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5 questions for a high school competition coach

Brent Paige has been a high school competition cheerleading coach for 18 years. He cheered at Georgia Southern University for four years, competing at both NCA and UCA College Nationals as well as cheering on the sideline for football and basketball games. After his tenure as a collegiate athlete, Brent began coaching all-stars and high school competition. Although he coached at several high schools, Brent’s most recent foray into cheerleading was at Lambert High School, located in the metropolitan Atlanta area. Brent has enjoyed remarkable success during his coaching career, including 5 region championships, three state runner-up placements, and six state titles. Most of these came in the 7A division, the largest of the divisions in the Georgia High School Association (GHSA) which runs most high school athletics in the state. Brent’s teams have always been characterized as having extremely high levels of difficulty, flashy choreography, and consistent, error-free performances.

What was the biggest issue for your team this year?

“The last year that I coached was the year after COVID had hit everywhere. I think really the biggest challenge was keeping the team interested and motivated. That is because the cheerleading competition season got pushed back from August-November to November-February. So it made it for a very long year. Just trying to navigate through all the protocols with COVID and keeping the kids healthy and having enough members of the squad on the floor for each competition was a challenge. Even with mitigation efforts in place, the combination of COVID and injuries often made it difficult for the team to have full practices.”

How did you and your team overcome this issue?

“We had to adjust what we normally did. Typically, we were going into our first full out in August with the competitive cheer season ending in November with the state finals. Because the season was four months longer, we scaled back our practices to only two days a week until early October. Then we started to ramp it up where we would practice more days, and we got to a point where we would go four days a week. And many times, we would participate in team building activities where it wasn’t so much the grind of practice every single day for those months on end until the state cheerleading finals in February. Making those adjustments for the longer season helped my team win the state cheerleading finals that year.”

Tell me about a positive surprise from your most recent season.

“I think the biggest surprise was going into our fifth regular-season competition, one of our main fliers ended up getting injured and that put her out for the rest of the season. We found out that she was no longer able to participate on Friday, and we were supposed to compete the very next day, on Saturday. We did not have a flyer as an alternate at that point that was ready to compete on the varsity squad. We reached out to one of the athletes that had just finished her JV season. Although she had been a base on the JV squad we learned that she had flown three years prior to that. Within 24 hours were able to put this young lady into a flying position on varsity, with all the stress and responsibility that comes with that position, and reworked the routine. We were able to compete at the invitational on the next day and hit zero. That was just a really big testament to the dedication and the drive of the athletes on the team to never give up, even when faced with adversity.”

What changes would you like to see in the format of high school competition cheerleading?

I think one of the ones that I have been an advocate of for a long time is changing up the way that the divisions in our state are structured. I know there are some cheerleading programs in the state of Georgia that have quite a few athletes and those programs could fill a medium or a large division. I would like to see the state competition structured so that it is not organized by school size, with single A through seven A, in addition to the private school and Coed divisions. Instead I would like to see a small (16 athlete), medium (20 athlete), and a large (24 athlete) division. This way the high school competition structure would more closely align with what All Stars does. I think that would lead to better competitions. A new format would also let some other teams in our state have a better chance of placing.

What one piece of advice is important for high school competition cheerleaders and coaches to remember?

“To be successful takes a dedicated coach, not just a sponsor. They need to have the drive and desire to win region and compete at the highest level at state. Athletes must understand that dedication and sacrifice are necessary to create powerhouse programs. Lots of teams go to just have fun, but winning is the most fun of all!”

One of the most important considerations in building a successful program is to realize that it takes coaching that is truly dedicated. You cannot reach the highest levels of success with just a cheerleading “sponsor.” Successful coaches need to have a drive and a desire to succeed beyond simply wanting to win your region, but also the drive to compete at the highest level when you get to state. Sometimes the importance of the coach as a motivational and enthusiastic leader is lost on athletes, parents, and administrators. There is a lot of dedication and sacrifice that must go into your high school cheerleading squad to reach the point where you’re able to compete at that highest level. Too many teams nowadays just kind of go out there to have fun. That was never my mentality: it was more you have fun when you hit a routine and you see those accomplishments come out from that hard work and dedication and sacrifice.

It has been exciting to watch how Georgia has grown competitive cheerleading. The Georgia High School Association began competitive cheerleading in 1992, thirty years ago! In the 18 years that I’ve coached, I’ve seen it go from a low-stakes exhibition in high school gyms to where it is now, filling the Macon Centriplex for two days of intense competition. It’s been fun to watch the progression of cheerleading in high school, especially in the state of Georgia, grow over these past 18 years.”

Want to see Brent’s team? Here is Lambert High School’s last state-winning performance!

