Skill Progression and Development
With so many different types of skills involved in cheerleading, it’s difficult to perfect every skill in every category. Think about it... you have motions, jumps, stunts, dancing, and tumbling, just to name a few. So how do you develop and progress your skills?
Start by taking one category and evaluate what skill level your team is at and their strengths and weaknesses. A good place to start could be in jumps or tumbling, making a stunt more solid or working on the control of your movements in a dance. Whichever category you’re working on, it’s important to perfect the skills you have before moving to a new or more difficult skills. Using this rule of thumb will ensure success – Perfection before progression!
Once you determine your strengths and weaknesses start working on the weakest category until you progress enough where you become comfortable performing those skills in front of a crowd. It’s natural to want to work on the aspect that you enjoy and are most likely best at. When working on newer skills or skills that you haven’t mastered it’s important to work on them at least 10 times a day. You’ll see the best result if you can practice those skills at the end of practice. Your body will develop more when it’s already tired from practice then if you do those skills at the beginning of practice when you’re full of energy. If you’re working on stunts or tumbling, please be careful not to hurt yourself because you’re tired. Use proper spots if needed.
While working on new skills it’s important to maintain the skills you already have. It’s not necessary to do skills that you have mastered a lot but it’s important to focus on doing them correctly. You don’t want to build bad habits because eventually your bad practice habits will show while performing. For example; at practice you do your favorite jump five times and you practice getting your legs higher, but you land with your feet apart because you don’t think it’s important. You will most likely continue that habit and will need to rework and retrain yourself to land properly. Better to think of improving the height and continue to focus on a nice clean landing.
Practice should be a time of focus and concentration. The lack of focus is the number one cause of cheerleaders not developing or causing accidents which can be avoided. Focus and discipline are extremely important for every team and it all begins in practice. Mastering this will surely pay off during special performances and competition season.
Secrets to Smooth Stunting
A new stunt sequence is never as easy as it seems. As you begin to make inquiries regarding the proper technique, you start to feel as if there are more questions than answers. This can be frustrating. Fortunately, if you follow a few basic rules you’ll better understand the physical attributes behind stunting and have greater success in your routines. Although I can’t answer every question that you may have, I can supply you with a few tips that will enable your stunting to go new heights.
Back to Basics
To eliminate unnecessary frustration, master the technique used in lower-level stunts. To master an extension, you must first master an elevator to shoulders. The same technique will be used for both of the stunts. This is called a progression.
In general, good body awareness will increase your understanding of stunting and enable you to expand your level of difficulty.
“I’m a base...”
For bases, the very first aspect of body awareness is figuring out where your power is coming from. Most all-girl bases will tell you that their power stems from their legs. This is correct. A base should always begin with legs approximately shoulder-width apart. The power there will create an upward snowball effect. It should explode from the legs first, through the shoulders and eventually up through the arms, which should lock out.To tell if your bases are using this technique, see how controlled the stunts are. Stunts should look solid and
clean instead of rushed or challenged.
The bases should feel no weight in the transition until it has already made it to the top. If the stunt is not reaching the top, there is a break somewhere in the continual chain of power between the legs and arms. Any motion that simulates the curling of biceps can help to identify this break in the chain. Arms should be kept at a comfortable level, somewhere close to the navel and should resist the weight of the flier.
Momentum should be carried from the legs, through the shoulders and eventually erupt out through the arms. Make sure that at the top of the stunt, the bases’ arms are completely locked out. (If one base is shorter than the other, she should bend at the legs and not at the arms.) Bases that stress safety should hold the stunt directly over their noses and look up at the stunt at all times.
“I’m a back-spot...”
The back-spotters are the glue that holds the stunt together. A good back-spotter will secure a stunt that may be going in the wrong direction. Since the center of gravity for a female flyer is the hips, this is what the back-spot will look at while the stunt is happening. She can determine the stability of the stunt by watching the flyer’s hips. (If she follows the hips with her eyes, a back-spot can tell where the rest of the body will follow.) The back-spot must make sure that those hips are centered between the shoulders and ankles.
To perform this job well, a back-spot must have quick reflexes. The majority of saves in a stunt are made by the back-spot. They can also help to lead the timing in the transition. In
dismounts, the back-spot is responsible for the safety of the head, neck and shoulders. This is often one of the most important aspects of transitional stunting. If the movement of the back-spot is fluid, the stunt can look much better.
“I’m a top person...”
The last individual in this stunt team is the top person. This can be a hard position to master. Body awareness is the first key to being a successful top. When loading into the stunt, the top must be aware of the initial weight distribution. While loading into an elevator, for example, the top must take a good hop off the ground, place all of her weight into a set of locked-out arms and follow the momentum to the top of the stunt.
This weight transfer can be difficult to comprehend at first. The alignment of the ankles, hips and shoulders can also play an important role. In any two-footed stunt, the top person
needs to keep her legs approximately shoulder-width apart. In a single leg stunt, the top person needs to form a column with her body.
The next step is to teach the top to climb lightly. If she understands weight distribution, the flyer can learn to better follow the momentum of the stunt. This will make the stunt lighter and more fluid, by beginning with the initial body positioning and continuing through to how the body is held while in the stunt. A top person with more weight but great technique is often easier to stunt with than a lighter person with poor technique.
Follow these simple guidelines and your stunting can improve drastically. And relax -- choreography and transition stunting will soon take on an easier role with this type of knowledge.