It’s that time of year–competition season! You’re getting ready for state competitions and very soon national competitions. So to help you get ready, here’s what I do leading up to a competition to prepare my team.
Three Weeks Before
Review your score sheets
First, review the one from your last competition (if you have one) to see where you need to clean up or improve. Then make sure that your routine is up to date with your next competition’s score sheet. You may have to make some changes to increase your scores in particular areas.
Make major changes
Now that you’re familiar with your rubric, go ahead and change the pyramid or the tumbling sequence—whatever it is that you need to amp up to max out your score in that area.
Two Weeks Before
Send out travel and logistic information
By now, you should hopefully have a schedule and travel information confirmed for your competition. It’s time to tell the parents. Give them every detail you can. This will help them prepare.
Decide on major changes
You’ve now had a week to go through and make any big changes to your routine. Now’s the time to decide if those will stay in or be pitched out. Can they hit it every time? Does it look clean? Consider those questions, then choose what stays and what goes.
Focus on cleaning
Now that you know your routine for sure, focus on making it clean and sharp. Go through everything fast and slow and confirm any moves that are shaky. Clean, clean, clean. That’s your motto this week.
Week of the competition
Clean early in the week
If there is any cleaning of stunts, dance moves, or transitions that need to be done, do it early in the week. This gives their muscle memory a chance to grab onto it.
Warm up like you will at the competition
If you can, call the competition company and get details about what warm-up time your team will have. If you go to a lot of cheerleading competitions, then you’ll have a good idea of what it will look like. Now warm up every day like you will at the competition. 4 minutes of stunts, 4 minutes of tumbling, 4 minutes to go through formations, 4 minutes of full out routine. Whatever it looks like, try to practice it. This will give your team confidence on the day of.
Set a goal for “full out” routines for each practice
The week of the competition, you should be going “full out”—the whole routine with every skill and every dance move in it—a ton. Set a goal for each practice to do it a certain number of times. Maybe 5-6 for day one, 3-4 for day two, and 1-2 for day three. It should get smaller throughout the week so they don’t get super tired.
Encourage like crazy
You will have corrections and small changes to make, but make sure that you are focusing on encouragement and building their confidence that week. They need to feel ready to take on the competition.
Communicate all the details to the parents again
Send another e-mail with the same level of detail (or more if you have more) as you did the week before. That way they will have seen more than once and can more easily dig it out of their inbox for any confirmation they need personally.
The Day of the Competition
Find a place to settle
When everyone arrives, find a place in the arena where your squad can set up camp to do hair and makeup as well as walk through any small portions of the routine before their warm-up or mat time.
Hair and Makeup done
You want all the girls fully ready with hair and makeup about an hour before their warm-up time. This gives you plenty of time to then mark through your routine a few times and give them the breakdown of the warm-up time.
When you have 20-25 minutes before your warm-up time, you want to have everyone take a bathroom break. There will be lines and girls take a while sometimes, so you want to make sure everyone is back with 5-10 minutes to go before you warm up.
Warm up like you practiced
Because you got the information ahead of time, you know exactly how to walk through warm-up. Go through everything and give as much encouragement as possible. Giving them too many corrections to focus on right now will be distracting.
After you warm up, you’ll probably have to wait for a bit for your turn in front of the judges. This is a great time to do some kind of pre-competition ritual—whether it’s a game or a prayer or some kind of pep talk. A ritual can actually bring peace and repetition to a competitor if they do it every time. So find something and stick with it.
That’s right. It’s time! You go to watch them, and they take the floor. Breathe and cheer for them the whole time. When they walk off the floor, focus on the positive and congratulate them on all of the good they did in their routine. You can fix the other stuff later.