How to become a (GREAT!) Cheerleader
By Andrea Kulberg, M. Ed., Future Cheer (UK)
So what is “cheerleading” all about anyway? Believe it or not, it’s bigger than “High School Musical” and more mature than “Bring It On.” In fact, cheerleading is among the fastest growing athletic endeavors for young athletes—male and female! But the reason it is growing so fast is because of what it has to offer: a safe (yes, safe) environment where young people of all ages, sizes, ability levels, religions, and backgrounds can participate together in a positive (FUN!) activity. There is nothing that replaces the feeling of “belonging” to a family of cheerleading teammates. And there is nothing that replaces the feeling of accomplishment when an athlete learns something new. And nothing replaces that pure joy of success; or the challenge of learning new skills; or the pride of knowing perseverance and self-discipline and sportsmanship. There is nothing like seeing all the sweat of physical effort pour into the adrenaline of a great cheerleading competition or community performance. There’s nothing like knowing that even when the cheerleading is over, the life lessons that come with it are forever. There’s nothing like being a part of all those things at once—and THAT is what cheerleading is!
Sound good to you? Want to become a cheerleader… or even dare to become a GREAT cheerleader? There’s no reason YOU can’t do it! But be sure to do your homework first. Search the internet for some cheerleading teams in your area (they’re out there!) Look for teams with coaches who are USASF/IASF Credentialed, which means they’ve invested in proper skill-level training and have a vested interest in providing a safe environment for every athlete. Have your parents speak to the coach and visit a practice to see how they work. Once you make a few visits with them and decide to stay, keep in mind a few pointers to become the BEST you can be!
* Commit for the short term and for the long term. This is a team sport, and your teammates rely on YOU to be at every practice. If you join a team that is competitive, they need you there to participate in competitions, which can take months of preparation. Make your commitment to be physically present a PRIORITY!
* Have the right attitude. A lot of athletic activities are driven by positive attitude. The same is true for cheerleading. This sport is very demanding, so you have to make a big effort to stay positive and focused on your work.
* Educate Yourself. Watch others, go to competitions, be willing to learn at every opportunity. Don’t shut down when things get difficult—open up and allow yourself to be coached.
* Expect excellence. Excellent doesn’t mean you have to be an incredible athlete from the start. It means you have to have excellence in your EFFORT. Expect that from yourself first, and then from others on the team.
* Respect your teammates. Don’t gossip or spread negativity with your words or actions. It spreads like a cancer and can destroy even the strongest of bonds if not stopped in its early stages. Protect the good health of your team.
* Listen. Sounds simple, right? Not always! There is a lot to listen to… be ready to hear directives from the coaching staff and act on it as they request. It might be your turn to coach someday, but not until you know how to listen well. In fact, you’ll find that the coach is often the very best listener of them all.
* Endure the work… it isn’t easy. The physical contact and repetitive training of cheer can wear on you if you’re not careful. Part of learning endurance is to take time for yourself. Don’t make EVERYTHING cheer. Keep other hobbies as well, and keep friendships outside of cheerleading for a healthy balance and the ability to endure the work for a long time without burning out.
* Ask for help when you need it. Coaches and athletes alike benefit greatly from getting outside help. We see that at every instructional camp we teach at Future Cheer. Sometimes all you need is a fresh perspective to make the magic happen!
* Don’t forget to give back. Community service is a very important part of every cheer athlete’s work, as it builds the character and responsibility and pride needed to become successful in sport and in life. Don’t forget to find ways to plug into the people and places in your area! And you never know… you might just meet a few people who want to join your team along the way!
* Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet! Cheerleading is very much an athletic endeavour, and athletes have to maintain healthy eating habits to participate safely. We suggest all coaches invite a trained nutritionist (or similar professional) to work with athletes in establishing a sound knowledge of how to make healthy eating choices.
* Remember… have FUN!!! Once you’ve tried cheerleading you’ll see that having FUN is just natural—cheerleading has a way of bringing out happiness in all of us. Enjoy it, and we’ll no doubt see you flipping, flying, and dancing your way to being a great cheerleader!
Future Cheer is the leading international cheer and dance event producer in the world, offering novice to elite level athlete training, coach training, competitions, and custom cheer apparel and supplies. For more information about Future Cheer, visit www.futurecheer.net.
Andrea Kulberg, M. Ed.
Partner, Future Cheer
A former University of Texas cheerleader and National Cheerleaders Association (NCA) instructor, Andrea has had the honor of utilizing 23 years of cheerleading experience to train instructional staff, coaches, and athletes of all ages and skill levels from the USA, the UK, Europe, and Asia. Andrea Kulberg is the elected International Representative on the USASF/IASF Board of Directors and sits on the International Rules Committee and the International Sanctioning Committee. Andrea is also the author of the inspirational book, 20/20 Vision: An Insightful Journey into Joyful Living and Boundless Success. Andrea’s high standard of professionalism and integrity and her unyielding dedication to young athletes is a strong anchor on which Future Cheer is proudly founded.