 

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The 2022 ICU World Cheerleading Championships

 

Congratulations to all the participants in the 2022 World Cheerleading Championship. Held April 20th – 22nd in Orlando, Florida, this competition marked the end of the competitive season for many of the best teams in the country. The competition was fierce, and the most elite skills in the world were on display.

 

After the 2021 all virtual format, there was a palpable excitement for teams to get the opportunity to compete live and in person. More than 120 event producers from across the United States and 40 nations worldwide were represented, allowing almost 10,000 athletes to compete in the senior and international cheer divisions.

 

The World Cheerleading Championships are produced by the International Cheer Union. Established in 2004, the ICU operates as the de facto governing body for cheerleading in the U.S. and across the globe. Nearly 8 million athletes in almost 120 nations participate in ICU events, culminating in the world championships. This year’s championship was held at the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex in Orlando and was broadcast worldwide as the most elite athletes displayed their tumbling, stunting, jumps, and dance to earn their medals.

 

Here are this year’s world champions and their final scores!

Senior Divisions:

Senior X Small SC Cheer Fearless 136.9
Senior Small- ICE Lady Lightning 143.15
Senior Medium- Top Gun All Stars Lady Jags 143.1
Senior Large- The Stingray All Stars Orange 140
Senior Extra Small Coed- Central Jersey Allstars Team Gunz 137
Senior Small Coed Macs Allstar Cheer Senior Starz 140.05
Senior Medium Coed Spirit of Texas Royalty 137
Senior Large Coed Top Gun All Stars TGLC 147.05
Senior Open Central Jersey All-Stars Bombshells 136.7
Senior Open Small Coed Cheer Extreme Raleigh SMOEX 135.35
Senior Open Large Coed Top Gun All Stars Revelation 145.3

International Divisions

International Global – Level 6 The Stingray All Stars Cobalt 135.2
International Global Coed – Level 6 The California All Stars – Camarillo SMOED 148.1
International Open – Level 5 Rebels Cheerleading Athletics Smoke 82.06
International Open Small Coed – Level 5 Cheer Sport Sharks – Cambridge Star Spotted Sharks 134.25
International Open Large Coed – Level 5 Flyers All Starz NOTORIOUS 128.4
International Open – Level 6 Cheer Sport Sharks – Cambridge Great White Sharks 136.65
International Open Small Coed – Level 6 Louisiana Cheer Force Gold 140.55
International Open Large Coed – Level 6 Top Gun All Stars Double O* 143.1
International Open Non-Tumbling – Level 6 The California All-Stars San Marco Sparkle 131.45
International Open Coed Non-Tumbling – Level 6 Twist & Shout Tulsa Adam & Eve 127.5
International Open – Level 7 GymTyme All-Stars Gold 120.4
International Open Small Coed – Level 7 CheerForce San Diego Nfinity 135.3
International Open Large Coed – Level 7 GymTyme All-Stars Chrome 138.35
International Open Non-Tumbling – Level 7 Flyers All Starz Karma 123.6
International Open Coed Non Tumbling – Level 7 Unity Allstars Black 119

Limited  Division 

Limited X Small Coed- Level 6 CheerVille Athletics HV Anarchy 134.6
Limited Small Coed- Level 6 Famous Superstars GOLD 135.45
Limited Xsmall/Small-Level 6 New Jersey Spirit Exposion FAB5 137
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It is that time of year again! Cheerleading tryouts are coming, and it is time to start preparing to make this year’s tryout the best one ever. Whether you are a seasoned veteran or a complete novice, there are several things that you can do to ensure that you get on the team you want this year. Cheerleading tryouts can be a time of great personal pressure and stress, but it is important for you to focus on self-care and managing your expectations. Great performances come from a place of calmness and control. Finding that tranquil head space can make a huge difference in your outward appearance during tryouts. This instantly makes you a more attractive candidate in your program; whether recreational, high-school spirit squad, or a competitive all-star program.

An Ounce of Preparation is Worth a Pound of Cure

Nailing that tumbling pass, or hitting a perfect switch-up is not easy – it is the product of hundreds, even thousands of hours of work. Make sure that you have done your work before you come to tryouts, and be honest with yourself about your abilities. If you have never thrown a back-handspring on your own, tryouts is not the time or the place to try it for the first time. Even if you do not have access to a cheerleading or gymnastics gym, there are a lot of exercises you can do to help get yourself into top shape before tryouts begin. Jumps are a major part of cheerleading, regardless of your level.

