colors or patterns and stick with simple classic flattering styles. This includes your shoes. Try not to wear colorful tennis shoes or wear bulky jogging shoes which don't look nice when you are trying to point your toes. Don't wait to plan your wardrobe the night before tryouts!!! Lay your outfits out a few weeks before and try them on to make sure that they look nice together from head to toe. Make sure you can stretch, kick, bend, jump and stunt comfortably in them. They should be clean, neat, wrinkle-free and free of any damages or stains. ALWAYS wear proper undergarments or sportbra and NEVER wear inappropriate clothing like cutoffs or halters.

Hair should be neat and pulled away from your face fastened securely with a simple hair-tie. Jerk your head around to make sure it won't fall down. Wear no jewelry and keep hair accessories simple (preferably the color of your hair). Don't ever chew gum.

Makeup should be minimal and natural looking. If you wear foundation, make sure it matches your skin tone perfectly. If your makeup is too heavy in any way, it will look really tacky if it starts streaking when you break a sweat.

Practice having good posture when you stand, walk, sit and kneel. Hold your head up, stomach in, shoulders slightly back but not stiff, relax your rib cage, and most important, relax and look natural. Try walking with a book on your head. This may take some practice, so watch yourself in front of a mirror and ask a friend or relative to critique you.

Eat nutritiously and bear in mind that many squads require that your weight be in proportion with your height.

Start a rigid "training program" a few months in advance in order to be physically prepared for tryouts. Concentrate on the required dance, jumps, showmanship, voice, acrobatic and other cheering skills that are required by the squad you are auditioning for. Do aerobic, flexibility and strength training to build your stamina and conditioning in order to be able to execute the more physically demanding tasks like jumping, running and stunting with apparent ease.

When you first start your training program, try video taping yourself doing jumps, arm motions, routines, chants and other areas of concern full out. Then tape yourself again later. Review both tapes to see how you've improved and where you still need work.

Seek out a mentor from the squad you are trying out for. Most people would be honored and flattered that you are asking for their help. Try learning old cheer routines and stunts of theirs so that you can get a sense of their style and moves. If you can't get a mentor, then try to attend their events and take note of what you need to work on. Do they concentrate more on stunting or on dance and cheers? On complicated formations and stunts? What types of entrances and exits do they use? What type of music do they perform to?

If you are required to make up cheers or a routine for tryouts, it is especially important to be unique yet not create something that would be too far fetched for their particular tastes. Visit dTe's Choreography section for more choreography tips. Prepare an entrance and exit too to make a positive first and last impression.

If you can't get a mentor from the team of interest, consider joining a cheerleading preparation class where you get specialized instruction. Make sure that the prep class offers a curriculum that includes teaching skills specific to the squad you are trying out for.

Visit our sections on jumps, stunts and motions as they become available.

Bring a blank tape to your first tryout practice and tape the music to practice with. Then USE it! Try to get a tryout buddy, preferably one who is good, so that you can practice together in front of a mirror. Help each other remember parts of the dance that you may have forgotten and critique each other.

Demonstrate desirable qualities. Be on time and never leave early. Never stand around. Help others if they ask for your assistance. Never talk negatively about any person or anything. Always show courtesy and respect. Accept constructive criticism graciously (they are doing it to help you) and say, "Thank you." Keep your grades up throughout the year. Be a model student and community leader.

Remember, success is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration, so practice, practice, practice!!! Try practicing your cheers, chants, dances, jumps, stunts, facial expressions and eye contact with the "judges" in front of a mirror and also in front of a friend or mentor (preferably someone with cheerleading or similar experience).

Facial expressions should be relaxed and reflect the mood of the routine. Don't always smile the same frozen smile...add some personality to it. Facial expressions worth practicing are pouty, flirtatious, cool cat, sensuous, and surprised in front of a mirror until you get comfortable with them. These emotions may also be reflected by subtle motions of the mouth, eyes, neck, head position and shoulders. Learn by observing other performers on television, in musicals, at competitions and at games. Don't overperform where your expressions look rehearsed, frozen, insincere, exaggerated or fall outside a unified team image. Try alternating various facial expressions with smiles, grins and other emotions according to the mood of the dance.

Perform your tryouts intelligently, with concentration and enthusiasm. Picture yourself executing everything perfectly. Think positive and be confident about your talents and abilities. If you are constantly nervous and worried about making mistakes, your performance will reflect that. Practice until you can do everything in your sleep. Think about how others have complimented your abilities and how good you feel about yourself to help avert nervousness.

