Get Higher Basket Tosses

Posted July 13, 2011 by cheerleadingdaily
Categories: Stunting

Basket Tosses are one of the most exciting, dynamic skills performed in cheerleading.  Whether you’re talking about complex, kick double full baskets, or a simple toe touch, nothing gets the crowd to “ohhh” and “ahhh” like height.  There are lots of moving parts in a basket toss, and they all play a part in determining how high the flyer will travel.  This article is going to talk about two of them.  Follow these two, simple rules and you will soon be hearing the crowd “ohhh” and “ahhh” for your basket tosses too.

First, we will talk about the bases.  There are many different elements about the bases and their technique that will all impact the height of their toss.  There is the issue of physical strength.  There is the issue of timing.  There is the issue of experience.  However, there is one, simple factor that will override every other basing issue in terms of basket toss height.  That factor is how high the bases’ hands are at the moment they “break” the basket and the flyer’s feet lose contact with the bases.

The reason for this is simple.  Suppose two base groups are equally strong and have equal flyers.  They throw a basket at the same time.  One base group is taller.  They have longer legs and longer arms.  When they fully extend their arms while their hands are locked in the basket, their hands are 8 feet off the ground.  If their toss generates 4 feet of thrust, the flyer will reach a height of 12 feet.  Suppose the other group with shorter arms and legs stretches up to a mere height of 7 feet.  If they toss just as hard as the first group, their basket will still be a foot lower, just because their release point for the basket was lower.  Make sense?

So now the question is how to go about raising the release point for the bases.  No, you can’t always just go out and get taller bases.  Nice try.  But here are some things you CAN do.

First, make sure the bases are close together.  At the moment they release their grip, they should be chest to chest.  This will allow their arms to be straight up, perpendicular to the ground.  And separation between the bases will cause their arms to be angled a little more.  In order to be as close together as possible (without banging heads when the flyer loads in), make sure to use good posture, keeping your shoulders directly over your hips.  Do not lean forward and absorb the flyer’s weight with your back.  Instead, absorb with your legs.  Not only does this help you stay close to each other, it also protects your back from injury.

Second, when you are tossing your basket, you want the bases to literally jump.  A lot of people are surprised by this, but it makes perfect sense.  For one thing, if you are throwing with your legs (pushing) as hard as you can, you will jump.  So if you aren’t jumping, you still aren’t pushing your best.  Secondly, if you jump 4 inches off the ground, that raises your release point 4 inches in the air.  Every inch makes a difference when your flyer is trying to learn a new skill, so don’t give them away with bad technique.

Finally, toss straight up, following through by “flicking” your fingers straight up in the air.  Sometimes, you will see bases follow through by throwing their heads and hands back.  They might be jumping, but instead of jumping straight up (in the direction they want the flyer to travel), they do a  “C” jump with arching backs.  This greatly lowers the release point of the basket.  It also disperses all of that momentum out to the sides instead of concentrating it directly under the flyers feet.  If might feel, and even look, like a more powerful toss, but it is inefficient.  Most of the energy is being wasted instead of used.  Don’t make that mistake.  By the way, it can also cause the flyer to by thrown behind the head of whichever base is arching the most because the following through of their hands behind their head will take the flyer in that direction.  Do that and you’ll wind up on YouTube, in a bad way.

As for the flyer, your job is to capture as much of the energy generated by the bases as possible.  You do this by doing two basic things.  First, you stay in contact with the bases hands as long as you possible can.  In other words, do not jump!  As you feel the bases driving up, you should be standing up on the balls of your feet.  Squeeze your legs and feet together.  If your legs separate, your feet can start to slide off the basket before the bases release their grip.  Sliding off the side of the basket can waste the majority of the power generated by the bases, so squeeze those feet together. 

Also, make sure to keep good body position, staying perpendicular to the floor.  Your shoulders, hips and toes should be in a straight line at the moment the bases release.  If anything is out of alignment, some of the energy of the toss will be used to take you in that direction instead of it all being used to take you straight up.

Like I said, there are many other considerations in baskets.  But follow these basics and you’ll probably start seeing better height.  Also, always, always, always use good spotting and cradling technique in baskets.  If people start getting hurt, they lose confidence, and then technique goes out the window.  When the flyer is confident that she will be caught, she will keep her hands and elbows to herself and the bases won’t be getting black eyes or busted lips.  It is a win-win.  And that is not only good for safety, it will also get you the “ohhhs” and “ahhhs” that translate to better scores for your routine.