Enter With No Expectations

A lot of times the teams we make in all-star cheer are determined by our skills, especially tumbling. However, just because you can land a back-handspring or a tuck does not guarantee that you will make a level 3 or 4 team. One of the most important things you can do at tryouts is come in without a predetermined definition of success. Instead, come in and try to have fun and enjoy the process. Putting too much pressure on yourself to meet unreasonable expectations will not only make tryouts a lot less enjoyable, the pressure may be detrimental to your performance during the tryout period. Rather than saying you must be on the Senior Level 4 team, or make Varsity at your high school, go in with an open mind and no expectations or pressure on yourself. Once you relax and focus on just doing your best you might be surprised how well you do!

Put Your Best Foot Forward

The pressure at cheerleading tryouts can be relentless. Even if you have come in conditioned and ready to show off your skills, negative attitudes of the coaches running the tryouts or the other people competing for a spot might make it hard for you to stay positive. It is easy to get caught in a trap of comparison, and lose sight of yourself in the process. You must shake off all the stress and just focus on yourself. Come into tryouts with your head high and full of confidence, even if you are not feeling it. From the very first moment you enter the gym or walk onto the field the judging process has begun. Being a positive voice with a can-do attitude is a highly attractive quality for any coach: be the cheerleader who is there to be part of the team from day one!

Be Ready to Try New Things

You may have spent your whole life as a back spot and suddenly they are asking you to main base, or maybe you’ve been working on your flexibility and body positions, but suddenly they ask you to be a back spot. Rather than pouting, or being upset, accept the challenge and do your best. There is nothing wrong with being honest and letting them know you do not have experience in that position, but it is critical that you let them know you are willing to do whatever it takes to be on the team, and you are coachable. Your team needs an equal number of fliers, mains, sides, and back spots, and being willing to take on a vacant position makes you a more attractive option when the coaches are making their final decisions. If there are 6 people who are fliers and fliers only, but only 3 back spots, an athletic that is willing to back becomes a solid choice for the judges.

Be Nice!

You may not realize it, but everyone is feeling stressed during tryouts. Coaches are worried that they won’t have a strong team the next year, the judges are concerned about making poor decisions, and the other athletes are all worried about their placement and performances. Focus on having a positive attitude and trying to help everyone around you. You would be amazed how many athletes shut down from the pressure of tryouts, and come across as being mean or spiteful. These are not attractive qualities for a team that has to work together all year. If you come in and are willing to unroll the mats before practice, or stay late to help someone review the dance afterwards, the coaches notice this. They know that those sorts of actions are what build a better team. Be the cheerleader that you want to cheer with at games or competitions!

There are many things you can do to help show a positive attitude and make yourself an attractive candidate during cheerleading tryouts. Little things like punctuality and kindness can go a long way. Don’t forget to have your paperwork in early, and be ready to take on any challenge the coaches offer to you. All the little details like eating healthy and getting enough sleep will also help put you in a place where you can be your best self. Most importantly, accept the decisions made once tryouts are over, even if you did not make the team you wanted to make. Try to get constructive feedback, and start working on improving for next year!

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Coaching College Sideline: An Interview with UGA’s Chris White

Chris White has spent a lifetime in the cheerleading industry. As a collegiate cheerleader, he stunted and tumbled on the sidelines for the University of Cincinnati Bearcats, followed by a stint at American Cheerleading Academy. After a few years of coaching, he returned to collegiate athletics to cheer at Morehead State University. After winning a national championship with Morehead he moved back to Atlanta and worked for The Stingray All Stars in Marietta, Georgia. During his tenure at Stingrays he took part in coaching almost every squad, but was the principal organizer for the Rust, Stingray’s open division team, including leading the squad to a 2008 World Championship. Along the way, Chris also worked at Nfinity Athletics and as an organizer for the Open Championships.

As busy as Chris has been with all-star cheerleading, his passion has always been for college athletics. He has choreographed 7 NCA collegiate national championships for Georgia Southern University and still works with the program every year. For the last several years Chris has worked alongside Ben O’Brian coaching the University of Georgia cheerleading squad, including preparing the team for Georgia’s 2021 NCAA football national championship! Chris was gracious enough to sit down and answer a few questions about the challenges, both expected and unexpected, which go along with coaching collegiately.

What has been the biggest challenge for your team this year?

“The biggest challenge for our team this year was the mental health bounce back from Covid. The last several years have created some concerns which had never really been an issue before. We didn’t know if we were going to be at football and basketball games or what we were allowed to do at each game, which was compounded by the in and out of some of our kids getting COVID and being quarantined. There were very real challenges as we addressed the overall mental health aspects of students dealing with the rigor of college and the stresses of being a college athlete during the pandemic.

These issues were complicated by this whole pandemic thing and, if you did get sick, the isolation from other people could be really tough. We still go through a little bit of that, although I think a lot of the quarantine protocols have relaxed. I know that not knowing what facilities would be open was very taxing on the athletes. Being forced to quarantine away from other athletes was another hurdle. We had to move practice and performance facilities around and we still move around, actually. Bouncing back from COVID, was definitely the biggest issue that we have this year.”

