AES Cougar Cheerleading

Cheerleading 101: Skills and Drills

Coaching    Dance    Exercises    Jumps    Motions    Stunting    Tryouts   Tumbling

Facials: Cheerleaders communicate with the crowd with more than just their voices. They also use their faces and bodies. A good old fashioned smile is always a crowd favorite, but sometimes it’s fun to shake things up a little bit and add some extra pizzazz when you are hitting a stunt or a hot dance move.

Some people feel awkward doing facials, but you have to remember that televised competitions aside you are essentially stage performers, so as in stage acting you have to "go big" on all your moves and expressions so the folks in the back row can tell you are doing something. In order to become more comfortable doing facials, I recommend practicing them at home. Just run through a series of them every night, even if it's just an exaggerated set of the vowels a-e-i-o-u with some head bobs and shakes, and by the time you hit the court or mat they should come naturally to you. (Some of the more common expressions besides brilliant smiles: surprise, shock, attitude, kissy-face, wink, say-what?, pout, sticking out your tongue *but smile when you do*) NOTE: during games I only want to see smiles. Save the wild facials for your routine and use them sparingly. It really is possible to have too much of a good thing.

Some examples of facial and body expressions for you to try: Pictures: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9   Video

Breath exercises: How to yell correctly.

Arm motions: These are the movements you do during cheers and dances.

Get in front of a mirror or a big window. Close your eyes. Hit a move. OpenHigh V your eyes.   Check these or the pictures in the above link to see if you nailed the move.  If not, adjust it until it is right. Make sure your arms are level and not too far behind or in front of your body or too high or too low. Watch out for your wrists "breaking" and disturbing the crisp clean line that should run from your shoulders to your hands.  And watch out for crazy thumbs. They should not be tucked in under your fingers or sticking out, but lie across the outside of your fingers. Now go to the ready position and then snap that move perfectly over and over with your eyes open. Do another closed eyes-open eyes test. Did you do it just right this time? If yes, you can thank muscle memory. If no, keep practicing in front of that mirror or get a friend or family member to videotape you. To make sure it is sharp enough, snap your arms out hard at the last possible second before you need to make the move, then screech your arms to a halt like you slammed on the brakes. Keep your muscles squeezed tight the entire time.

Tips for making YouTube more kid-safe Please review before watching videos.

The Four Ps of Motions
Mastering Motions
Video of cheer motions (see YouTube safety information before watching videos)
Video of motions drills
Motion line drill
Another free video of cheer motions
Videos of cheers (with words)

Choreography: Dance is an essential part of cheerleading, and every team whether it it is competing or entertaining the crowds at a game needs to use eye-catching moves and transitions.  One way to get ideas for dances is to watch other teams. Competitions are aired several times a year on TV, and there are many videos on the internet that you can watch as well. Another option is to order DVDs from cheerleading camps. The upside to this option is usually they will teach you the counts slowly, which is great if you don't pick up dance moves very quickly. The downside is that everyone else who has been to camp will recognize those moves, so be sure to buy DVDs from camps that are from other regions of the country and therefore new to people in your area.

If you are having some trouble in learning new choreography, here are some suggestions:

1) Name your 8 counts so you can tip yourself off as to what comes next. For example: Punch 1, step 2, hop 3, turn 4, roll arms 5 and 6, criss-cross 7 & 8 and so forth. (And say the names out loud as you first start practicing or naming them won't help you very much. It's the combination of doing them together that helps trigger your memory.)

2)  Start out doing the motions slowly (and precisely). You can speed up as you become more comfortable with the material and your muscle memory takes over.  If you reach a point where you start messing up, slow back down a bit for a while then try it faster again later.

3) Visualize! Who says you can't practice while doing the dishes? Keep doing the dance over and over in your mind, first from the perspective of doing it, then from the perspective of watching yourself perform it.

