Start talking yourself into trying out for the squad this year.
by Jessica Spitale
So, you want to cheer, but…Well, you’ll never earn a coveted spot on the team with that attitude! If you’re more prone to making excuses than making it to tryouts, AC knows exactly what you need: a pep talk. Here’s what top cheerleaders across the nation had to say about gaining courage, facing your fears and giving yourself a chance to become a member of your dream team.
Excuse #1: “But I can’t tumble!”
Quinnipiac University competitive cheer captain, Alicia Chouinard knows first-hand the type of mental strength it takes to try out for a cheer team. While the majority of her squad is either working on or throwing layout fulls, Alicia is just perfecting her standing tuck—proof that there are more important things to coaches than tumbling. “Obviously there are certain requirements to make a team, but as long as you have the minimum requirement or show an ability to improve within a reasonable amount of time, your level of skill compared to another person’s won’t be the only thing the coach looks at,” says Alicia. “A good athlete’s not only skilled but also has a positive attitude and is hardworking, a strong motivator and a good teammate.” So start focusing on the skills you do have, instead of the ones you don’t. Let your leadership qualities, peppy ’tude and crowd appeal shine through to make the judges forget you don’t have your double full.
Excuse #2: “I’ve never cheered before!”
Experience isn’t always necessary as a first-time cheerleader. Growing up, Kaki Whitty spent countless hours in the gym working bars, beam and vault as a competitive gymnast—none of which would come in handy at cheer tryouts. So when she began to transition from gymnast to cheerleader in order to try out for Louisiana State University’s squad in Baton Rouge, Kaki had to learn the basics, such as motions, sharpness and even spirit.
“It’s important to remember that everyone was once at your skill level,” says Kaki. “You may have to work harder and longer to make the team, but that’ll only make it more rewarding in the end.” Take Kaki’s advice and put a little extra time and effort into gaining the skills you’ll need to be a productive member of your squad. A little hard work can go a long way when coaches are selecting their lineup.
Excuse #3: “There are only three spots open!”
Cheer is full of surprises. Members get benched, don’t try out again or lose skills they used to have. In many cases, coaches may decide to pick alternates because there’s simply too much talent to choose from. Ray Spikes, captain of Newton HS in Texas, has become a true leader and inspiration to his team. He was the only male cheerleader to try out at his school and wasn’t sure if there would be a place for a boy on the team. However, Ray knew in his heart that he had to give it a try. “Everyone has something to offer, so don’t count yourself out,” says Ray. “Try out for the squad anyway and become a leader.”
It’s important to keep in mind that you don’t know exactly what coaches are looking for at tryouts. Factors such as a participant’s grades, reputation, teacher recommendations and positions they could fill on the team can play a huge role in whether a new person makes the squad or an old member is asked back. Be fair to yourself and try out. You may be the exact person they’re looking for.
Excuse #4: “Everyone’s better than me!”
One thing’s sure, you must go into tryouts with the attitude that you can’t control what others do, you can only control what you can do. Florida-based Lake Mary HS cheerleader and former AC COM Sara Rogers is an expert when it comes to staying strong and believing in yourself. “If you have lots of spirit and the coaches can see that you’re willing to work to get better, you’ll have a far better chance at making the team,” she says. “I wasn’t that good the first time I tried out for cheer, but I knew my spirit could go a long way. After all, that’s what cheerleaders are for: to pump up the crowd and have fun!” Just as Sara used her high energy and spirit to ace her first tryout, Rudy Rumbarger has been dealing with stressful tryouts for the past five years. “Everyone has to start somewhere, and it’s often at the bottom—but you just might have that special skill the squad needs,” says the Mississippi State University cheerleader. “Whether it’s a great toe-touch or the height to be an amazing back spot, there’s always something you can offer to the mix.”
Excuse #5: “If I don’t make it, I’ll be so embarrassed!”
Although you may never admit it, fear of embarrassment seems to be the number one reason people back out of a tryout. Well, it’s time to start worrying about what you want rather than what other people think. Cheerleading is just like any other sport, and if it was easy to make the team, it wouldn’t be such an accomplishment.
University of Alabama cheerleader Trey Oswalt from Tuscaloosa has picked up a few words of wisdom regarding tryouts throughout his cheerleading career. “You have to be mentally confident to say, ‘I’m the best candidate these coaches have,’” says Trey. “If you aren’t selected, at least you can say you gave it your best shot and have no regrets.” Don’t let the opinions of others or the fear of the outcome hold you back from following your heart. You don’t want to look back and think, “What if?”
QUICK TIPS FOR TRYOUTS
- Always show up early. Being late adds unnecessary stress to an already stressful situation, and the coaches will definitely notice.
- Dress for success! Always wear a plain shirt free of words and pictures that could distract the judges. Observe how veteran cheerleaders wear their hair and makeup and try to mimic them.
- Attend as many tryout clinics as possible. Remember, the more the coaches see you, the more they’ll learn about you and your personality. Always show up with a positive attitude, hardworking mindset and friendly disposition.
- Bring healthy snacks and sports drinks to get you through the day. Tryouts can be mentally and physically draining, sometimes taking five or six hours to complete. Pack snacks the night before so you can refuel if you need to, and always get a good night sleep.
- Don’t carpool to a tryout. If you make it and your friend doesn’t, or vice versa, this can make for an extremely uncomfortable ride home.
*Wear school colors
*Let hair fall in your face
*Lie about your skill abilities
*Attempt a skill for the first time at tryouts