How did you and your team overcome this challenge?

“We implemented a variety of new technology protocols for the team which helped a lot, because there are so many different ways to communicate and stay connected. This was especially important for members of the squad who were not permitted to participate face to face, obviously. Harnessing digital communication tools allowed us to keep the athletes on track. Having a little bit of video chat, making sure that they still felt loved, even if they were in quarantine, helped the team keep that feeling of community when we were forced into physical separation.
It is important for the athletes to know that their coaches and teammates are thinking about them, and are concerned for their wellbeing. Leveraging different apps, like the band app, and other social media tools was a good way for us to keep channels of communication open. Plus, winning the national championship in football helped a lot. It made everything better: let’s just say that.”

Tell me about a positive surprise from your most recent season.

“The University of Georgia was the 2021 NCAA CFP Football National Champion! It’s what sideline cheerleading dreams are made of! The athletes and fans in Athens had 40 years to think about it, and UGA was always on the cusp of being great. The experience was amazing, even when we lost that SEC championship to BAMA, there was never really any doubt how the team was going to respond. On campus there was just that chest up, confident feeling, there wasn’t any sense of depression. I think we all knew that it was going to happen and for that to come to fruition…it was amazing. I have been in Georgia for almost 20 years and I know many lifelong Georgia fans. These fans were sharing videos and pictures of them crying on the floor. That victory healed all the wounds of the last 40 years, and that was just a really nice thing for all of us, especially for the Georgia fans throughout the state.

As wonderful as Georgia’s championship run was, it was complicated for me, personally. I’m from Ohio, so I grew up an Ohio State fan. Then I went to the University of Cincinnati. This was a really kind of an odd year for me, kinda trying to juggle my loyalties, per se. I was wearing a Cincinnati shirt underneath my Georgia coaching outfit.

All that was on top of the Atlanta Braves winning the World Series. With the success enjoyed by both UGA and the University of Cincinnati, it was kind of a dream come true. Then the Bengals made the Superbowl! This was the most fun year in sports, as a fan and a coach, in my life.”

Want to see Chris’ team getting ready the National Championship game? Here is a clip:

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You and your squad have been practicing hard and cheering your heart out at the games, and putting together some of the best pep rallies your school has ever seen. But there just does not seem to be a lot of spirit at your school. So how do you and your teammates help to bring love of sport and school together? One of the ways you can change school culture is by establishing new traditions. You have seen people try to begin a new tradition before, only to receive lackluster support and watch their idea slowly fade away. So how can you and your fellow cheerleaders help create new school traditions that will continue after you graduate from the hallowed halls?

Start With The Music

Every school has a few traditions which have fallen by the wayside over the course of the years. Your school already has several key elements which are testaments to school spirit in the past. One of the most important of these is your school’s Alma Mater and fight song. The Alma Mater is the official song for the school. This was a central part of school spirit in the 1950’s and 60’s but became less important as the years have past. The fight song is the song that your band plays every time your team scores a touchdown: you probably know the tune but did not know that it has words, as well. However, you can revive interest in your school’s Alma Mater and fight song by incorporating those musical elements into your current spirit activities.

While the music in the fight song and Alma Mater might seem old and trite, it is a lasting tradition at your school. By including more of those elements at sports events you will be able to join two large, but disparate groups at your school. The alumni who still come to games and support many of the athletic programs financially typically remember the Alma Mater and fight song fondly. Conversely, many of the current students do not know about it. Teaching the words to these songs at pep rallies and football games can help bring a sense of community back to both the current students and alumni.

Bring a Pop of Color

Your school colors are well-established, and everyone at your school can identify them. Try using the automatic identification as a way to build more school spirit. Establish “color days” for football games. For example, if your school colors are red, purple, and white, try to have a “red out” for one game and a “purple out” for another. By using the school colors you and your squad can help make school spirit more than just yelling at games. Consider working with local vendors to develop special shirts for these spirit events as well – having everyone wearing the same shirts on the same days can build school spirit in a way that yelling on the sideline never could.

In addition to establishing color days, your team should use the school colors to help design your run-throughs and banners as a build-up to big events. Decorating the halls with new content every few weeks will keep the student body feeling engaged. Try not to have any temporary spirit materials for longer than two weeks – students will start ignoring it and the effect will be lost. Don’t be afraid to reuse materials, either. If you are careful when you put up and take down banners you can often use them several times, reducing the amount of time you need to spend doing painting and prep.

