Coaching Tips

Partner Stunt Progressions

Progressions: Partner Stunts & Tumbling

Importance of Stunt Progressions

Cheerleaders love to stunt! The best reward I could give my cheerleaders was time to just work on stunts and come up with new ideas and sequences. However, most of the older ones wanted to immediately jump in to basket tosses before the new squad members had mastered basic skills. This is where teaching stunt progressions comes in to play. Cheerleading stunts should be taught in progressions from easy to hard and low to high. If a base can’t catch an extension, then he/she has no business trying to catch a basket toss. Most athletes have thankfully never been seriously injured or have seen others seriously injured, so they don’t always realize the potential danger involved with sports. As coaches, it is our responsibility to make sure everyone is educated about safety, that we determine the proper ability level of our squads, and that we decide when it is safe to move on to more difficult stunts. We have a legal duty to provide a standard of care when supervising our squads, and stunt progressions are an excellent way to document that you have used reasonable care when educating your squads.

So where you do start? The Basics! Building a level of trust is essential for a successful cheerleading program. No one wants to fly on bases that aren’t consistently successful, nor do bases want to work with a flyer that doesn’t execute skills consistently. Cheerleaders have to consistently react immediately and accurately during stunting. Each time a person comes down in a cradle, the bases need to automatically respond quickly and correctly, so that everyone is safe. This development of movement memory is best done through repetition of skills.

Your cheerleaders may object to starting with basics such as thigh stands. However, it is important for all of those involved in the stunt to develop movement memory, and thigh stands incorporate skills for both bases and tops. Bases have to have their hands placed correctly, just as flyers have to know how to hold their weight correctly to make the bases more comfortable in their positions. Back spots need to know how to adjust to changing situations just as they do in a basket toss. Once they have mastered basic skills, they can move on to the next level.

Documenting Skills! As a coach you can best protect your cheerleaders and yourself by having written documentation of the skills progressions of each individual cheerleader. I created a chart that had each skill with each cheerleader’s name. I then would check off the skill if the cheerleader could successfully perform the skill at least five times consistently (10 is better), and I would check off what position the cheerleader performed. The differences between being a side, a front, a back, or the flyer can be significant, so I also keep track of which position the cheerleader has successfully and consistently performed. Once these basics have been mastered, the cheerleaders can then move on to the next skill. FYI – These check off sheets need to be kept in your files along with other important documents for five years after graduation.

Progression lists! Instead of listing a progression list, I have copied the skill progression lists link recommended by Varsity, COM. There are other lists out there that you can use as well. Just be sure take in to account the ability levels of your squads. Remember, safety is the first priority!!

Tips for Leading the Crowd in a Positive Way

By Jeanne Ehn

The following ideas are tips for cheer coaches and their cheerleaders to keep crowds going in a positive way at games.

  • Teach & Practice expectations by working through game situations at practice. The cheerleaders won’t know your expectations until you teach them. Figure out cheers to use in certain game situations, then have the cheerleaders rehearse it at practice so it won’t be new at a game. If the situation comes up during the game, they should use the appropriate cheer. Note the ideas to the cheerleaders below – again talking through situations and practicing the ideas help your cheerleaders know your expectations.
  • Educate your student body about expectations at a game. Work with your AD/principal with this if possible. Set up a special pep rally for “fan education,” or better yet, make fan education a part of every pep rally. Teach the students call back cheers, the cheer everyone should do if there is a “disagreeable call,” and good sportsmanship tips. Ask your administration to tell students what will NOT be tolerated like jumping on the bleachers or taunting the opponents or officials.
  • Educate your parents about expectations at a game. This will work at a community pep rally or even at a pre-season parent’s night practice. Be sure to talk to the head coach to get permission to do this, or ask your AD to arrange it for you. Ask parents to be leaders in the stands; this is something everyone can work on improving.
  • Keep it simple. Cheers that the crowd loves can be repeated often.
  • Develop TRADITIONS. By doing the same thing before the game starts, or at certain points in a game, will help your cheerleaders develop traditions that the crowd enjoys and participates in. This keeps the crowd following your lead and demonstrating great team support and sportsmanship.
  • Teach the following ideas to your cheerleaders. You as a coach cannot cheer for them, but you can guide them in how they cheer.
  • Have a Game Plan. Meet at halftime to make improvements the second half.
  • Know the Rules of the Game for cheerleading AND the game in which you are cheering. Cheerleading rules are laid forth for your safety. Respect them. You will gain a lot of respect from your team and your crowd by doing the appropriate cheer at the appropriate time. I.e. – Don’t do a defense cheer when the team is on offense.
  • Be professional. Chewing gum, talking and laughing with each other, ignoring your job (cheering & leading the crowd) will turn a crowd off. They will decide you don’t care enough, so they won’t follow.
  • Be approachable to the crowd. Be at the game early to warm up and be prepared. Take time to talk to them or explain a new chant before the game begins. Tell the crowd when they’ve done well and followed you.
  • Use strong voices and make eye contact with the crowd. This shows confidence. If the crowd can’t hear the cheerleaders, they have no reason to follow. The same goes for eye contact. Look at everyone in the crowd. Not just a small group of people such as a group of friends. The crowd will feel ignored if you just cheer to a certain few.
  • Use signs and ponpoms. Use the poms and their colors as if it were a sign (raising one color in the air and then the next) if you would be doing a chant with your school’s colors in it. Poms can attract a lot of attention and can be fun to help get the crowd fired up. Use signs so the crowd knows what to do or chant.
  • Repeat each chant at least 3-4 times. It takes that many times for the crowd to catch on to what you are doing. Once they start chanting with the cheerleaders, continue 2-3 more times.
  • Chant while the team is in the huddle during football. Starting a simple chant like “Go, Go, Go…” when the down is fourth and one and the team is in the huddle will have a lot more impact than during the play itself.
  • Start a chant before & while taking the floor for a time out during basketball. Valuable time is wasted if cheerleaders wait, plus the emotion may have peaked and that is the opposite of what you want to have happen.
  • Cheer often: at least every other play. This will not only keep you mentally in the game, but your crowd is more likely to follow. You should cheer between EVERY play when the game is very close or momentum is starting to switch.
  • Let anyone start chants when necessary. During a game many of the chants are probably started by a captain or someone with more experience, but when the game is at a pivotal point, the most important thing is keeping the chanting going so anyone should be able to start a chant: even if you repeat chants. Practicing/Rehearsing this in practice will help everyone be ready for game situations.
  • Urge the Crowd by talking to them. “Yell with us!” “Louder!” “I can’t hear you!” And then remember to praise the crowd when they follow your lead – thumbs up, clapping above your head, “Good job, Comet fans!” (use your mascot)
  • Cheerleaders can be the eyes and ears for administration. While it is not the job of a cheerleader to remove someone from a game, they certainly should notify/alert administration or the cheer coach if someone is getting out of hand. It is not the cheer coaches’ responsibility to remove someone, but they are adult and verify what the cheerleader saw to the administration.
  • Start a traditional chant or a crowd favorite when the call goes the other way and the fans disagree. This is where your crowd education pays off from a pep rally. Everyone being vocal in their own way only creates frustration for the crowd, the officials, your team & coaches. If the crowd follows the cheerleaders with a positive chant, the team knows the crowd is behind them, the officials move on (lose the frustration), and the voice of the crowd is still heard. This can be a challenge, but if everyone can buy into this idea, it really works.
  • Stay positive. It is NEVER acceptable for a cheerleader to talk back/yell or make obscene gestures at an official, someone from the other school, or someone from their home crowd.

