This is it folks, the mythical “off-season” for cheerleading.  This is the 2 to 6 weeks you get away from the pastime that we love.  The high school cheerleaders have just had tryouts and are off until they go to camp.  The all star cheerleaders may have actually just wrapped up one more competition (they will have them in June before long), probably had tryouts, and are now free to schedule a family vacation.  Never mind that the all star kids are probably still paying their monthly fees for “optional” tumbling classes.  Your break is in terms of time, not finances.

I have often said that one of the hardest things about cheerleading is the lack of an off-season.  I mean this from a physical standpoint, in that your body never really gets a chance to recover before the start of the next season.  Cheerleaders put off dealing with injuries they incur in August and try to schedule surgery in April and squeeze 12 weeks of rehab into the 6 weeks between tryouts and camp.  No wonder we have such a high incident of injury in cheerleading!

I also mean this from a financial point of view.  You’re probably paying for tumbling lessons basically year round.  If you’re in an all star gym, you pay 11 months, minimum.  Anymore, I think most gyms have you paying year round.  If you are a school cheerleader, you probably have a “team class” that runs from August through basketball season which goes into February.  If you compete later than that, you probably keep paying for lessons late as well.  But there is no respite after the cheer banquet.  You then have to pay for open gym, tumbling classes or private lessons so you can get ready for tryouts.  These, by the way, are probably more expensive than the monthly lessons you took with your team.

But the biggest challenge of the lack of an off-season is the mental grind of it.  Cheerleaders suffer from burnout worse than any other athletes in high school.  When the football players finish their final game, they have 6 months of anticipation to get ready for the next season.  That time away from the sport gives them a chance to recharge their motivational batteries.  They work hard conditioning during their off-season, but they are away from football.  By the time the next season comes around, they are starving to get into their pads and hit each other.  Now I’m not saying cheerleaders don’t love to cheer.  But without that time away from cheerleading, we never really get to miss it.  Those few weeks off feel like heaven and dragging ourselves back to the first practice, to start all over, can be a difficult mental challenge.

I never cheered in high school.  I only cheered in college.  Our off-season was from the end of basketball, which was usually March, until just before college camp in early August.  That was a nice long break.  Most of us, myself included, stayed involved in cheerleading during the break.  I worked at gyms, taught at summer cheer camps, and worked out, stunted and tumbled with whomever was still around campus.  But I was still on a break.  And by the time camp was coming around for my team, I couldn’t wait to pack up and start the season.  We came back refreshed, healthy and motivated.

Also, most of the cheerleaders I knew who improved a lot during college did so during this off-season.  I know that is when I made the biggest improvements to my tumbling and stunting.  During the year, you are so busy you’re lucky just to maintain what you have.  That is another huge benefit of having an off-season.

I would love to see cheerleading develop a shorter season for all of the reasons cited above.  Having 4 to 6 months away from cheerleading will give athletes a chance to get themselves together, both physically and mentally.  It will give them a chance to go get a job, not only to help earn money to pay to cheer but also for the experience of working.  It will give cheerleaders some time to try other activities.  It will give them time to study.  And from a selfish perspective, it will give them a chance to get in the gym and improve their stunts, tumbling and over all athleticism.

As cheerleading coaches, we need to be mindful of “burn out” so that we keep cheerleading safe, healthy and fun.  Finding a way to extend the off-season would go a long way to fighting off burn out.

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4 Comments on “Off-Season”

  1. Jessica Says:

    I think an off season also allows kids to create an identity with out cheer. In every cheerleaders life a time comes when it is done. For so many kids and adults this time is devastating. I think the end of any athlete’s career is sad, but for cheerleaders it seems to be much worse. I think it is so hard because they are never really given an opportunity to experience life with out it.

  2. lincy Says:

    I totally agree. The off season really gives the individual a time to think about what they currently contribute to the team and improve on that. Since cheer is a team sport youre always doing things together and for the greater good of the team therefore you never really get a chance to improve to your full capacity. Sadly many coaches dont even think about burn out. our cheer team only gets a week or two in between seasons. We practice throughout the summer into the seasons of football, bball and competition.

  3. denise Says:

    My team starts in November and runs through the beginning of March, which is great for time off, however we will NEVER beat alot of the teams we go up against because they do practice year round and we simply dont have the time to get the difficulty that they do. also I coach High school of my team (16-25 girls) usually 3-5 will work out on their own in the off season. The girls do need a break but the high school girls that do not cheer at a gym and wont go on to college cheer will miss it when it is gone. My way of attempting to combat being a weak team on the floor (which is heart breaking to the girls) and not having burn out is to hold year round work shops, un-required practices. scheduled gym time, scheduled jump work outs, scheduled stunt and tumble work outs, all with me at the high school so that there isnt additional cost and if they are on family vacation or just really need a break its there, but for those wanting to work on skills they get alittle more 1 on 1 to improve. that is my approach this year. but with out some additional practice and work out time my team will never hold up against the teams we compete against now.

  4. […] Four months should be set aside for an off-season. The author of my favorite cheerleading blog, Cheerleading Daily, mentioned that when he was cheering in college, he saw the most dramatic improvement in his skills […]

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