Relationships Matter

Incorporating more of the existing spirit content at your school, like the fight song, Alma Mater, and school colors will all help, but ultimately school spirit comes down to relationships. As a highly visible member of the school community, and the leaders in school spirit, cheerleaders have a responsibility to reach out to all members of the student body. Often it is easy to stick with the smaller groups of athletes and fans who already have buy-in for school spirit, but doing that will not increase spirit around the school.

There are several ways you can include other groups in your spirit activities. Try reaching out to school clubs and student organizations. Having a homecoming contest for the best float, or putting more club and organization recognition into your pep rallies can help to inspire these groups to become more involved in the larger school culture. Sometimes building these relationships will take you and your teammates out of your comfort zone, but having those courageous conversations with people you normally wouldn’t talk to is a big part of leadership!

School spirit can be difficult to build, and it takes as much work to keep it going as it does to develop it in the first place. However, with grit, determination, and a clear vision for how to get your peers engaged you can make a change in the number of students singing the Alma Mater before each game, wearing the same colors, and getting involved in pep rallies and parades. Once you have done that, you will see your school working together in a more unified way, and increase the feeling of belonging for many members of your community – including the alumni who still support the school. Being a spirit leader at your school is hard work, but you and your squad are up to the task. Just think of what you can accomplish when you work together!

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Industry News: 2022 Triple Crown Winners

 

Now that the Universal Cheer Association’s international competition is completed the triple crown winners for this year, we at cheerleadingmix.com would like to congratulate the 2022 Triple Crown Winners. These breathtaking teams won at the three largest national competitions of the year: CHEERSPORT, NCA, and UCA. With thousands of teams from across the country and worldwide competing, these teams are truly the best of the best. They have some of the most difficult stunting and tumbling, combined with simply stunning dances, but these teams also have the consistency to hit week after week in the world’s largest and most competitive contest. Many of these teams will be competing at Worlds and the Cheerleading Summit in the next few weeks, and they are the teams to watch after their dominant season thus far. Ten teams won the Triple Crown this year, and they are all teams to watch.  Seven of the Triple crown winners’ music is produced by top producers of New Level music, creating music on the Cheerleadingmix.com site.

 

Let’s learn more about the Triple Crown winners for 2022

 

San Antonio Spirit – Team Daisy (Youth level 1)

Team Daisy was truly a daisy to watch this year. Their tightly intertwined use of front and back walkovers made the level 1 tumbling fun to watch, and their combination of T-holds was artistic and inspired. The use of a traditional “sailor T” early in the stunt sequence was paired with a traditional T-motion lift later, creating an ingenious visual change.

 

Cheer Extreme – Frost (U17 level 2))

Look at the careful choreography and tight movement of this level 2 team! Cheer Extreme Frost brought it this year with their inimitable execution. Their stunt and pyramid rotations throughout the routine were fresh and new, showing that level 2 stunts can be intricate and creative.

 

NFINITIE All-Stars – Code Black (Senior level 3)

NFINITIE brought more sparkle than their uniforms to their 2022 performance at UCA Nationals this year. Creative use of front tumbling and dynamic formation changes really helped bring excitement to their Senior Level 3 team. Code Black’s straddle mounts and switches were clean and mistake-free.

 

Cheer Extreme – Youth Elite (Youth level 5)

Cheer Extreme’s Youth Elite squad made inventive use of intensely difficult stunting to help them lock in wins at all three of the Varsity Brand Major championships. They made their stunt sequence with a low-tock and a 360-degree twist-up to bow and arrow look easy at the 2022 UCA Nationals. Meanwhile, their visionary execution of flatbacks and tick-tocks in their pyramid showed just how much difficulty a youth team can accomplish.

 

Extreme All-Stars – X5 (Senior Coed level 5)

Extreme All-Stars X5 cleverly used repeated stunt themes throughout their routine, helping guide them to this year’s Triple Crown. X5 made creative use of inversions to transition into their stunt section, followed by an impressive double switch sequence. Extreme’s level 5 team used inversions again later in the routine with both a bridge to the ground and a needle to bring the inverted theme together.

 

Cheer Extreme – SJX (Junior Coed 6)

Cheer Extreme has made a name for itself by incorporating effortlessly difficult stunts with profound musicality. This year is no exception. While their tumbling is flawless, the real show begins when they begin their swing-through stunt sequence.

 

Twist & Shout – Diamonds (Extra Small Coed 6)

Twist & Shout Diamonds has been in complete control of their destiny throughout the season; with amazing stunting and tight tumbling, their victories at all three majors have been impressive. Equally impressive is their cheer mix, with a variety of vocal stylings and excellent use of dynamics. Their epic cheer mix is almost as remarkable as their skills. Here is their cheer music video by Cheer Music Pro:

 

Brandon All-Stars – Senior Black (Small Coed 6)

This year, Brandon All-Stars starts with stunning choreography, putting a stunt group in the center of their opening tumbling. Their incorporation of stunt with tumbling was really innovative, and their hand-to-hand snap-down to arabesque was executed flawlessly at UCA this year.

