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break out of your rutIt happens to every good squad (even the best ones). Everyone has a bad day sometimes … or bad weeks … maybe even bad months.

You’re in a rut. You just can’t seem to hit those new stunts or see any improvement in your squad’s jumps or tumbling. When that happens it’s important to break out of it so your athletes can move forward.

Here are a few ways to loosen the team up and get them thinking differently so your skills are affected positively.

Go back to what you know

When you get caught up in learning new skills, sometimes you forget that you were good at anything before. You start to get frustrated with not being able to get something new. That’s why sometimes you have to remind yourself what you do well.

In that spirit, go back to some old standby skills that you hit every time. Maybe put some of those skills together in new ways to make it seem new. This not only reminds you how good you are, it shows you that you can learn something. Plus, it takes your mind off of what you can’t do and moves you forward.

Break it down

Most of the time, you look at a new skill as a big picture which can be overwhelming. Maybe it’s a pyramid sequence with lots of ups and downs and twists and turns. It seems like so much when you put it together, but it’s not really new stuff and it’s not really hard. So break it down.

Take it one step at a time through the skills you’re working on, or do it at a lower level first then work your way up. Suddenly, the impossible seems possible. It’s a great way to encourage frustrated athletes.

Reframe the situation

Once my squad had a routine that we needed to hit for our post-camp showoff. It was packed, but it was packed with easy stuff … cheerleading skills we’d been hitting for months without any trouble. They just didn’t see it that way.┬áSo I re-framed the situation. I walked them through the routine and told them each of the stunts individually. You should have seen the looks on their faces. It’s so simple!

The next two times we practiced it, we hit everything because they took it one skill at a time and didn’t see it as an undoable routine. This works in many situations. It’s actually a very old psychological and communication trick. Don’t look at it from the perspective of something new. Look at it through the view of all the things you already know and relate it to those.

Mix it up

In the middle of the season, sometimes your stunt groups just stop working right. Have you ever experienced that? So sometimes you throw something new and easy at them, and all their bad habits come running out and nothing good comes of it. Your group is so used to compensating for one another that they forget proper technique.

What do you do? Mix them up. Rotate flyers through all the groups. Then do back spots, then each base. Swap multiple people at once. Sometimes they can’t feel their own mistakes but someone else can. That’s why this is so good for them (in fact, I regularly make a point to mix them up sometimes just keep them on their toes). This shows their technique trouble and exposes them to new perspectives from other group members.

Make it a competition

Never underestimate a cheerleader’s competitive spirit. You would be amazed how well this trick works, especially with regard to consistency.┬áMaybe your squad can hit something, but they can’t do it cleanly or consistently. If you make it a competition–pit groups against each other in a friendly way–you will be surprised how quickly they get it together.

The key here is to be merciless when it comes to form or whatever the rule or aspect of a skill is that you want to reinforce. Then set a number of times the winner has to hit it–is it 3? 5? 3 in a row? Whatever it is, watch closely and see them transform their skill in a flash. Suddenly they communicate better and fight harder for a skill. It’s a great motivation tool at the right time.

These are my five favorite ways to break out of a rut. But here’s the real secret: make it fun and remind them how good they already are. If you can do those two things, then all your cheerleading dreams could come true.


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