The Cheer Coach’s Guide to Creating a Cheerleading Handbook

By Sandy Norby

Cheerleading is a busy sport, and a cheer coach has a lot on his or her plate at the beginning of each season. Not only do you need to juggle to demands of scheduling practices, arranging transportation to games and events, and taking care of administrative work, but you also have to get to know your squad. A cheerleading handbook is a beneficial tool to use as you begin your season. It explicitly lays out guidelines for your cheerleaders, and states the school and coach’s expectations for the cheerleaders throughout the season. The following is a suggested table of contents for your handbook.
1. Coach’s contact information and schedule (if the coach is a school employee)

2. Purpose of Cheerleading at your School

3. Rules and Expectations (ICCA and Coaches)

4. Cheerleader Conduct Expectations

5. Practice and Event Schedule

6. Attendance Expectations

7. Uniforms Care and Expectations

8. Parent Expectations

9. Consequences for Failing to Abide by Conduct, Attendance, and General Rules

10. Signature – the parent and cheerleader sign and date that they have read and agree to the conditions of cheering at your school. This form gets returned to the coach.

Always make sure to get your handbook approved by the athletic director or administrator at your school so that you have their support as you start your season. By creating this handbook and requiring your cheerleaders and parents to sign and agree to it, you are ensuring yourself a successful season. Cheerleaders and parents will know exactly what to expect of you as a coach, and you will know exactly what to expect of the cheerleaders. The handbook is a great way to establish yourself and your dedication to the squad from the very first day.

Dealing With Difficult Parents

By Kenna Johnson

“The best coaching jobs are in orphanages because there are no parents there.”

Any coach who has not had to deal with a difficult parent is a LUCKY one! In our own minds, we can all picture that “difficult” parent; while that description may vary from situation to situation, there are a number of strategies that may help out the situation, taking that parent from “difficult” to “manageable.”

If you are confronted by an unhappy parent, consider taking the following steps:

  • Avoid discussing the problem at the game. This is not the place for confrontations as emotions typically run quite high.
  • Agree to meet at a more appropriate time and place. Find a mutually convenient time and place to meet. This way it is a one-on-one conversation without others observing or adding fuel to the situation. It also allows the emotions to cool, along with allowing you a little time to prepare for the situation. Face to face communication is best as phone conversations often get one-sided. Also, include another person in this parent meeting to help keep the meeting on track.
  • LISTEN! Do not interrupt the parent. Simply allow them to state their case; this will help the parent understand the situation is important to you. Do not interrupt! Interruptions tend to inflame the situation.
  • Don’t become defensive. Allow the parent to state their entire case. Also nodding and/or taking notes may be helpful.
  • Show understanding for the parent’s position. Statements like “I’m sorry that you feel your child has been treated unfairly” are appropriate.
  • Clarify the situation and offer a range of situations. Focus on the problem, stick to the facts, and avoid being caught up in unrelated issues. Then find out what the parent truly wants. Avoid making promises you cannot keep. Instead explain to the parent what you can and cannot do. If there is no resolution, let the parent know that it may be necessary for their child to find other activities to engage in.
  • Obtain closure. Leave the parent with a closing action statement, giving the parent a timeline of seeking a solution. Thank them for their interest and set up a follow-up meeting if necessary.
  • Leave the door open. Invite further communication if desired.

Most importantly, you cannot be too careful these days. Make sure to establish a good system of communication as early as possible, making clear your expectations, requirements, etc. For an individual and a team to succeed, parents and coaches must work together. We’re all here for the student athletes, so everyone must get along! Keep the lines of communication open and everyone will have a great year!