It’s the time of year where everyone is starting to compete or already has one under their belt. And if you had a competition and were less than impressed with your scores this time around, maybe it’s time to upgrade your routine. Here are a few ways you can do that, whether you nailed the last one or not.

Consult your score sheets

First, look at the scoresheets from your most recent competition if you had one. Take in all of the notes from the judges and see where you scored low and why. Now look at the scoresheet for your next competition. What are the priorities they seem to have? Is it stunts, tumbling, difficulty, execution? Break down the big categories then adjust to them.

Jumps

The key to a good cheerleading jump sequence is difficulty plus accuracy. If your squad has bad jumps, then work them into a cheer where they only take a second; and in the music section, work in lots of transitional elements like rolls and motions and interesting approaches to jumps. You need at least one jump where everyone is together, then split them up. It adds visual interest and takes time in your routine.

If your squad is good at jumping then add more difficult jumps. Have a herkie in there? Step it up to a hurdler, keep a toe touch in there, and go for a pike. Those are your top three hardest jumps. Plus, string multiple jumps together like a double or triple toe touch, or whip a front hurdler into a pike. Make it harder by combining elements.

Stunts

Difficult stunts will always earn big points … if you can hit them. If you can’t, then you take away any of the extra oomph you got from the stunt in the first place. If you can’t make it look easy, then it’s too much for your team. Now that’s out of the way we can get to the good stuff.

If you can’t necessarily end in a harder stunt than what you have, then you can likely add some transitional stunts. Make the way you get into the stunt more interesting—twist by 180 or 360, do a coed like toss with girls, put in some show-n-gos, go over people or under people or flip over. Find ways to make your boring straight up extension more interesting.

A few other items you can do to make your stunts harder are to go from two feet to one—make that extension a liberty. Add some synchronization—take your transition stunts and time them impeccably. Do harder body positions—if you’ve nailed the liberty, make it an arabesque or heel stretch. Hold it longer—coordinate some cute moves with the music while you hold your stunts.

Tumbling

Adding more to you tumbling is more difficult, because it’s not every day that someone gets a new skill worth changing around an entire sequence. However, those days do come. So if you’ve got a cheerleader with a new skill, then rearrange the formation to accommodate that. More is always better with tumbling.

Second, give everyone something to do. I used to think that round-offs were dumb in a competition routine. If you can’t do a back handspring, then you can’t do anything … period. WRONG. You get points for everything. If everyone can do a round-off, then put that in there. Get your whole squad to do something. Also, add other easy elements like cartwheels and forward rolls throughout the routine and in the tumbling sequence to squeeze out those points and make transitions smoother.

Synchronized tumbling is also a big part of a score most times. If you have two girls who can do a round-off back handspring, then don’t let them each take a turn. Put them together to go at the same time and you not only get credit for both but you get points for the synchronization too.

Dancing

If you choreographed a dance yourself, you may not have made it as difficult as it could be. You can add some layers to it to make it stand out a little more. For example, having everyone do the same motions at some point is important in my mind, but it doesn’t have to be long. So make several parts that basically do different dances that coordinate with one another. Or do the same dance and at some point have some do it on the floor while others are standing—add visual depth and interest.

Another way to increase difficulty of a dance is to change formations more often. If you’re not changing at all, it’s a problem. For every two 8-counts, you should have a different formation. It needs to be a slight change, or easy for everyone to transition to in just a few steps.

Also, odn’t be afraid to add some easy dance or cheer motions into your transitions from sequence to sequence within the routine. It makes them look cleaner and smoother, and people will hardly notice your were changing formations or preparing for something huge because you were doing something the whole time.

Cheer

To maximize your cheer score, you need to lead a crowd and show off your skills, but most of all lead a crowd. So for this section, add some signs or megaphones to help the crowd out. Keep the energy high with your voices and words. Add stunts, but make keep them simple. Make sure they work for leading a crowd well. And lastly, use your jumps and standing tumbling as a way to lead the crowd too—maybe use a ripple of skills.

Okay, that’s a lot, but I think there’s a ton of good stuff in there. Start small and keep it simple when upgrading. You probably won’t need to change every section, but switching up one or two could make a big impact on your next score.

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