Back Spotting – in General

The job of Back Spotting is one of the trickiest in cheerleading.  As their title implies, they are key to ensuring the safety of the Flyer.  Like a Life Guard on the beach, the Back Spot must be constantly vigilant, carefully observing the Flyer’s shoulders and hips, looking for any clue that they might be leaning in any direction, and ready to do whatever it takes to stay between them and the ground in the event of a fall.

But in addition to this most obvious (and stressful) role, a  Back Spot has many other duties.  They assist the Flyer when loading in on 2 feet.  They boost the Flyer up on 1-legged stunts.  They stabilize the Flyer’s ankles.  They usually have the responsibility for “calling” the counts for a stunt.  They also should be responsible for lining up a stunt group in the proper spacing for a formation.  When someone asks me what a Back Spot’s job is, I usually answer; “Whatever it takes.”

From a technique perspective, the  Back Spot generally does not have to worry about being judged.  They are frequently key to the legality or illegality of a stunt or transition (which we will get into in just a minute), but in terms of the execution score for stunts, Back Spots usually are not seen enough to impact very much (other than keeping the stunts in the air).  About the only 2 execution errors I ever write down on score sheet related to Back Spots are if they are not watching their Flyer (ALWAYS keep your eyes on the flyer), or if they do not reach up high in the cradle.  When it comes to most everything else (how to boost, footwork, grip, etc.) whatever works is usually fine.

For legality, Back Spotting is key!  Also, as a coach, you absolutely have to be knowledgeable about your competition’s requirements for legal  Back Spotting.  For instance, some events make it illegal for a Back Spot to have a hand UNDER any part of the Flyer’s foot.  You have to know if that is the case, and if so, you have to make sure the Back Spot know that.  Things get even more specific and complicated when dealing with pyramids, transitions and single base stunting.  I can’t go into all of these examples so just understand that legality requirements for  the Bask Spot can be entirely different for every single stunt in your routine, and vary from one event to the next, so do not make the mistake of assuming anything.  KNOW THE RULES.

As I referenced earlier, Back Spots are chiefly responsible for safety.  Being safe in stunts is all about anticipating mistakes before they happen.  As a Back Spot, you have to be watching every move your Flyer makes and how those moves will affect the stunt.  You have to know that if her Liberty foot starts sliding down her straight leg her left hip is going to drop, followed by her left shoulder, and she will usually fall toward the side base.  You have to act BEFORE the Flyer falls.  If you react to the fall, you will be too late.  That is the “art” of Back Spotting, knowing when to go from “saving the stunt,” to “saving the Flyer.”  I am not trying to advocate giving up on stunts.  After all, the safest way to finish a stunt is however it was choreographed.  However, once a stunt has reached the point of no return and the Flyer is absolutely going down, the Back Spot (and the bases too!) need to release the Flyer’s foot, ankle or whatever else they have and catch her.

The safest way to catch, not only for the Flyer but also for the Back Spot, is to step in close to the flyer and catch high.  I will explain both parts of this.

Stepping in sounds simple enough but is actually the most common mistake I see Back Spots make.  When something (or someone) is falling at you, your instinct is to step away from it (or them).  If you are stepping back, this puts you in a horrible position to catch a falling flyers.  The first reason is that you have to extend your arms out, reaching away from your body, to catch.  You have much more strength when your arms are in close to your body than when they are extended out away from your body.  Also, by being in close, you can catch the Flyer with your body in the “bear hug” technique.  This is basically what it sounds like and I’m running out of space so I won’t go into details.  The last reason (and maybe biggest) is for your own safety.  When a Flyer falls, they usually reach out with their arms.  That is going to place fists, fingers, finger nails, and elbows all a couple of feet away from the Flyer’s body.  These are the things that tend to send Back Spots to the Emergency Room for stitches.  If you step back, you are right in the path of an elbow.  However, if you step in, almost under the flyer, you might get a seat (that’s cheer-talk for butt) in your chest.  You might get the back of the Flyer’s arm on your shoulder.  You might even get an elbow on the top of your head.  But you are not going to get hit in the eyes, nose or mouth.  And if you get hit in any of those places, not only do you get hurt, you probably won’t be able to catch your Flyer, so they get dropped too.