 

Top Gun All Stars – TGLC (Large Coed 6)

TGLC has dominated this year, with wins by significant margins in every major competition they have entered. The routine is amazing, but so is their red-hot cheer track! Credited with some of the most innovative stunting and music in the industry, here is their 2021-2022 music video for the unique cheer mix:

 

Zodiac All Stars Shadow – (U19 level 1)

With insane flexibility and more switches than an old-school lowrider with hydraulics, Zodiac Shadow showed that you do not have to go through two highs to execute elite stunts. Watch their show-stopping performance at NCA:

 

Congratulations to these outstanding teams and their world-champion success!

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Cheerleading is a sport that is often plagued with injuries. The constant jumping, tumbling, and stunting can put a lot of stress on your body, so it is important to do everything you can to condition and protect yourself from injury. One of the most important things you and your team can do is a consistent stretching regimen both before and after practice. Being able to purposefully target the muscles you are using in practice will not only make it easier to execute your skills, it will also help keep you and your teammates safe from serious injury.

 

Types of Stretching

While there are many modalities, most stretching falls into two basic types. These are static and dynamic stretching. Static stretches hold positions for a minute or longer to help increase core flexibility, but can be detrimental to athletic performance. Dynamic stretching is active stretching that incorporates movement into the stretching process. It is a good choice for warming up before athletic activity, but it only incrementally increases core flexibility. An ideal stretching routine for your team should maximize the benefits of each of these types of stretching but beginning practice with dynamic stretching and ending with static stretching. Doing this will help your team perform at their best during practice and competitions, while also helping to increase overall mobility.

 

Before Practice

Practice should begin with some sort of light aerobic activity, like a slow jog, star jumps, backwards jogging, or other low impact exercises which help to get the body warm and get your joints moving. This aerobic activity should not be part of conditioning, but should merely help you and your squad get to a point of gentle perspiration and looseness. Ten minutes of light cardiovascular activity is ideal for preparing your muscles for practice.

Once those muscles have warmed up, it is time to transition to dynamic stretching. These stretches should incorporate movements which mirror the activities you will be doing in practice. Aim to extend your range of motion slightly beyond the point of comfort, but without any pain. Most teams focus largely on the lower body, with high kicks, twisting lunges, and knee to chest exercises to help stretch out the hamstrings and quadriceps. However, lower back exercises like good morning, and upper body exercises like T push-ups should also be part of your stretching regimen.

 

After Practice

 Most coaches and athletes know that stretching before practice is important. However, a lot of teams do not actively engage in stretching at the end of practice. While dynamic stretching is very important to prepare for practice, static stretching is ideal during the cooldown part of practice. With static stretching the goal is to move your muscles as far as you can without pain, holding it for a minute or longer. Dynamic stretching helps to warm your muscles for practice, but static stretching is focused on increasing your core flexibility.

Static stretching is important for every member of your team, but it is especially important for fliers. Make sure to engage all the major muscle groups in your static stretching routine. Upper back stretches, shoulder stretches, and calf stretches are as important as hamstring and adductor stretches. Creating a 10-minute cooldown static routine is not only a great way to increase flexibility, and thus avoid injury, but also a time where you can focus on mindfulness and meditation.

 

Final Thoughts

By incorporating dynamic and static stretching as part of your practice routine you will find that fewer of your teammates suffer injuries during the season. Including those static stretching exercises at the end will have a huge impact on your team’s jumps and flexibility positions. Trying incorporating high-energy cheerleading music during the dynamic stretching, and calm, meditative tracks during the static stretching to create a holistic experience. Being able to improve your skills in a safe, supportive environment is central to having a successful season. Consistently using pre and post-practice stretching routines can be an opportunity to bond with your team while protecting yourself.

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Time and time again you and your team have been told to drink water. It is easy to stay hydrated when you are at a practice in August and the air conditioning isn’t working, or on the sideline in September in a game just went into overtime. However, the dangers of dehydration are just as big a deal in February as they are in July! When it is cold outside, we do not often remember that we must stay hydrated, but it is important to keep your body adequately fueled with water regardless of the time of year or weather.

 

What is Dehydration?

Most of us assume that it means getting thirsty, especially when we are sweating a lot. However, dehydration is significantly more concerning than just a dry mouth. Water makes up most of our bodies, and regularly replenishing our supply is paramount to keeping healthy. Not having enough water can lead to a variety of medical issues like kidney stones and urinary tract infections. However, dehydration can be even more severe. Once your body has insufficient water you may notice your urine turns darker, and you stop sweating. You may feel light-headed or get a headache for no reason. Once these symptoms begin you are in danger. Dehydration can lead to kidney failure, brain swelling, even coma and death.

