Oh the cheer tryout. Though the tryout montages from movies like Bring it On are always good for a laugh, I think we can all admit that we have worried at some point that we would end up like that one girl. You know the one – “READY? OK! Wait, can I start over?!” *bursts into tears*
Tryouts can be nerve-wracking, but if you prepare ahead of time, you can walk into your evaluation confident and ready to succeed. Here are a few tips to help you ace your big day.
1 | Research skill requirements as far in advance as possible
Do you have to have a back handspring? Flat splits on both sides? Once you know the requirements, start working on any skills you don’t yet have. Take time to perfect the skills you do have. If you are able, start working on the next skill in the progression. So say the team requires a standing back handspring, which you can consistently do well already – start working on your tuck!
2 | Turn all paperwork in on time (or early!)
This is your first impression on the coach, so make it a good one. Be sure to double check the requirements and have all applications, waivers, teacher recommendations, and physicals complete as soon as possible. If the tryout requires a teacher recommendation, be sure to give your teachers as much notice as possible – ideally at least a week.
3 | Practice the tryout material at home
Ask if videos of the tryout material will be posted online, and if not, be sure to take a video of the coach (or whoever is teaching the material) before you leave the first day of clinics. Practice at home until you know it by heart, then you can use the next clinic(s) to clean the details and get feedback.
4 | Brush up on your basics
No matter how long you’ve been cheering, it is a good idea to refresh yourself on basic cheer technique. As a coach, I have seen many occasions where less experienced cheerleaders score higher because they spent time on making sure their motions and jumps were perfect. Check out these posts for common motion and jump mistakes to look out for.
5 | Remember your performance during clinics are just as important as the actual tryout
During clinics, the coach is watching to see how you learn, how you handle feedback, and how you interact with others. Ask for clarification if you have trouble with a combination, and be the first to offer help or encouragement to someone that may be new or stuck on a motion.
6 | If your cheer tryout includes stunting, be a team player
Coaches are looking for athletes that will do what is best for the team, so be willing to try any position coach asks. If the group you are in takes a couple tries to find your groove, keep a positive attitude and don’t get frustrated. Be the person who encourages the group to keep pushing. Being able to do well in multiple stunt positions increases your value to the team as well as your chances of making it.
7 | Take care of your body
You wouldn’t show up to football tryouts without a helmet or to hockey tryouts without your skates, would you? Your body is your most important equipment in cheer, so make sure it is at its best. The week of tryouts (and the weeks leading up to it!), be sure you are getting enough sleep, making good food decisions, drinking water, stretching, and icing sore muscles.
8 | Ask a returning member for tips
Every coach and every program will do things a little differently, so it is good to get an insider’s perspective. Before my college tryout, one of the returning members let me know that the coach despised a specific motion during spiriting…which had always been my go to motion. If she hadn’t shared that tip with me, my first impression on the coach would have been a disaster!
9 | Hold a mock cheerleading tryout
One of the best ways to conquer nerves is to practice your entire cheer tryout just like you would for the judges. Grab a group of fellow cheerleaders, family, friends, or anyone you can find and ask them to watch your routines. Run through the entire tryout, showing them your spirit in, cheers, dance, jumps, tumbling, spirit out – all of it! I find that performing for people I know is more nerve-wracking than performing for strangers. If I can perform well in front of my parents, I know I will be just fine when in front of the judges.
10 | Dress to impress
Make sure to wear proper practice attire in your school colors for clinic days. The day of the tryout, the coach will probably have very specific instructions on what to wear and it will almost always be a part of your final score. Make sure your shirt is free of wrinkles, your shorts are appropriate length, and your hair and makeup are gameday ready.
11 | If you make a mistake, just roll with it
Even when you practice relentlessly, the nerves of the day may still get to you and you may miss a motion or a count. If this happens, the judges and coach are looking to see how you recover from it. Don’t make a face or stop, just keep smiling and pick back up on the next motion or count. One small mistake probably will not make or break your score, as long as you don’t make a big deal out of it.
12 | Smile big and HAVE FUN
No matter how nervous you feel, don’t let it show on your face. As soon as you walk through the doors of the tryout area, turn on that game day smile and make sure it is genuine. If you are having fun, it will show not just in your smile, but in the way you carry yourself overall.
I know you are going to do amazing! No matter the results, always conduct yourself with grace. There may be peers who did not get the results they were hoping for. Be mindful of how they might feel and offer words of encouragement. If you are that person, don’t be afraid to ask the coach about some things you could improve. Then get to work on those areas! Accepting feedback and using it to get better demonstrates a maturity and dedication that every coach is looking for and will leave a positive impression.
Good luck and cheer loud!