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Mental Blocks – Standing Tucks

Posted July 8, 2011 by cheerleadingdaily
Categories: Tumbling

As requested from one of our readers, this article is going to deal with mental blocks related to standing tucks.  Please keep the suggestions coming.  They are most appreciated!

Standing tucks seem to be one of the most significant mile-stones that a cheerleader reaches in their skill development.  Tucks are often the gateway trick of making the varsity team at your school or the highest level team at your all star gym.  On judging panels, “squad tucks,” still always seems to be the standard to score in the 9 out of 10 range for standing tumbling, and I don’t see that changing any time soon.

Lots of cheerleaders hit a road block when they start working on a standing tuck.  I believe it is very common for cheerleaders and coaches to think students have a mental block when the struggle to throw their standing tuck.  However, in almost every case, I believe this is a misdiagnosis of the problem.  Here comes a lengthy explanation…

When it comes to tumbling, most TRUE mental blocks come from the anticipation of the trick.  For instance, they are nervous about their full.  They think about it in the round off.  They undercut their back handspring.  They lose their power, and then bail out on the full.  But a standing tuck is over with in basically the blink of an eye.  There isn’t much time to get nervous.  Mental blocks sometimes occur, but I’ve found them to be rare.  In fact, most advanced students that I’ve worked with who have suffered mental blocks lose all of their tumbling EXCEPT for their standing tucks.  I have even seen standing tucks used as a therapeutic tool to help students overcome other mental blocks.

I’m not saying that there aren’t a lot of cheerleaders who struggle to overcome a fear of standing tucks.  There are many.  I was one of them.  However, there is a difference between being afraid to attempt a trick and having a mental block. 

Honest fear of a standing tuck might simply be a matter of not having perfected it yet.  Remember in an earlier paragraph where I mention that tucks are often a gateway for a cheerleader to make a varsity team.  That being the case, a lot of cheerleaders rush to start learning a tuck, well before they should.  They have not yet perfected their back handspring.  They have not yet developed the lower ab and hip flexor strength to pull their legs and hips over their shoulders.  In other words, they are physically not capable of consistently landing their tuck, their body knows this, and they are rightfully scared.  I believe that this fear is frequently mis-labeled as a mental block.

Dealing with THAT type of fear is simple, but time-consuming.  I suggest taking a look at another article on this blog called Standing Tucks are Simple.  It provides some useful guidance on tuck technique. 

As for gaining confidence (overcoming fear) in your standing tuck, there are two things that will help you do that.  The first is do more tucks.  I know, I know, pretty obvious.  I had an instructor once who used to quiz us by saying, “Repetition is the key.  Repetition is the key.  Repetition is the key.  What is the key?”  Every responded, “Repetition.”  I think this saying is especially true in standing tucks.  Also, do not allow yourself to be limited to only throwing them with a spotter.  If you have to take your shoes off to throw them by yourself, do it.  If you have to use a cheese mat, do that.  Use a trampoline (under supervision, and using correct technique).  And, of course, also use a spotter.  But you are better off throwing 100 tucks with a cheese mat and no shoes than throwing 10 tucks on the hard floor in shoes with a spotter.  Remember, repetition is the key!

The other thing to help build confidence is conditioning.  The first thing you have to do is be honest about your physical condition.  I once had a young student.  She learned very quickly and was performing advanced running tumbling by the time she was 10.  But then, she started gaining weight.  Lot’s of weight.  By the time she was 13 she was 40 or 50 pounds over weight.  Not surprisingly, her tumbling suffered.  Her mom had her in private lessons and open gyms, looking for some technique that she could learn to get her to start landing her tumbling again.  News flash: there isn’t one.  You have to be an exceptional athlete to throw a tuck.  The moral of the story is be honest.  Maybe you need to tone up a little.  Maybe you need to work on your abs.  Maybe you need to improve your jump strength.  Whatever it is, as you become physically stronger, you will automatically develop more confidence in your tumbling.  Soon, that “mental block” will start to fade away.

Now to get into REAL mental blocks.  Like I said, these are rare for standing tucks.  These are when you have a well conditioned athlete who is proficient in their standing tucks, and suddenly, for whatever reason, they get freaked out and won’t throw them anymore.  I think I have seen this happen 4 or 5 times in the thousands of students I have worked with.  In most cases, it has eventually derailed their cheerleading career.  However, there are a couple of things we’ve tried that have helped, at least in the short-term.