 

Hydration in the Winter

Because we normally wear more layers of clothes in the winter, we often do not notice how much water we are losing in our day-to-day activities. That said, every time you take a breath or go to the bathroom you are losing fluids out of your body. Those fluids need to be replaced, and just drinking at meal times is generally not enough water to replace what you have lost in your daily activities. This becomes an even bigger issue in the winter. Winter air is frequently drier than it is during the summer, pulling even more water out of your body with each breath. When it is hot outside and you are sweating your body reminds you that you need water, but when you are bundled up and battling the wind those same physical reminders are no longer as prominent.

 

Improving Hydration

Everyone has different hydration needs. Height, weight, activity level, and environment all play a big part in deciding how much water you or someone on your team needs daily. Most medical experts suggest that you drink about a gallon of water a day, but that can be hard! There are a few tricks you can use to help you and your squad get to that “1-gallon goal.” First, try to reduce the amount of high-sugar beverages in your diet. The sugar in these drinks can impair your body’s ability to absorb water, and give you a false sense of hydration. Second, consider carrying a small water bottle around with you during the day, and refilling it often: constant access to water will help you get to your goal (you can add some fresh fruit if you need a little flavor!). Next, consider increasing your intake of fruits and vegetables. These have a higher water content, so it allows you to “eat” some water during your meals. Finally, make sure that your squad takes frequent short water breaks during workouts, practices, and competitions. Just a two-minute break every 20 minutes or so should be enough to keep you and your team hydrated as long as everyone drinks some water at each break.

 

Too Much Water?

Over the course of the day most people should be aiming to drink about a gallon of water. However, you and your team need to be careful about how much water you drink at one time. In general, you do not want to drink more than a liter of water in an hour. More than that can lead to water toxicity, where the body takes in more water than it can process. However, drinking a liter of water in one hour is a lot of water, and most people cannot comfortably drink more than that without feeling discomfort. Taking frequent water breaks during practice and over the course of the day can help. When you are on a water break, think about drinking the water instead of chugging it.

Winter is a hard time to remember to stay hydrated, but doing so is important. If your squad is not staying adequately hydrated during the winter months you may see increased injuries, and issues with focus and headaches as a result. Work with your team to develop a hydration plan that includes frequent, short breaks to drink water, and encourage everyone to drink water during those breaks, even if they are not thirsty. Be certain that you and your teammates are checking for early signs of dehydration as well. As a rule of thumb: if you are thirsty, you have already waited too long to drink. By addressing proper hydration as part of your normal routine, you should find that your teammates are healthier and happier, with fewer members suffering from dehydration headaches and cramping.

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Industry News: NCA Nationals 2022

Not rain, nor sleet, nor even hail could keep athletes from all over the United States from convening in Dallas, Texas for the 2022 National Cheerleading Association All-Star Nationals competition. The weekend-long event was a veritable who’s-who of all star programs from all over the country, competing at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center with the very best in the nation. Winners of this prestigious competition earned bids to the worlds cheerleading championship, as well as the vaulted NCA black jacket.

 

Although many traveling to Dallas had some difficulty getting through the snowy weather, things calmed down considerably on Friday, when preparations for the contest began in earnest. As athletes walked across the grassy knoll towards the convention center you could feel the excitement in the air, especially after the trials and tribulations of last year’s contest and strict COVID protocols.

 

Billed as the largest cheerleading competition in the world (a title it took from CHEERSPORT nationals a few years ago) NCA All Star Nationals has become the definitive stage upon which the best teams in the nation compete, often the only time they will share the same floor until the cheerleading world championships. NCA not only boasts the best teams in the country preparing for Summit and World’s but also includes dance teams, high school, recreational, and even a Cheerabilities division for the differently-abled. For most all star programs the NCA competition is the highlight of the year, allowing them to see broad fields of competitors within their divisions.

