Getting Ready for Tryouts

Making the Cheer Team

Whether this is your first or 12th tryouts, being nervous is perfectly normal. What is there not to be nervous about? Over the course of 1 week (typically) you are expected to learn a dance, cheer, decide on a jump sequence, and which tumbling pass to use, and then take all of that and go into a room so quiet, you can hear your own heartbeat, and perform all of those skills in front of a table full of judges. Yikes.
A Chaotic Tryout
We are here to tell you, tryouts aren’t so bad. On a blog that I read very recently, they said the key to a successful tryout, or anything having to do with athletics for that matter, is preparation.  I couldn’t have written that better. Everyone realizes this at some point or another and recently we have noticed people realize this at the last minute, the week of tryouts. They think “wow, I have all of this stuff to learn and I am nowhere near ready” then in a panic they come up to the gym and tell them they have a week to get this dance, cheer, make their jumps higher, and learn a new tumbling skill. This isn’t impossible, it has been done by a select few people, but it is not ideal.
Let’s start with the most obvious for many people, the new tumbling skill. On average, I have found it takes 1-2 months of training every week to learn a backhandspring. If you don’t already have this skill, it is very hard to start from the very beginning and learn this skill in one week. If you are able to learn that backhandspring in one week how much time did you spend on learning that skill over the course of that week? Some people, I have seen come in the gym and learn it in one class. It wasn’t perfect but hey, they were throwing it. From there all we had to do was clean it up. On the other hand, what if that backhandspring takes all week? What if learning that backhandspring gets in the way of perfecting your jumps, dance, and cheer? Everything in tryouts has a max amount of points you can get for that skill. There are a lot of variables in learning a backhandspring or any new tumbling skill for that matter. Pressuring yourself to get a new skill the week of tryouts is just adding more stress and in turn will make your tryouts much harder.
Now on to the dance/cheer. I’ve put them both in this section because they are very similar and pose the same challenges. The dance and cheer performed at high school tryouts is typically taught the week of and is typically both taught and choreographed by the graduating seniors. Even people that I have trained over the years that have been massively active in cheerleading from elementary school up struggle with their high school tryout dance and cheer. Why? Quite simply, the graduating seniors are not professional choreographers. Don’t get me wrong, I have seen plenty of cute dances made up by the graduating seniors that were very easy to follow, but, I have seen many more that were hard to follow, consisted of parts they liked from previous dances they learned (I know because our staff at the Cheer Academy taught them some of those dance elements) which made the dance very choppy, and in some of the dances, they will try to mix their own music. All of these variables decide how hard or easy the dance will be and nine times out of ten, it will be hard in every way possible. This adds time you need to spend on the dance. This can, and is always done within a week (it has to be because that’s when its taught) but it is 1,000 times easier if you start getting ready now and improve your motion technique so there is less to fix the week of. The more you improve now, the better your dance will be the week of and the more points you will score in that category.  
Finally we have jumps. Jumps are the most overlooked category by the cheerleaders trying out. I never have gotten why but cheerleaders trying out just aren’t concerned with them. Here are a few reasons why you should be concerned:
  • ·         Jumps typically have the same score weight of tumbling and dance and cheer
  • ·         I have seen more improvement in everyone’s jumps in one week than anyone’s tumbling in one month
  • ·         Everyone can do the highest scoring jumps, all they have to do is improve them
  • ·         Jumps are typically the first thing you do when you walk in to tryout meaning they are your first impression!
We have a jump class every Wednesday night and I see more and more people in that class around tryout time. People are starting to get the hint and come in for extra help in that category so why wouldn’t you? Jumps are one of the easiest categories for most people to improve in and they are typically your first impression to the judges. All you have to do is dedicate some time to making them better!
What can you do to avoid a Chaotic Tryout?
Biggest advice I can give is don’t wait until the week of to prepare. Start at least 2 weeks before the week of. It will make so much easier to fine tune everything for tryouts. As a rule of thumb, on the week of tryouts you should only perfect skills. If you stress yourself out trying to learn something the week of, you are more likely to mess-up at tryouts! Here is a few things to prepare for tryouts and to help you through tryout clinics.
  • ·         First and foremost, try to find a cheer gym close to you. Ask them what classes they offer to help you! I guarantee every gym has something to help.
  • ·         Eat healthy and get plenty of sleep the week of. That means don’t stay up late practicing!
  • ·         Get in shape before the week of tryouts. Tryouts are hard. Plain and simple. You have to be in shape or you will be sore for your tryout day.
  • ·         Talk to past and present team members. Find out everything you can about your tryouts. Ask questions, don’t be afraid.
  • ·         Try to make friends with other people trying out. You can help each other through the week!
  • ·         Take a blank tape or CD to record the dance music.
  • ·         Every time you practice, perform it like you are trying out. If you don’t feel silly, you’re most likely doing it wrong.
  • ·         Be confident in everything you do. Tell yourself you can! The more confident you are, the faster you will learn!
  • ·         Dress the part! Try to wear your team colors, all white cheer shoes, make sure your hair is neat and pulled away from your face, and tie a ribbon in your hair. Try to look the part as best as possible! Some tryouts start judging at clinic!
  • ·         Smile! Be peppy and energetic. Always show enthusiasm. 
Tryout Checklist 
  • ·         Don’t stress out! Even if this is going to be your first tryout experience, all you can do is your best!
  • ·         Stay healthy! Do Not Skip Meals!
  • ·         Know the team you are trying out for
  • ·         Know the dates for the meeting, clinics, actual tryouts, and what is needed on each day (forms, attire, etc)
  • ·         Know what skills are required (i.e. standing/running tumbling, stunts, etc.). Talk to the coach before or during the clinic and find out the main things he or she will be looking for. 
  • ·         Find out what you are required to wear for tryouts and make sure you have it the day you find out. Do not wait until the night before!
  • ·         Find an open gym to go to the week of
  • ·         Practice and perfect your skills the week of. Make sure all of your skills are still fresh.
  • ·         Try to get a copy of the music
  • ·         Make a Tryout week training plan. Dedicate time to perfect each skill (i.e. jumps, tumbling, cheer, and dance)
  • The Day of Tryouts!
  • ·         Lay out your tryout clothes the night before and make sure you have everything.
  • ·         Visualize your tryouts. Keep running through everything in your head. The more you visualize, the less likely you are to forget!
  • ·         Have a good breakfast and try to make it an hour or 2 before you tryout!
  • ·         Get there early! Don’t start off your tryouts stressed because you were late!
  • ·         Breathe! Don’t panic. Slow your heart down by counting as you breathe. Inhale for 4 seconds, exhale for 4 seconds. Believe me, it will calm your nerves!
  • ·         Don’t watch other people. Guaranteed if you watch other people, you will watch someone mess up and then you will think about messing up!
  • ·         When you walk into the tryout room/area, SMILE! Show the judges you are having a good time (even if you aren’t)
  • ·         If you mess up, pick it back up and keep going, act like you messed up on purpose!
  • ·         No matter what, have fun. If you have fun, the judges will enjoy your performance!