The first thing is to video tape them performing the skill.  I actually use video as a teaching tool for stunts and tumbling, even when there is no mental block to overcome.  When a student actually sees what they are doing, not only does it help them correct technical issues, it really boosts their confidence.  By the way, everyone I’ve ever shown video of their tumbling too has commented that they didn’t look anything like what they visualized in their mind.  It makes a big difference.  Try it!

Most other techniques I’ve used involve rather advanced spotting skills.  Do not attempt to use these spotting techniques if you are not a strong spotter/instructor. 

The first is a “forced spot.”  I use this on students who are scared to even begin.  I stand next to them and count out the tuck, “5, 6, 7, 8.”  On “1,” if they do not go, I pick them up and flip them over and land them on their feet (I’m a pretty strong guy).  This is usually very sudden and a little scary/shocking for the student, even though I tell them ahead of time that I am going to do it.  Pretty soon, they are more scared of having me flip them than they are of just throwing the tuck.  They are still getting a spot, even if it is only a “mental spot” and I am not actually helping them physically, but at least they’re throwing it.

The next spotting technique is a “delayed spot.”  At this point, the student is scared, but they are throwing it with a spot.  Now, instead of starting with my hand already on the student’s back, my hand is just behind her, not touching her.  As she starts to perform the tuck, I put my hand on her back so she can feel it, and then she continues through the skill.  You can start off touching the student as soon as she bends her knees to start her jump.  Then, work your way down to where you are not touching her until just before the landing.  Also, try to get to where your arms are hanging at your sides rather than in a ready position behind the student.  All of these adjustments make the student “feel” more exposed, which allows them to overcome increasing degrees of fear.  When doing this, make gradual changes.  Do not make adjustments until the student has truly mastered whatever degree of spot you are giving them.  Also, NEVER try to “trick” the student.  If you say you are going to touch their back halfway through, you’d better do it, even if they don’t need it.  If you lie to them, you will lose their trust and you will be useless to them as a coach.  Seriously, that is no exaggeration.

This has been a lengthy article, so I’ll sum up a little bit.  Check out the article, Tucks are Simple, for tuck technique advice.  Be careful not to misdiagnosis a lack of readiness for a true mental block.  Don’t look for short cuts.  Do the work.  Repetitions are the key.  Honestly evaluate your physical condition.  If you encounter a real mental block, video tape yourself.  Watch the tape over and over.  Be able to visualize exactly what you look like.  Seek out a strong spotter and try to gradually wean yourself off the spot.  These techniques are not “tricks.”  You will not just “snap out of it.”  They take time, but they do work.  Have faith and work hard and you will get over your mental block.

Flyer’s Mental Blocks – Solution #1

Posted July 5, 2011 by cheerleadingdaily
Categories: Stunting

(I plan to do several articles on mental blocks.  I will probably include the first 2 paragraphs of this article in each and every one of them.  Once you’ve read them, you will understand why.)

All mental blocks are different.  They have different triggers.  They have varying consequences.  They surround different tricks.  That being the case, they also have different remedies. 

First, you have to try to understand the mental block.  This is hard to do if you have never had one.  A cheerleader with a mental block is not JUST scared.  If that was all it is, you could overcome a mental block with bribes, threats, or just taking a deep breath and “going for it.”  A mental block is paralyzing.  It is not logical or rational.  And they can happen to anyone, at any time.  Trying to understand them is like trying to understand a migraine headache.  If you’ve never had one, you really can’t comprehend what they are like.  The best thing you can do is be supportive and patient and help the student work through it.

Having said all of that, let’s look at a type of stunting mental blocks.  This one is when a student’s uncertainty causes them to use poor execution.  They will still attempt a stunt, but they won’t really go for it.  You’ll see this frequently when flyers are starting to learn 1-legged stunts like liberties (libs).  They won’t quite lock out their leg.  They will hold their breath.  They will look down.  eventually, they will just sort of fall out of the stunt into the bases cradle.  Worse than that, they might just “step down” onto their back leg, which really means, they’ll collapse and kick their back spot in the face on the way down.