 

There were many amazing teams performing at NCA, and it would be difficult to highlight them all, but some of the most competitive divisions with some of the highest scoring teams were in the level 6 division. Here are the highest overall scoring level 6 teams from NCA:

 

L6 Large Junior COED           Cheer Extreme          Raleigh SJX                96.6167

L6 Medium Senior                  Woodlands Elite       OR      Generals         97

L6 Large Senior                      Stingray AllStars      Orange                        97.1667

L6 Medium Senior Coed         Woodlands Elite       OR      Black Ops       97.5333

L6 Large Senior Coed            Top Gun All Stars     TGLC                          98

L6 Senior Coed Open Large  Top Gun All Stars     Revelation                   98.15

L6 Intrntnl Global Coed          The CA All Stars       Camarillo Smoed        98.4333

L6 Intrntnl Open Coed Large  Top Gun All Stars     Double O                     99.2

L6 Intrntnl Open Coed NT      Twist & Shout Tulsa Adam & Eve                99.3137

 

The competition was not always easy for these teams, both Stingrays Orange and TLGC overcame difficult first days to win their respective divisions. The grit and determination both teams showed on day two was inspirational. While come-from-behind wins of both teams were quite impressive, few had the full cheer experience the way that Woodlands Elite Black Ops exhibited them with their medium coed level 6 team. The team put on an absolute exhibition with their opening tumbling sequences, showing why they are one of the best teams at NCA this year.

As strong as Black Ops initial tumbling was, their stunting was even more impressive. The team began their stunt sequence with front handspring half-ups, super clean hand to hand snapdowns, and controlled stunt movement. As if that were not enough, they staged an impressive and surprisingly controlled double-twisting pull-through in the middle part of the routine. Everyone expects a lot of twisting from The Woodlands Elite All Stars, and this team was no exception, keeping the energy moving throughout the routine and using intermittent tumbling to keep the excitement level high. What really set Black Ops apart though was their innovative use of musicality with their braced flipping sequences during the pyramid combined with twisting bajas before their high energy dance. The choreography of the extended movement in the pyramid with the beat of the music helped set Woodlands Elite apart from the rest in a very competitive division. You can hear the intensity of the music in the Black Ops music video produced by CheerMusicPro.

Congratulations to all the teams that made it to NCA this year: the last few years have been challenging for programs across the nation and the world, but your hard work and diligence were on full display in Dallas!

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Industry News: CHEERSPORT 2022

The 2022 CHEERSPORT National All-Star Cheerleading Championships wrapped up on Sunday, February 20th in Atlanta, Georgia. CHEERSPORT is one of the largest cheerleading competitions in the country, allowing recreation and all-star cheer and dance teams from California to New England to compete on a teal, carpeted stage. While the 2021 competition saw significantly fewer participants, owing largely to the pandemic, over 55,000 competitors were registered to exhibit their skills for the 2022 championship.

The competition was hosted at the Georgia World Congress Center in downtown Atlanta, with the massive space packed with parents, families, coaches, and competitors all vying for bids to the World Cheerleading Championship and an opportunity to earn the vaunted CHEERSPORT champion jacket. While CHEERSPORT began as an independent competition, it was eventually purchased by Varsity Spirit Group, and now falls under the Varsity Brand. Competitors from all over the country were excited to get back to showing off their skills in front of a packed house, and the competitions ran from very early in the morning on Saturday until the final awards ceremony, which ended near midnight Sunday evening.

 

And The Winner Is…

While there were fantastic performances from every division, there were a few programs that really shined under the bright lights and intense scrutiny of this massive competition. The level 6 teams in all divisions exhibited some of the cleanest, most difficult skills of the year, and put up some of the highest scores of the two-day competition. Here were the highest scoring teams at

CHEERSPORT:

Small International Open Coed 6       Louisiana Cheer Force Gold              97.1292

International Open 6                           Cheer Extreme Lady Lux                   97.67

Large Junior Coed 6                           Cheer Extreme Raleigh SJX              97.7375

Medium Senior Coed 6                       Spirit of Texas Royalty                       98.0167

Large Senior 6                                    The Stingray Allstars Orange             98.1333

Large Senior Coed 6                          Top Gun Allstars TGLC                      98.2333

 

Did You Hear About Top Gun?

While all of the teams were amazing, few commanded the room with the same energy and enthusiasm as Top Gun All Stars TGLC. The massive chamber at the Georgia World Congress Center was packed to the rafters as cheerleaders from all over the country came to watch a team which has become the vanguard for innovation in the cheerleading industry. They did not disappoint. Before the first note the room was electric. TGLC looked lean and mean and ready to win with unique sleeveless uniforms. Their tumbling was on point, and their opening sequence of full-up and ball-ups hit perfectly. However, the real show stopper was the hand-to-hand snap downs in their elite sequence, and, of course, the pyramid.

 

With some of the most creative cheerleading music highlighting every innovative transition and skill, the routine helped further cement TGLC’s position as cheerleading’s tastemaker. Victor Rosario’s reputation as a trendsetter and one of the most influential minds in competition cheerleading was on full display with each tightly integrated twist and skill extending briefly through the three high ranges. You can see Top Gun’s CHEERSPORT performance here. If you want to know more about Top Gun’s music, and how they effortlessly incorporated musicality and theme into their skills you can see the music video release here.

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