Every year when we announce captains and other offices, I start the whole speech by saying …

“The officer selection process was longer than this week. It started as soon as you made the team. So while the process is helpful, the entire decision was not made on those tasks alone.”

And it’s true. Because I require them to be on the squad for a year (cheering both football and basketball) to be a cheer captain, I will have had nearly a year to evaluate their character, leadership skills, knowledge, creativity, and reputation within the team.

It’s this time of year that you can really start to see which cheerleaders may be the best leaders for your squad. Here are a few ways to help you start looking for next year’s leaders now.

Give them leadership opportunities

As you move into football playoffs and basketball season, it’s a great time to give your younger cheerleaders a chance to lead on the sideline. They’ve had several games and should feel comfortable with the material. Give your cheer captains a break for a quarter or two to see what they can do.

Basketball is great for this. If you cheer for JV or Freshman teams in addition to your Varsity duties, let the younger girls have a game for themselves and/or rotate games that give them the opportunity to call cheers, plan the timeout and quarter breaks, and interact with their teammates.

Ask your captains to mentor a few

Your current cheer captains were chosen because of their leadership skills, and it’s likely that if given the chance to lead one-on-one they’ll do well. If you’re thinking about a few different cheerleaders, let your captains or other leaders take a meeting or two with them to get to know them, share their knowledge, and give you their honest opinions.

You should know that this is really effective. However, you want to keep this close to your chest. If some cheerleaders find out that they were not chosen for these meetings, feelings can be hurt or drama can be made. You can remedy this by asking them to keep it quiet (but not lie about it) or have your officers meet with every person who will be eligible the next year.

The second option is great because then everyone gets a peek at what a cheer captain’s job really is, and maybe some people will decide they don’t want to be captain once they see all the responsibility.

Ask your squad their opinion

Before the end of our season, we always have a poll from the current squad members regarding the leaders for next year. By doing this we get to see where most of the votes fall. These aren’t anonymous, but only the coaches see them. So no cheerleaders lay eyes on them.

Typically, we’ll meet with those who are not returning–usually the older cheerleaders–to see why they chose particular individuals to be cheer captains. You will get a variety of perspectives, but it’s always incredibly interesting and even helpful to hear about the personalities and the politics of their decisions.

Talk with teachers

If you’re involved highly at their school, your teachers and administrators are often good resources. You may not know everything about their conduct or conflicts outside of your time with them. These conversations can be very enlightening.

Pray

I’m a Christian, so I believe in trusting the Lord to guide important decisions like these. I pray each day for my squad members, but I also pray early in the season for wisdom and discernment for choosing leaders.

Prayer is also a huge part of my official selection process. It gives me peace and clarity in my choices and helps me to set aside any of my selfish ambitions for the best of the team. So even if you’re not a believer, I suggest you find something or someone that can get you in that state of mind when making this decision.

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