Something every cheerleader, coach and judge understands is that you have to follow progressions. You can not learn a double down until you have a perfect cradle. You can not throw you standing full until you have your standing tuck. Everyone knows this. Everyone accepts this. And yet, very few of us really, truly live by this. I know I am guilty as well. Rather than make my stunt group go through 100 repetitions of halves and fulls to get consistent and perfect, I get bored and give into temptation and start teaching them 360’s. Why do this when I know it is wrong? I think we can get the answer by taking a look at society.
We live in a culture of impatience. We seek immediate gratification. People want their first car to be a Lexus and will borrow a small fortune today to have one when they should probably pay cash for a used Honda, drive it till they’ve saved some money, and then buy the car of their dreams. It’s the same thing with tumbling. As soon as people get their back handspring they want to move on to the tuck. They don’t want to spend the weeks, months and/or years it takes to make it perfect. They may actually move on to a back tuck, but without having a solid backhandspring, they will never be consistent tumbling out of a handspring. And even if they can throw a tuck out of their undercutted bank handspring, they are always going to be a half count off from everyone else, hurting the synchronization. And that lack of consistency will one day lead to a mental block, and we all know how terrible those are.
If you look around and watch the cheerleaders with beautiful, perfect tumbling, you will probably notice that they have been working on their skills for a long, long time. Many of them were gymnasts. In gymnastics, the highest level athletes STILL spend time working on things as simple as a hand stand. The same is true for athletes in professional sports. NBA super stars never quit practicing free throws. The best baseball players spend hours in the batting cage and even hitting a ball off a tee. Why do we do things differently in cheerleading?
The fact is that it is our nature to be impatient. Luckily, the solution to this problem is the simplest thing in the world. We just have to dedicate time in every practice to work on basics. With stunts, this is more of a coaching issue than anything. When it comes to tumbling, it is more on the athlete. You have to get in the gym or the grass or where ever you can safely practice and keep doing your back handsprings until you can throw them connected across the floor, gaining speed along the way. And then you have to do them some more, and some more. You have to get off of the trampoline. You have to keep your shoes on. There is no short cut and no easy way. But trust me when I say it will be worth it.
Following progressions will provide a ton of benefits. For one, you need to have that strong foundation in your skills in order to have a higher maximum potential. In other words, without a great round off, you will never throw a full. Following progressions will cause you to have better conditioning. Instead of doing 20 tucks with a spot, you will do 100 handsprings on your own. That is much better conditioning. And a big one is that following progressions will give you real confidence in your skills when it comes time to perform them in a game or at competition. Remember that cheerleading is really all about performing. If you aren’t confident, it will show, and your performance will suffer.
Remember that nothing in life that is worth while comes without putting in the work. Follow your progressions in all of your pursuits, academic, professionally, financially, socially, and of course, in cheerleading, and you will have the solid foundation it takes to go as far as you want to go.