For this kind of situation,one solution is to remove the flyer’s fear of falling.  You can do this simply by having the stunt group cradle the flyer IMMEDIATELY, upon hitting the trick.   This way, the flyer knows they don’t have to worry about holding the stunt.  All they have to do is get up into the stunt (which is the hardest part of most stunts), and then the bases will cradle immediately.  Pretty soon, the flyers will start being more aggressive locking out their legs.  They will start to think about hollowing out.  They will start to concentrate on how they are pulling their lib leg.  They will do these things because they are no longer worrying about staying in the air. 

After a little while, start having the group hold the stunt, but only for a defined amount of time.  I usually start with 2 seconds.  If you tell the flyer they only have to hold it for 2 seconds, it is amazing how they will suddenly start to use good technique in the air.  You can add time as you go, but do not rush it.  In fact, I think it is better to let the flyer ask to hold it longer.  Most flyers start to get pretty competitive with themselves, wanting to hold it longer and longer before cradling.  I usually find myself telling them, “No, let’s just hold it for 5 seconds, not 8.”  Before long, the flyer is begging you to let them stay in the stunt that they were just too scared of to even attempt correctly a few practices ago.

If you are going to try this approach to fixing a mental block, it is important that the group is very confident with cradling.  That is because the cradle is the “security blanket” for the flyer that allows them to overcome their fear.  If the group is not solid with their cradles, you probably have a progression issue and need to back off of one-legged stunts anyway.

One more important point for this approach.  Make sure that you emphasise using proper cradle technique.  It is okay to use a sweep cradle here instead of a pop cradle (in fact I usually do).  But it is not okay to let the group be lazy in the actual cradle.  Make sure the bases are still catching high and absorbing with their legs.  Make sure the flyer is piking her legs and catching her bases’ shoulders, and supporting her weight in the cradle.  If you are using this approach, you will probably be executing a lot of cradles.  That is a lot of opportunity for you to reinforce good technique (or bad), so take advantage of it.

As I mentioned at the top of this article, I plan to do more.  If anyone has a specific example of a mental block they would like to see addressed, please feel free to post it. 🙂

Following Through

Posted July 1, 2011 by cheerleadingdaily
Categories: Stunting, Tumbling

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.

Handstand Snap-Downs

Posted June 29, 2011 by cheerleadingdaily
Categories: Tumbling

Handstand snap-downs are one of the best, all-purpose tumbling drills to do practice if you want to improve your tumbling.  You don’t need a spotter.  You don’t need mats or equipment.  You don’t even need much space.  You can do lots and lots of them.  They’re safe.  And they help you to improve at everything from a cartwheel to a layout!  First, here is the “how to do” a handstand snap-down.

You start off with basic handstand technique.  Begin in a lunge, leading with whichever foot is your lead foot for a cartwheel.  Keep you arms stretched out, shoulder-width apart.  Your eyes should be looking on the floor about 3 or 4 feet out in front of your lead foot (which is where your hands are going to go).

Moving along, continue with the handspring technique.  Reach those hands out.  As your hands are touching the floor, you should be lifting up (kicking up) your back leg (not the lunge leg).  You should also be pushing off with your lunge leg.  As your legs rise up into a handstand, squeeze your legs together and point your toes. 

Here’s where it starts to get different than a handstand.  Instead of straightening your body all the way out into a nice, flat body position, as you begin to reach equalibrium, allow your back to arch slightly.  Your feet should be directly over your shoulders, or maybe even slightly in front of them.  Your hips will be behind your shoulders.

Also, allow your shoulders to “sag” somewhat.  This will allow you to push or “shrug” when the time comes.  Do not bend your arms at the elbow.

Since your hips are behind your shoulders, gravity will start to pull you down and out of your handstand in the direction that you just lunged from.  When you feel gravity grab hold of you, that is when you have to jump into action.

As your legs start to drop back towards the ground, use your ab

Question Authority

Posted June 10, 2011 by cheerleadingdaily
Categories: Competition Advice

I’m a rule-follower.  I almost never question authority.  Don’t get me wrong, I check my receipt at the grocery to make sure my coupon rang up, and if it doesn’t, I point that out.  But for the most part, if an official tells me something is right, I tend to assume they know what they’re talking about and accept what they say.  This tendency of mine almost cost one of my teams (BIG TIME) at a large National Championship event. 

Here’s the quick back ground.  I was working as a tumbling instructor for a relatively new (3-year-old) high school cheerleading program.  The coach was a young lady who was a former all star student of mine.  Also, this was her first job as Head Coach and Advisor of a cheer program.  All of that being said, she asked me for advice quite a bit, and I was happy to give it to her.