Catching high is sort of a side effect of stepping in.  There are a couple of very good reasons for catching high.  The first is gravity.  The longer something is falling, the faster it gets.  The fast something is falling, the heavier it gets.  So simply put, if you catch your Flyer higher and earlier, she will be lighter.  Another reason is that the longer a Flyer is falling the more likely she will start to “freak out,” and start flailing.  That’s when you might get that painful elbow on top of your head. 

This rather long article has really only scratched the surface of the very complex task of Back Spotting.  I hope all of you coaches (and Flyers!) really appreciate just how challenging their job is.  I have always called the Back Spots the Quarterbacks of stunts, even though they rarely get the credit they deserve.

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24 Comments on “Back Spotting – in General”

  1. brittany Says:

    how to be a backspot

    • Kayi Says:

      To Be a backspot in general, it takes alot of time, balance, practice, and communitcation. If your backspot for preps, extentions, spongues, and stuff with two bases and 1 flyer, you take pretty much all the weight of her butt/sides/body. the bases hold her up, you help out. If your catching her, keep yourself close to her, and when she lands in your arms (cradle), make sure your arms are extented out like a V. Do not ever move out, when she is falling, you don’t want her to HIT THE GROUND EVER.
      Trust me i’ve been there, and it’s not cool. Hope this helps (:

  2. Bay stormers competitive cheerleader Says:

    This is great I am a flyer and I have to trust my bases but there’s nothing that makes me feel more confident than having a back spot that I know will catch me and they need to understand when I feel safe and trust my WHOLE stunt group beneath me I will be much tighter and have much better technique which means I won’t injure anyone.

    • Kayi Says:

      Since your a competitive cheerleader, could you tell me, is it possible to get any one as a flyer into the air? how can i get her into the air into a extention with out having her lean forward all the time since there’s a ground person infront of her? Thanks.

      • xiomyra davis Says:

        if ur talking about a POP then u hav to tell the front spot to move out of the way and then u throw the flyer into the air with the help of the bases and then extend your arms out and catch the flyer

  3. Bay stormers competitive cheerleader Says:

    You should write an article on bases and more on flyers.

  4. cheerleader for life Says:

    As a flyer there is nothing that makes me feel safer than a trusty back spot and it’s suprising the differnece in my technique when have a trusty back spot compared to when I don’t.

  5. Kayi Says:

    I am a cheerleader @ My High school. I Work as a backspot, base for shoulder sits, base for preps, sometimes a flyer for shoulder sits, and also ground spotter. Could you give me any adivice how to tell my flyer ( the person sitting on my shoulders how to dismount properly?) she keeps doing it wrong, and she almost broke my neck. :/ I’m kind of scared doing shoulder sits with her again, but she’s the lightest one on the team for it besides the team captain.

    • abby Says:

      i’have the same problem with my flyer…at dismount she pull her weight on my neck and it’s hurt the whole time. have you talk at your flyer about it?

    • Mikaela Says:

      Make sure the flyer is locking out her legs and arms. You get much more power locked out than you do with bent arms and legs for dismount. Also as a base(the one being sat on) make sure you squat when dismounting then lift them up and off. Also the secondary base should make sure they are boosting the flyer off. Hoped that helped!

  6. sammmi a. Says:

    thankyou so much for your aavice i just found out i was the backspotter an hour ago and i was a little freaked out im 12 yeisi old but i ink your advise helped alot.GO MUSTANGS

  7. Silly Says:

    hey umm i cheer and they have this girl shes not the captin or asstiant but she told my coach to but me as a backspot and i dont feel comftorble as a back spot how do i tell my coach?PLeae email me how at sillyme2002@gmail.com and tell me hey im anwsering your question from the cheer and if anyone could do it before saturday thanks :)


    • Hey there. Thanks for posting a good question. Here’s my suggestion. First, don’t wait until stunting to tell your coach. Give them as much notice as you can so they can make adjustments if need be. If you give them time, they will be less rushed and more inclined to hear you out. As fir what to tell your coach, you have to explain what your concern is. Is there a safety issue? Do you need more instruction on the job of a back spot? Does your flyer need to control her elbows? Is there a personality conflict in the stunt group? Are the stunts too advanced? These are the kinds of specific things a coach needs to know.

