During our uniform fitting day for my college cheer team, my coach gave each of us our team duffel bags. In it were our four uniforms and a set of one or two pound wrist weights. I had been using some pretty heavy ankle weights for leg lifts, so I kind of shrugged off those baby weights. Besides, who cares about weights when you have NEW UNIFORMS!
Fast forward to our second week of practice or so, and coach was not happy with the status of our sideline chants – primarily the sharpness of our motions.
“Everybody get your wrist weights!”
For the next hour of practice, we drilled chants, band dances, and the fight song with those dang weights. A pound or so doesn’t sound like much, but it starts to feel like 10 pounds sooner than you think!
When we finally got to take them off, I hated to admit it, but I could see the difference in our motions (we had a mirrored practice room). Our muscles may have been burning, but now we were able to hit our motions so much better.
Cleaning motions and making them sharper is a task that I’m not sure is ever fully complete. To help you in this pursuit of perfection, here is a list of 5 things you can do to improve your cheer motions today. These can all be performed as a team during practice, but can also be done by cheerleaders on an individual basis at home.
1 | Video
Video is one of my favorite tools to help fix anything. Just like how football and basketball teams watch film and analyze their plays, cheerleaders and coaches can do the same. Cheerleaders can use this technique on their own at any time, and it has also been one of my saving graces as a coach.
It is easy to catch the glaring mistakes in person, but as one coach for 20 girls, it is a challenge to see every little detail. By using video, I can watch it back later, motion-by-motion, and make notes on the more nit-picky corrections to share at the next practice. There are 1200 videos on my phone, and I’m confident that at least half are from practice.
2 | Practice in the Mirror
I guess I have been lucky that both my high school and my college had a dance room with a mirror wall. Using a mirror wall as a team helps everyone to see their synchronization (or lack thereof) in real time and helps everyone check their motion placement against their teammates. If your school or practice area doesn’t have mirrors, you could also use the reflections in a window or glass doors. It might feel silly, but it works almost as well!
Cheerleaders can also practice their motions in the mirror anytime at home. It is a great way to develop muscle memory because you are able to confirm that you have the correct placement and shapes.
3 | Wrist Weights
As I mentioned above, using wrist weights is a great way to improve cheer motions because it forces the muscles to be more engaged. The muscles then remember this extra work once you take the weights off. Practice with wrist weights to build up muscle and make it easier to keep motions sharp, even toward the end of a game our routine when you start to get fatigued.
4 | Hold and Resist Test
An oldie, but a goodie. A great way to make sure cheerleaders are keeping their motions tight is to have them hit and hold their motion. Coach should walk around to each cheerleader and try to move the cheerleader’s arms (a gentle push will do). The goal is that the cheerleader is squeezing their muscles so tightly that coach is unable to move the motion. Do this for 5 or so different motions so that they get a chance to practice a variety.
Cheerleaders can practice this one on their own outside of practice by having a friend or family member try to move their motions.
5 | Use a Motion Drill
Another way to improve cheer motions is to use a motion drill. A motion drill consists of performing a series of motions to 8-counts to practice timing, sharpness, and knowledge of motions.
Here is a 5 8-count motion drill I created and have been using with my team.
When using a motion drill in a team setting, it can be helpful to have the cheerleaders stand in two or three straight lines directly behind each other. If everyone’s timing and placement is correct, you should only be able to see the girls in the front of the line because everyone behind them should be hidden. In addition to timing, this will ensure there is consistent placement of motions across the team.
The importance of cheerleading motion technique cannot be understated. Perfectly timed, beautifully crisp motions can create just as much of a wow factor as tumbling and stunts. If you don’t believe me, check out the video I shared in this post.
I hope you are able to use one or more of these tips to take your motions to the next level. If you have another way to make motions sharper, share your secrets in the comments!