Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Varsity, School Cheerleading: Behind the Scenes

As I said in my about me, I am on my varsity cheerleading squad. Many people see us cheering at the home football games, but very few know what goes on behind the scenes. For regular, varsity cheerleading I have practice twice a week plus games. Our practice consists of two hours of stunting, dancing, and learning cheers. At the football games the crowd watches us seamlessly perform gravity defying stunts, but what does it really take to execute these stunts? Most practices we will spend at least half of our time working on new stunts. Each time we start learning a new stunt the flyer has to be taught what she is doing in the air, the bases have to be taught hand grips, and the back has to be taught their grip. The next step is just to attempt the stunt; however, this does not always go smoothly. Most times the flyer falls or a base looses her grip and it's up to the rest of the group to catch the flyer and safely return her to the ground. I don't mean to scare anyone but sometimes when trying a particularly difficult stunt, girls will get hurt, especially if spotters were not paying attention. Statistics show that cheerleading accounts for 65 percent of all injuries in girls’ high school athletics (report by the National Center for Catastrophic Sport Injury Research at the University of North Carolina). This is why there are safety regulations set up by the American Association of Cheerleading Coaches & Administrators (AACCA Safety Rules and Regulations). Usually however, the stunt may not hit perfectly but no injuries will occur. Now that everyone has a feel for what the stunt is like; the next attempt usually goes smoother. Once every group has hit their stunt, the next step is to put it to counts or a cheer. This finished product is what the fans see us perform at the games. The time we have left at practice we spend reviewing or learning new cheers and dances. To learn new cheers, we break it down into parts. First you learn the words then you start to put motions to the words. We learn probably about one hundred cheers to use during the season. As for dances, we learn these one eight count at a time (1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8... repeat). A typical dance we do at a game is usually three to four eight counts. Each count has a motion, and learning one eight count at a time helps so you can perfect that part of the dance before you move on to the next. Once you have learned the dance to counts the next step is to put it to music; you may still count but you have to count to the beat of the music.  It can take us anywhere from one to three practice to learn a dance, depending on its difficulty and the amount of time we have to work on it. Learning new stunts, dances and cheers is what we do in the two practices a week before each game. It takes hours of preparation behind the scenes before we are game day ready, so next time you attend a sporting event and you see the cheerleaders stunting, dancing, or cheering; give them respect and credit because what they do is not as easy as it seems.

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