Motions. Without a doubt they are the most important foundation of cheerleading, though we have to admit that as coaches, we can sometimes rush through motions in a hurry to get to the “fun” stuff. However, no amount of high flying pyramids or crazy tumbling can make up for incorrect or sloppy motions.
(New to cheer? Check out this post to learn the basic cheer motions!)
To demonstrate this, I want to introduce you to Michigan cheer, if you’ve never heard of it. In Michigan, they have a much different style of high school cheer competition from the most of the country. The MHSAA cheer competitions have 3 rounds – cheer with motions only, cheer with tumbling, and cheer with stunts. These teams have the most amazing precision you will see anywhere in cheerleading. It is absolutely MESMERIZING to watch. Take 90 seconds to watch this clip of Gibraltar Carlson High School’s Round 1 performance from 2020.
It is stunning isn’t it? Talk about squad goals! If you thought that was awesome, check out their Round 2 routine and the timing on their tumbling. *heart-eyes emoji*
Anyway, the point I’m trying to make is that even if your team is still learning (or isn’t allowed to) stunt and tumble, you can still make a huge impression on the crowd by simply having fantastic motions. To cheerleaders trying out for a team, having perfect motions will also help you stand out from other athletes. As a coach, I have seen several times where new cheerleaders that have worked tirelessly on getting sharp motions have scored higher than more experienced teammates who became complacent.
So what exactly makes a motion “good”? Today we are going to talk through 4 elements that will take your motions from “meh” to “wow”.
Timing is probably the most important element of motion technique. As the above video demonstrates, there is nothing more visually appealing than a team in perfect unison. As a coach, be clear on the timing for motions in your chants, cheers, and dances. Make sure your athletes know exactly when they need to hit the motion, whether it is a specific word, count, or pause.
In a very close second to timing is placement, and the two really go hand in hand. It doesn’t matter if the team is moving at the same time if they aren’t hitting the same final motion. Make sure motions are slightly in front of the body, wrists are straight, fists are going in the correct direction, and that everyone has the same angles for motions like Vs and diagonals. For more common placement errors, check out this post.
The ultimate cheer coach catchphrase – “Make your motions sharper!” If you’ve said it once, you’ve said it ten thousand times. Sharpness refers to the quickness in which a cheerleader transitions from one motion to the next. If you really think about it, sharpness comes as a result of the first two elements – knowing when exactly to hit the motion with perfect placement and taking the most direct route to get there.
4. Muscle Engagement
In order to have strong, sharp motions, cheerleaders have to be actively engaging their muscles. It can be really easy over time to become complacent with motions that you have done repeatedly. I’ll admit that after 6 years of my high school’s fight song dance (we were a 7-12 school), I definitely became a little complacent during my senior year. Tight motions are achieved by actively thinking about and squeezing the muscle groups involved. While it is great to know the motions so by heart that you don’t need to think about them, you still should think about them.
Though they may seem simple or basic, building a foundation of strong motions will set you up for success as you advance. The body awareness that comes from truly understanding motions will lead to cleaner jumps, ability to learn new material more quickly, and better understanding of body shapes for stunts and tumbling.
Which area do you or your team need to improve this season? Check out my post on drills and techniques for better motions to help you troubleshoot and improve individually and as a team.