Anyway, we were at Nationals.  In the preliminary round, we didn’t do so well.  We had a few tumbling touch downs and a stunt come down.  Our division was fairly tough, but I had seen a few other teams struggle as well.  According to the competition rules, at least 50% of the teams would advance to the semi-finals.  Based on our performance and the other teams that I saw, I figured it was going to be close.  I was right.

Now for some math.  There were 19 teams in the division.  Of those 19 teams, the top 4 were advanced straight to the finals, bi-passing the semi-finals.  Of the remaining 15 teams, 7 were selected to go on to the semi-finals.  We were ranked 8th, exactly 1 place shy of advancing.  By my math, the competition had advanced 11 teams out of 19, which is more than 50%, so I figured we were out of luck.

However, my young head coach could not accept that.  She said it just didn’t “feel right.”  Based on our team’s performance, she thought we “deserved” to make it out of the prelims.  Personally, I agreed that our routine was good enough to be finals-worthy.  However, being a judge, I know that judging can be highly subjective and sometimes people just have different opinions.  We re-added all of the numbers on our score sheets.  The math was right.  I didn’t think we could argue any of the specific scores we were given.  Again, I thought we were done.  But the coach wouldn’t let it go.  So she and I and the rest of our staff waited for 2 hours to speak to an official about the rankings.  Coach tried every appeal she could think of.  This guy was very nice and sympathetic, but he wasn’t budging.  He explained that he COULD have advanced us into semi’s, but he had to make a cut somewhere, and it just happened to be at 7.  He also explained that he cut it off there because there was a 4 point gap between 7th and 8th and only a 1 point gap between 8th and 9th.  Cutting at the largest score break is the industry standard, so again, I figured the issue was closed.

There was a little bit of crying.  Then we got on a bus and headed back to the hotel.  Me and staff were already talking about next year, tryouts and how we were going to definitely make it further.  The coach, on the other hand, was reading all of the fine print in the rule book.  By the way, she was doing this without any encouragement from the rest of us, who were all older and more experienced than she was.  In fact, we had each basically told her she was wasting her time.  And then, just as we were pulling into the hotel parking lot, she shouted out, “We should have advanced to semi’s!”

Coach explained that the rule book said at least 50% of the teams had to be advanced to the semi’s.  I said, “Yeah, and they did.  We had 19 in the division and 11 advanced.  That’s more than 50%.”  Coach replied, “Yeah, but only 7 advanced to semi’s.  The other 4 skipped semi’s and went all the way to finals.  And 7 is less than 50% of 19.  Even if you take out the 4 teams that went to finals and only count the division as 15 teams, 7 is still (barely) less than 50% of 15.”

This was brilliant.  She was absolutely right.  It might have been a loophole, but it was right there in the rule book, and I couldn’t think of a single argument against her.  We stayed on the bus and road back to the venue.

Once we got there, we waited another 2 hours to talk to the same official.  He was visibly unhappy to see us again.  I can’t say that I blamed him.  He was very busy running a major event.  Eventually, he sent someone else to talk to us.  We explained the math, just like I did a couple of paragraphs ago.  You could see her eyes light up when she understood the technicality that we brought up.  “I think you’re right.  I need to go check with someone.”  And she was gone.  About an hour later, and after several phone calls to the corporate office, she came back and told us they were advancing us and the 9th place team (because their score was so close to ours) into semi’s.  And there was much rejoicing!

Wrapping up the story, we competed the next day.  We performed much better, as did most teams in the division.  We moved up a couple of spots which felt pretty validating to the coaches and the team.  It was certainly a better feeling than we had when we thought we were out in the prelims.

Also, I want to give out some props to a couple of people for getting things right.  First, props to the competition officials.  Not only did they get it right, but they were very gracious about it.  They even thanked us and complimented us for “doing our job as coaches” and protecting our team’s interests.  We got in on a technicality, but how many times has a technicality (penalty for stepping on a sign or stepping out-of-bounds) cost a team a spot in semi’s.  It was nice to have a technicality work in our favor this time!  But mostly, a great big shout out to the coach who wouldn’t take no for an answer!  You trusted your feelings, you did the work and you got it fixed.

Make sure that when you take your teams to compete that you do what this coach did and study the rules back and forth.  It can really be the difference between ending your season on a high or a low note.

