Cheer tryouts—that time of the year where stress hangs in the air so thick you can almost touch it. The days leading up to your five minutes in the spotlight can feel like an eternity. And while this emotional and physical rollercoaster might leave you begging the judges for mercy, it’s your job as captain or veteran to welcome, encourage and set a positive example for the other athletes trying out.

Welcome New Faces

It’s inevitable; there’s always that group of freshmen and newbies that huddles in the back, anxiously trying to absorb the tryout material. They’re not hard to spot with their shifting eyes, nervous stance and shy demeanors. Tryouts shouldn’t be so tense! All prospects should be looking forward to the possibilities of the year ahead, not worrying over every misstep or agonizing over the unknown of making the squad. You might remember how uneasy that feeling is, so make conversation with as many new faces as possible. It will break the ice for them and make them feel more comfortable, which will help them focus on the actual tryout rather than the insecurity of being new.

Be Uplifting

We’ve all been there—it’s the week of tryouts and you just hit a new tumbling pass. Your heart is begging you to throw it for the tryout, but your head is planting doubts in your ability. Chances are that many of the candidates trying out are nervous about a skill they are performing. Consider it your job to keep the positivity flowing! If you notice participants trembling as they step onto the mat or getting frustrated with the height of their jumps, cheer them on! Not only will you boost their confidence, but you’ll create a supportive environment in what is typically an intense, competitive atmosphere.

Set an Example

If you’re trying out for a team that you’ve made in previous seasons, it’s likely that participants who haven’t made the squad before are looking up to you. Throughout the week, it’s important not to appear jaded. Even if it’s your fourth consecutive year trying out for the same school or gym, you should take it as seriously as if it were your first year. If you come across as someone who thinks that he/she will easily make the squad, new prospects might get discouraged about their chances or perceive the team as arrogant. However, if you make an effort to help others throughout the tryout process, you’ll promote a positive team image and set the squad up for a great year!