Are you an all-star cheerleader or parent? Make sure you’re not guilty of one of the most common 10 pitfalls that could be holding you back!
1. DUCK OR GRANNY-STYLE BASING
What’s the one thing you’re most likely to hear from an Master Trainer? “No ducks or grannies stunting please!”. A duck or a granny refers to the shape your back makes when you’re stunting or tumbling. A ‘duck’ is when your backside sticks out, forming an in-curve in the small of your back, and a ‘granny’ is when you’re hunching forward. Duck or a granny-style stunting means you’re losing 50% of your true strength through bad technique, but also you’re tripling your risk of dropping your stunt or injuring yourself. So next time, keep your core STRONG, tuck your tail under, squeeze the shoulder blades in and think “I’m a tree! I’m a tree!!”
2. TRAINING FLEXIBILITY & STRENGTH BUT NOT SPEED & POWER
Yes, you need to be training your strength and you should be stretching EVERY DAY to improve flexibility: it’s a key point of sports science that explains that if you stretch every 2 days your flexibility may stay the same but if you want to improve, you have to do this DAILY to fight against your body’s stretch reflex.
BUT, just being obsessed with flexibility and strength to improve your cheer skills, is not helpful at all. For example in tumbling, jumps, baskets and flying skills, it’s not your strength or flexibility that will help, but your speed and power. This is determined by: how quickly you can get to your maximum flexibility point OR how far in your maximum flexibility can you get in one count. Ignoring speed & power is the fastest way to never progressing!
3. NOT READING EMAILS FROM YOUR COACH
Your coaches spend HOURS behind the scenes putting all of the information together for your season and competition schedule. Ignoring the emails and missing important information as an athlete or parent makes you one of “those” dreaded team members. Imagine a coach has to spend 10min chasing and explaining valuable information to EACH parent or athlete on the team, with 30 athletes. That’s FIVE HOURS per team. Ask yourself:
Could my coach’s time be better spent training / planning team training?
Is my lack of pro-activeness turning off the other parents / athletes / coaches?
As a coach, would I rather pick athletes / parents who are easy to work with?
Is my lack of taking responsibility affecting my progression on the team?
Remember that coaches don’t just pick athletes based on their skills, but on their ability to act as a member of the group: they’re much less likely to prioritise people who waste too much of their time!
4. “HIT & RUN” YOUR CHEER SKILLS
You finally got your back handspring, hurrah! You’re no longer landing on your head and your feet stay on the ground when you’re done. Congratulations! However, skills are not a “negative VS positive” scenario. It’s not “handspring VS no handspring” like an “empty VS full” or “day VS night”. Skills have a degree of execution, so you could be performing a handspring at 1/10 execution just like it’s 10/10 execution. Even though achieving perfection is not obtainable, chasing it is what makes you a great athlete. So if you have your back handspring, remember you still have a LOT of work to do so that your muscle memory remembers to do it correctly in a full out routine!
5. EATING TOO MUCH OR TOO LITTLE
‘Low Carb’ might be ok if you’re in a WeightWatchers group but not if you’re an athlete. Muscles need glycogen to keep going for long periods of time. They can either get it from carbohydrates or from breaking down the glycogen in the muscles themselves.. wasting away your muscles when you’re an athlete is definitely NOT a good idea. As an athlete, you need carbohydrates in your diet to train to your maximum ability, but before you go and stuff yourself with lasagna and doughnuts, you can watch this video explaining the basics of nutrition for cheerleading sports performance. Digestion takes a lot of energy, which conflicts with the energy required for your training. Plus, does it sound like a good idea to do flips in the air with a full stomach? Yes, you need energy for training, but make sure you’ve digested or ingested something light rather than packed yourself full before training.
6. BELIEVING IN “NO PAIN, NO GAIN”
A little soreness in sports is normal. Sharp pain or pushing through an injury is a stupid idea, in any sport. “The show must go on” and all that and we’re not saying you should sit down at the first sign of a bruise (good luck with getting through the season!). However wearing a badge of honor because “you’re doing it for the team” when really you should be in a cast or the pain is sharp is the worse thing you can do for your team. Be honest with yourself and your coach. Finding a replacement early on is much easier than finding one at the last moment when that injury just couldn’t handle one more tumble pass. PLUS, you might even give yourself a chance to return to cheerleading next season!
7. SKIPPING CONDITIONING
You would never expect a marathon runner to run a race without months of preparation, yet athletes expect to do exactly that. A skill is not only made up of motor skills (your body’s ability to understand and translate a movement into action) – it’s also based on your body capability of withstanding the speed, power, strength and flexibility that’s required for the skill. Asking your body to perform skills that it cannot do is like trying to build a house on moving sands, so don’t be surprised if it doesn’t stick!
8. GYM HOPPING
The grass always looks greener on the other side. Nothing is perfect, either. But when you join a gym you join a team, a family. By gym hopping you’re not only letting your team-mates and coaches down, but you risk getting a reputation as a hopper. This is not good news because news travels fast and some coaches may be reluctant to pick you at the next tryouts because of this. Ask yourself:
Am I leaving because I’m not gelling with the team or because I’m not getting my way?
Am I not getting my way because I’m not trying hard enough or because I’m expecting results to come too quickly?
Is this a good time to leave my team? Have I honoured my promise and commitment until the end of the season?
9. NOT USING YOUR LEGS ENOUGH
“But coach, I’m bending my legs!” – USING your legs is a whole different story than DIPPING your legs. If you’re not applying the same force against the ground and pushing off it, you can dip all you want but it’s not doing much. A dynamic dip and push-off against the floor (for basing, flying, tumbling or jumping) is one of the biggest weaknesses we see in cheerleading. Try drilling the INTENSITY exercises below to improve your dynamic dipping skills!
10. HAVING A FIXED MINDSET
Imagine you’re about to climb a mountain. Are you thinking: “What’s the quickest way to get to the top” or “Getting to the top will feel great after I’ve made the effort to climb it”. If your goal is to get to the result as quickly as possible, you see effort as temporary, you give up easily and you’re prone to mental blocks, if sounds like you may be suffering from having a fixed mindset. See the diagram below.