Easy to Judge = Higher Scores

Posted June 9, 2011 by cheerleadingdaily
Categories: Competition Advice

Every competition is different and every judge is different so you have to take this advice with a grain of salt.  However, when you think about it, it makes a lot of sense.  Also, myself and every judge I’ve ever talked to feel this way, so maybe that says something.

Judging your routine has become a lot more objective than it used to be.  It wasn’t that long ago that judges had all the subjective discretion in the world to score the various categories on a score sheet.  One judge might feel like team Standing Tucks were a 10 out of 10.  Another judge might say that only gets 7 out of 10.  In a response to coaches’ demands for greater consistency, competitions have begun using “scoring grids.”  These grids spell out exactly what range you should score in for difficulty on each major category on the score sheet.  Usually the range only varies a couple of points, and where you score within that range is determined by execution, creativity, etc (which is where the subjectivity still fits in).  Long story short, a coach should be able to look at the grid and know almost exactly what score a routine should get.

That sounds like a great thing for judges, right?  After all, now judges don’t have to worry about coming up with their own scale for scoring.  Everything is spelled out for them.  However, this system has had one unfortunate side-effect. Since these grids are very “numbers-driven,” judges have to spend the majority of the routine trying to just count the skills they see until a team maxes out the category that judge is responsible for. 

I feel that this hurts teams that try to co-mingle several different elements in the same segment of the routine.  For instance, if you open with a basket toss, some standing tumbling, some running tumbling and maybe a stunt or two, this can be a very entertaining, dramatic start to your routine.  However, since you do not have 75% (or whatever % “the grid” asks for) of the team participating in any single category of the scoresheet, the judges for each category are now stuck waiting to see if will max out your category later in the routine.  In other words, instead of just sitting back and enjoying all of the creative, entertaining, difficult elements of your routine, they have to just focus on keeping a running tally in their head as to whether or not your team throws 15 more Toe Touch Backs to get the maximum Jump score.

You might be thinking, “That’s tough.  They are judges and that is their job.”  And you would be correct.  It is absolutely their job and they should get it right.  However, you have to understand that in the above scenario, a good judge is forced to either commit part of their concentration to remembering whatever number or cheerleaders participated in each element of that routine segment, OR they have to look down to their notes and write down what you just did so they don’t have to keep it in their head.  Either way, they are distracted from your performance.  If you are performing poorly, maybe that’s a good thing.  But since we all strive to perform well, you want the judges to be completely focused on your team’s every more so you can rack up as many points as possible.

So here is the solution.  Make it easy on the judges!  Especially in the toughest categories to keep track of, which are tumbling and stunts.

Here’s how you do that.  The first time you showcase your standing tumbling, make sure you are maxing out that score right then and there.  If you need 15 of your 20 girls throwing Tucks to max out, throw at least 15 on the spot.  Don’t throw 12 and have the other 8 girls in 2 stunt groups.  That puts your routine at 60% participation in standing tumbling and 40% participation in stunts.  Neither category has been maxed out and both the tumbling judge and the stunting judge are now busy doing math in their head instead of seeing how sharp your transition are and how clean your spacing is.  In other words, you are giving away points.

There is nothing a judge loves better than having their category maxed out in the first part of a routine.  There is nothing a judge hates more than the opposite.  Here is the worst case scenario for a tumbling judge.  In the opening, you have a small group (say 25% of the team) throw their standing tumbling.  That judge now has those numbers in their head.  Then, you do not put any other standing tumbling in the routine until the very end.  Throughout your performance, no matter how fun and enjoyable your performance is, that judge is stressed out worrying they might miss the other 75% of your standing tumbling.  They aren’t enjoying your performance and it is harder for them to give you high scores in the objective categories.

I tend to judge the Stunt category quite a bit.  I think it is because Stunts seem like a “guy” category to judge.  Anyway, to me, there is nothing better than a team going right into their elite stunt segment early in the routine and just maxing it out right there.  Once you have done that, I know that your range in stunts is between 8 and 10 and all I have to do now is watch your execution.  I am more relaxed.  I am noticing all of the little things you have choreographed that makes your routine special and memorable, and your scores are probably going up across the board.

I hope this makes some sense.  I think choreography is a very difficult task and I have much respect for those who do it and enjoy doing it.  When you choreograph your routines, try to keep the judges in mind.  The easier you make it on them, then probably, the easier they will make it on you at awards!