It’s the day of tryouts. By most accounts, you’re ready. You know the required cheer and dance. You’ve perfected your jumps and tumbling. You are even prepared for the elusive interview questions. 

But one last question remains: do you look the part? First impressions are lasting impressions, or so the saying goes. However, when it comes to cheerleading tryouts, sometimes the first impression really is the lasting impression. After you leave the tryout arena, the judges may never see you again, so that first impression needs to count. Here are a few things to help you leave a positive, lasting impression.

Attire

Is what you are wearing appropriate? Some cheerleading programs require a certain style or color of clothing for tryouts, so make sure to follow protocol. Are you supposed to wear school colors or just a plain black or white top? Are statement or graphic tees encouraged?

When there are no set requirements, think about what your clothing might say about you. For example, a statement tee that reads, “Cheerleading is life!” will probably leave a different impression than one that says, “I’m kind of a big deal!” When in doubt, go simple; a plain tee and shorts will allow the judges to focus on YOU and not your clothing.

Now look at what you have chosen, and look closely. Ask yourself, does what you have on fit correctly? Clothing that does not fit well, whether too big or too small, is not flattering. Ill-fitting clothing may not only get in the way of your performance, but it may also make your entire appearance seem sloppy. After making sure your outfit is washed, run an iron across it to finish it with a clean, crisp look.

Hair

When it comes to hair, one rule trumps all others: pull it back and away from your face. This can be done numerous ways through ponytails, braids or pulling it half-up. Whatever your personal style, pull it away from your face and make sure it stays there. Hair falling down looks careless and sloppy, and judges want to see your face during your tryout. Not only can it be a distraction to judges watching your performance, but it could very well get in the way (think in terms of tumbling, stunting or jumping) and become a safety hazard. This rule applies not only to females with long hair, but also to male cheerleaders.

Makeup

With your hair styled and out of your face, you can now concentrate on your makeup. A natural look is typically going to be your best bet. Remember, less is often more. Does that mean you shouldn’t wear any makeup at all? Of course not! We just don’t want it to hide what you look like. By focusing on your eyes and lips, with just a hint of blush to accent the cheeks, your face will not be lost at a distance to the judges. So grab some mascara, a natural blush and a pretty lip color/gloss, and you’re set to go!

Performance

Of course, even if you are looking great with your hair and makeup done, you will still need to execute your tryout well. Looking your absolute best during a tryout ultimately stems from confidence in your performance. Show the judges you know your stuff! Portray confidence in yourself through smiles and direct eye contact with them. Don’t be scared to look them in the eye and show them that you not only look your best, but you are your best.

Judges’ Tips for Success

“Show up to tryouts prepared, knowing the material you will be required to perform. The better you know it, the less nerves and more fun you will have. This, overall, looks better to me as a judge.”

“I always like a nice, clean look; hair out of the face and not falling down. When it comes to clothing, solid colors—preferably the team colors—stand out the most to me.

“Judges don’t want to see you fail! During your tryout, I am your biggest cheerleader, so try to relax. Sure, I‘m looking for certain skills and levels of talent, but that doesn’t mean I want you to mess up or am waiting to dock points.”

“Try to have fun. When you’re enjoying yourself—be it at tryouts, games or competition—it radiates to those watching, and you look better overall. If you are having fun, the judges are having fun.”

“If you know you will be trying out for cheerleading, start getting into shape ahead of time. The more in shape you are, the better you will perform and look the day of tryouts.”