Choreography resources

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Sample dance

More sample 8 counts
Counts for a short beginner youth dance
Single 8 count sample
Several dances you can learn
Pom and Sideline dance counts
Hip-hop moves and counts for beginners
Hip-hop dance counts
More Hip-hop dance counts
Club and hip-hop dancing
Pro hip-hop videos
More choreography resources
UCA Cheer camp material
UDA Dance camp material
NCA Cheer camp material
NDA Dance camp material
Spirit squad video shop

Music mixes*
Jam Glue online mixer
TrackAx free music mixing software
Audacity free music editing software
Magix music mixing software
Sony Acid
Sound effects
Free sound effects
More sound effects
Free download of Bring It On music mixes
Cheer Music Store downloads & cds
UCA/UDA cheer music downloads
Blazin' Mixes competition music downloads
Cheerleading Remixes downloads
Gold Medal Mixes premade cds
CheerCD downloads
AudioSparx downloads
Q It Up cds 
chEARmusic premade mixes
Competition music cds
Cheer Mix Masters cds
DJ Cheer cds
CheerGyms cds
Monster Mix Productions cds
Cheer Concepts cds
Fusion Sound cds
Rock the World premixed songs
Power Music cds
More Cheer music cds
*Contact the sellers before ordering to be certain the websites are up-to-date and functioning properly.

Tips for making YouTube more kid-safe Please review before watching videos.

Jumps: To improve your jumps in the long run, do 10 each of a variety of jumps every day, both sides in the case of Nines, Herkies, and Hurdlers. (Don't forget to spend some time on the ground in these jump positions.) You can also do leg exercises like leg lifts, squats, lunges, high and T kicks, calf busters, and doggie lifts to get more height in your jumps. To have good leg position in the air you need to stretch a lot (splits too) and do variations of ab exercises like crunches since it's the stomach muscles that lift your legs into position in the air. For rolling your hips under in your toe touch, try sitting in an upright straddle.

See the links below for more on those exercises. If you don't know how to do certain jumps, refer to the instructions in the how-to-do-it videos.

Things that will help you clean up your jumps in the short run:

Keep your body tight from prep to jump to landing. Whether you start with a clap or a high V or high clasp, whatever positions you need to hit make certain your arms and hands are in perfect position and really sharp in their motions.

You can go up on your toes to start the jump but don't double or triple bounce before jumping.

Make sure you keep your chest up the entire time, so rather than dropping your arms down to your legs keep your torso upright, hit the arm position really hard, and bring your legs up to your arms by rolling your hips under. If the hip roll is giving you trouble, do straddle ups and sitting toe touches (see the abs exercises page), and next time you are at practice do assisted jumps, the kind where you have a partner in front of you and you grab hold of her arms to push off and get a higher jump. Ask your coach to get behind you and slap/push at the back of your thighs as you jump. It'll help you work on that hip roll.

Be sure to point your toes. If you are having trouble with that, you can put tape from the base of your ankle down the top of each foot. It'll feel funny, bringing attention to your feet when you are jumping, reminding you that you need to point them. You should also be able to feel the change in the tape depending on whether or not you are pointing.

Always whip your legs up as fast as you can and snap them back down hard, because expecting gravity to do all the work will result in a slow and sloppy landing. To practice snapping your legs together do air jacks. Think "double speed jumping jack" but when you jump out you never hit the ground. Instead you snap your feet back to the center again as fast as you can, like hyper-speed mini spread eagles.

When you land, it should be quiet and toe-ball-heel. Your arms need to go nice and tightly to the sides of your body in a "clean" position. Make sure you stick the landing. No stepping out of place or flailing arms.

Tips for making YouTube more kid-safe.  Just go to the section below the star ratings to where it says comments. If you can see postings, just click the little arrow to the left of the word "Text." The comments will then be hidden. You can do the same for the related videos if you want to hide those as well.

Pencil jump:  how to do it video
  picture / video / how to do it video
Banana:  picture / video
C:  picture / video
Bambi (stag):  picture / video
Spread eagle:  picture / video / how to do it video
Double hook (pretzel):  picture / video
Herkie:  picture / How to do it video
Front hurdler:  picture / video / how to do it video
Side hurdler:  picture / video / how to do it video
Toe touch:  picture / video / how to do it video
Split Russian:  picture / video
Turn-around-toe touch:  video
Pike:  picture / video / how to do it video
Double 9:  picture / video / how to do it video
Around-the-world: video / how to do it video

More links of interest about jumps:
Exercises to improve your jumps (legs and abs)
Varsity's jump tips
More exercises
Video of more jump exercises
Jump tips
Video of jump counts
Jump videos
side hurdler
Graphics courtesy of Brianne Peterson Pitt