Though many cheerleaders are excited to make the jump from high school cheerleading to a college team, the idea of trying out can be quite daunting. Not knowing what to expect at a college-level tryout can be nerve-racking, so the editors of AC asked experts from around the country about key elements of the college tryout process.
AC: When you begin your clinic, do you always have a set number or idea of who you need on your team?
“I have an ideal number I’d like to get because I want to make sure we cover game day, but I let the tryout influence how many more I can take. I have cheerleaders who I recruit for tryouts because I think they would be a good fit but they still have to go through the process and be selected.” — Tony Nash, Coach, Indiana University All Girl
“There is no set number of individuals that make up our team. We look for girls who are dedicated to the program, to their classes, and to representing the university well. The entire team cheers at basketball and football games, while only 20 can compete at Nationals. Who gets to compete is based on factors such as skill, GPA, following the team rules and commitment to the team.” — Kayla Whipple, Past Captain, Misericordia University
AC: How do you structure your clinics to best demonstrate a cheerleader’s abilities?
“At our tryouts we go through every major part of a competitive cheerleading routine: tumbling, stunting, dancing, jumps and arm motions through a basic cheer. We decided to set up our tryouts this way so that all the weaknesses become clear and we decide from there which of them we can work with and who may need to try out another year.” — Jessica Szorentini, Captain, Becker University
“We typically hold a two-day tryout process. The first day we teach the tryout material, allow for tumbling practice, and evaluate stunting. The second day is the formal tryout with a panel of judges evaluating the candidates. Then each candidate meets with the coaching staff for an interview. Through this process I can evaluate who is stepping up and who is falling back on the stunting, as well as who is using their time wisely while learning the tryout material. If I see someone hanging out on the side, and not using the time to learn how to properly execute the material, it will raise concern. Additionally, it gives me an opportunity to watch those ‘stand-out’ candidates. To me those are the student-athletes who push themselves to give their very best, or those who go outside their comfort zone and try something new (like a new stunt position).” — Lori Townsend, Head Coach, Queens University of Charlotte
AC: What is the most important skill a cheerleader needs to bring to tryouts?
“A college cheerleader should display great, lasting enthusiasm and possess an upbeat personality to lead the crowd. All male cheerleaders should also try to get a toss liberty before tryouts because it demonstrates the strength of a fully finished toss with a proper technical grip.” — Zane Barefield, University of Central Florida
“Tumbling skills and athleticism are always helpful, but the most important tool to bring to tryouts is a willingness to try. College cheerleading utilizes different approaches and techniques than high school or all-star cheerleading, so we look for girls who are willing to adapt. When it comes to skills, never lie or over-exaggerate your abilities on an evaluation sheet. Be honest, and be sure your performance lives up to or outshines what the coaches will be expecting from you.” — Kayla Whipple, Misericordia University
Check out more answers on page 32 of the October issue!