      Understand something else. There is a difference between thinking something is unsafe and dimply being uncomfortable. Sometimes you have to do things that aren’t comfortable to participate. I was never comfortable tumbling on a basketball court. It was scary. But I could do it and my coach knew I could do it. My choice was to suck it up and be a little uncomfortable until I got used to it, or the coach would have found someone else who would. So you need to honestly ask yourself what it is about backspotting that makes you uncomfortable. Cheering often means putting yourself in scary situation that isn’t comfortable. Is it something you want to work through? If not, cheering might not be for you. That might be hard to hear but I’m being honest so I can help you. Consider all of this and be direct and you and your coach will work it out. Good luck.

  8. Sami Says:

    Hi! I am 15 and I will be starting my 2nd year as a cheerleader this fall. I am a backspot and I REALLY enjoy it! I just want to know if there are any ways that I and my stunt group can try to work on to get my flyer higher up into the air when we do a cradle because it seems like we just can’t seem to get her up. Thanks!

    • Wiktoria Says:

      You need to push her really hard and then quickly grab her ancles i know it seem a bit hard but Yeah! I know that feeling cause i am back and i got the same problem cause i was thinking that If i am gonna push her up she gonna fall down cause i am gonna be to slow to grab her ancles but you need to Try do that :)

  9. Wiktoria Says:

    I am a back and I feel a bit not important :c I Really want to be a flyier but I am not good at it :/ I was a base before and i felt more conftable cause When i am back i am scared of doing cradle cause yesterday my friend (a flyier) hit me in the nose Really hard :(

  10. leelo Says:

    im a backspot and i have been doing everything possible but when we are doing a simple lib a base wont get under the stunt and keeps moving back they blame me for getting under the stunt how do i fix this situation


    • You raise a few important points. First, it is generally illegal for a backspot to support the weight of the flyer because that means they are now basing instead of spotting. If you are under the flyer, you need to stop. That will solve 2 issues. You won’t get a penalty and it will become apparent to the stunt group and your coaches that the base is out of position.

      As for fixing the liberty, see the article on liberties and being solid. It should offer good advice.

      Having said that, I suggest observing the flyers hips. Wherever the flyers hips go, that’s where the stunt goes. If the lib is traveling backward, the flyer is probably resting on her heel which drops her hips back. That’s the easy part. The hard part is to figure our WHY she is on her heel. It isn’t always just the flyers fault. It’s also wrong to blame you. It is everyone’s responsibility to make whatever adjustments are necessary to keep the stunt in the air.

      I hope that was helpful.

  11. christopher Says:

    Hi, I’m a competition cheerleader (male) and I back spot most if not all stunts. With one stunt In particular we do a 180° turn and extension liberty. But everytime we go up one of the bases push me out from under her makeing her lose balance. I have addressed the issue and it persists to happen. What can I do to help and what should I say to my bases?


    • Thanks for your question. It’s hard to come up with an answer without seeing your stunt. There are a lot of different ways to 180 up a liberty and they all have pros and cons. I’m sorry but I don’t know how to help you with this.

      I do find it unusual that a base would knock a back spot out if the way. Generally, a back spot is prohibited from supporting the weight of the flyer. Therefore, the base should have no need to tussle with the back spot. You might want to check with your coach and make sure everyone is on the same page as to their roles in the stunt group. There might just be some confusion going on.


  12. […] Helpful Resources Back Spotting – in General | Cheerleading Daily […]

  13. Trinity Jones Says:

    im a backspot and I love this article and a lot of the other ones ive read too. this is going to help my stunt group. thanks!!!!!!!

  14. Rachid Says:

    Hi, I have just started to be a back spot and actually to be a cheerleader. I do not know if I have to push the flyer up or just be a support in case the flyer fall. Today I really pushed her to up, with strength and keep her steady as much as I could. It helped me realize that when she stunts, she does it better. But I do not know if all this my effort is needed. Could you give a direction? Thank you :)

    • Halle Says:

      As a backspot you absolutely have to pull up with all of your strength if you want the stunt to be good and stay up. Though you do this you also are the flyer’s main person that catches her when she falls. Backspotting is hard but a very rewarding stunt position. Be warned people will think that you don’t do anything


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