Don't worry if you can't do all of the skills taught. Judges and coaches look for the potential in a candidate as well.

Speak loudly and distinctly to the judges. Use direct eye contact and positive body language. Keep a sense of humor, especially if you make a mistake. Exude confidence, leadership, team spirit and humility.

As a cheerleader, it is your job to raise the spirit of your audience and team. Involve the audience and judges by cheering to them.

If you make a mistake, don't panic and stiffen up. Show your leadership abilities by handling any mistakes graciously and with confidence. Use your best judgment and think quickly. If you get offbeat, jump back in right away. Then show 'em what you got and charm them to death!

Never say you "can't" do something. Never cut yourself down or say you won't make it. Coaches and judges don't like negative attitudes and this is no place for low self-esteem.

Don't ever lose your "professionalism" by stopping to fix your hair, scratch an itch or smile at a friend in the audience.

When performing with others, keep in mind that precision, sharpness and teamwork are important factors in cheerleading. Movements should be clean, sharp, strong, technically correct and on count. Don't try to outperform others. Concentrate on executing everything with grace, poise, style, showmanship, skill and proper technique, while not standing out from the team.

Perform as if you are at a game or competition, concentrating on your best showmanship, poise, technique and execution. Enjoy yourself and SPARKLE!

The styles and requirements of college squads vary. Educate yourself on their style and requirements and be sure to practice that any differences so that you feel comfortable. Most likely a college squad will have more difficult jumps, acrobatics, stunts and dance moves, so be sure to prepare yourself accordingly.

Tips Courtesy of Leslie's Best Spirit Services. Visit her Listing in the Consultants & Specialists and Dance Studios & Prep Classes categories of the Directory of Spirit Shopping.


Officers Tryouts & Directors' Tips

Check back soon for the upcoming officer tryout tips. Meanwhile be sure to read article, The Interview: Guidelines for Judging Team Leaders, from our DanceDrill Zone which is sure to benefit officer candidates and directors of all disciplines.


Technique Basics

Work on proper voice technique. Do not yell or scream, instead project. Use the diaphragm to project sound. This will make it sound a little huskier (not screeching) and it will also prevent permanent vocal damage. Many girls yell or scream which causes the throat to tighten, thus sounding screechy or even nasally. KEY POINTS: Relax and open back of mouth (opening to throat) feels like beginning of a yawn. Use diaphragm to project sound and increase volume. Increase breath support. Deep breath, if you lift your shoulders when you breath in, YOU ARE DOING IT WRONG. Your waist should expand if you are breathing deeply. If you're throat is sore at the end of the game or routine YOU ARE DOING IT WRONG and this could lead to permanent vocal damage. Some fatigue is expected, but there should be no pain. Courtesy of Beth Anspaugh, Hamilton Junior High School, West Virginia

Be loud. Project your voice up and out. Keep the diction crisp, clear and full of energy. Don't sing the words. Emphasize primary words over words like "the," "or," "that," etc. E-NUN-CI-ATE. Courtesy of April Williams

Keep arms and knees straight. Arms should create one straight continuous line from the shoulder to the hand, fingers and/or fist. Don't flex or bend your wrists. Don't hyperextend fingers where they curl back beyond a straight, flat hand.

Practice the basic arm motions (like the "T," "L," high "V," low "V" and blades) in a front of a mirror, making sure that as you snap to the different positions, your arms are ending in the correct form and not wiggling at all. Then practice the same motions with your eyes closed. Once you hit that position, open your eyes to see if you hit proper form. This is a good way to "memorize" the positions, because you won't be performing in front of a mirror so you need to make sure that you hit positions in proper form each and every time with your eyes closed.

For jumps, keep feet and knees together. Point toes.

All movements should be sharp, tight, separate and readable. Motions should not get blurred together...they-should-snap-sharply-from-one-position-to-the-next. No sloppy moves. TRY THIS: Hold each motion until the last possible moment and DON'T move early from that position in order to reach the next position on the intended count. Then snap your arms into the next position and FREEZE as if you were a statue. Remain still, again until the last possible millisecond, until it is time to snap into the next position. Repeat these procedures as needed for a crisp, sharp performance.Courtesy of April Williams


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