Cheerleading skills are vast and highly varied. They include complex, synchronized techniques involved in group stunts, and simple but confident straight-armed punch motions on the sideline. Whether you’re talking about flipping a sign during a cheer or flipping your body in a back tuck, there is one common attribute to the proper execution of ALL cheerleading skills. The attribute can be called a lot of things, but for this article, I’ll just call it “Follow Through.”
When you hit a motion in a cheer, you have to HIT the motion. Nothing looks more lack luster than a squad of cheerleaders going through lazy arm motions on the sideline. A key to having good aggressive motions is confidence in your choreography. If you are second-guessing the next motion, you aren’t going to be very aggressive or strong with your execution. The result is that you and your team will look disinterested and unorganized. This is a basic example. In other instances, the lack of follow through can be much more detrimental.
Tumbling requires a total commitment to whatever skill you are performing. When you are upside down in a tuck, you can’t afford to start second guessing what you’re doing. You need to pull your tuck, keep your eyes open, spot your landing, and stick your feet on the floor. You have to make the decision that you are going to follow through with the tuck no matter what before you even begin to throw it. If you do, the worst thing that will usually happen is you might under-rotate and land on your knees. If you’ve been around cheerleading for any length of time (or spent any time on YouTube), you’ve seen what happens when someone “freaks out” in a tuck and tries to abort. They set up in the air, they bail out, they land (painfully) on their back, head or neck. Follow through is what keeps you safe, not to mention, what gets you high marks on your score sheet.
I think stunting is where follow through (or the lack thereof) exposes the greatest difference between competing teams. A squad that has put the time in at practice and has mastered their progressions is going to be confident. A well-coached team with good communication skills, where everyone knows their job, is going to execute their stunts without second guessing. A less prepared team might be able to hit the same stunt sequences as the first team, but that team will never look as good going them. Here are some technique issues that will show up when people start second guessing what they’re doing.
Bases will not lock out their arms. I’ve never understood this, but it happens all the time. When a base is not confident, they leave a slight bend in their elbows. Maybe this is so the flyer isn’t quite so high in the air. I’m not sure. But the result is that they are working harder, they are less stable and the flyer is going to feel it and struggle more than if the bases just locked out. Listen up bases. If you are performing an extended stunt, lock your arms out! It doesn’t matter if it is the first time or the millionth time you have tried it. Bending your arms will not make the stunt easier. It will make it harder. Follow through!
With flyers, it is even easier to see when there is a lack of follow through. The first thing the flyer will do is look down at the ground. This is a sure sign that the flyer is second guessing wanting to be up in the stunt. That flyer is looking for the fastest (not necessarily safest) way to get to the ground. They are not committed to the stunt. They do not trust their bases to catch them. This stunt is not going to hit, and if it does, it is not going to look good.
You can also see a lack of follow through with flyers in one-legged stunts when they don’t quite lock out the leg they are standing on. This is the same thing as when bases don’t lock out their arms. It does not make the stunt easier. It simply makes the flyer work harder. Do not do this. Lock out the leg. Follow through.
One final example for flyers. One skill that I have noticed a lack of follow through a vast majority of the time is in double down cradles. Sometimes, it is glaringly obvious. A flyer will complete a rotation, open up and look down at her bases, and then try to pull a second twist. This is the difference between a double down and trying to pull two single twists in one cradle. Not only is it much harder, it looks terrible. A less obvious mistake is when the flyer does not open up completely, but stops pulling with her shoulders and hips, slowing her rotation. This is when the flyers land on their bellies or their sides and the bases kind of “bounce” them the rest of the way around. Anyway, the flyers are essentially going limp right before the cradle. This might be an instinctive reaction to try to absorb a hard landing. However, by not completing the double twist, they are actually causing a hard landing because they are not in a good position for the bases to catch them properly.
These are just a small sampling of examples. You can rest assured that almost EVERY cheerleading technique requires follow through. In fact, I can’t think of any that do not. So keep that in mind throughout your season and you will really develop good habits and consistent performances for all of your cheerleading skills.