Running a Practice and a Team
1. Remember these girls are your team. Know the rules you are going to set and start your season off with a parent meeting, team present, to set the tone, firmly and pleasantly for the season. A few examples:
Girls should always be on time; that means ready to start at the given practice time, not arrive when practice should start. Being prompt is a sign of respect for you, and the fact you are volunteering countless hours to this program but it is also what you do when you are part of a TEAM. In return ALWAYS end your practice on time as a sign of respect for the parents/guardians time and that they are juggling quite a bit this time of year.
Proper attire is mandatory at practice or you will either provide a shirt from the lost and found or the cheerleader sits or runs. (no thongs, proper fitting shirts, no rolling shorts, appropriate shoes).
It is a CIAC rule…NO JEWELRY, NO FAKE NAILS. Real nails should be trimmed to be no longer than ¼ inch above finger tips, no sharp edges.
Every cheerleader should carry a drawstring backpack that contains sunscreen, lip balm, bug spray, a towel and flip flops to slip on after practice.
2. Every minute of every practice should be utilized. PLAN, PLAN, PLAN…it will make your life so much easier in the long run. Example of typical practice:
Welcome your team and take attendance at start of practice
Warm up with 5 minutes of light cardio followed by warm up stretches (see Strength Training Program for suggestions).
Always begin practice with the most difficult physical activities while the team has the most energy…So, start with progressive stunting for 20 minutes followed by a 5 minute water break. Be sure everyone has something to do.
Jump stretches/Jumps – again a 20 minute workout encouraging form before height. Height will come with conditioning. 5 minute water break.
Next should be either cheers, chants, half time…it’s a good break from the total physical demand of stunting and jumping. Pick a few cheers/chants a week to master, work on a few 8 counts of half time each week and begin to access your teams’ ability in order to start planning a competition routine. Water break.
Arm motions need to be worked every practice. Motions should be tight, rigid with shoulders relaxed. Check placement every time.
Conditioning should end every practice. Condition every body part…again see our Strength Training Program for ideas, and condition every practice. Conditioning is what is going to build the cheerleaders’ strength for stunting, the height for the jumps and the stamina to get through the best football game and the 2 and a half minutes on the mat with ease. Conditioning is vital to the teams’ success. Since the girls are going home anyway…condition until they can’t do another sit up, lunge or squat.
3. Coaches need to be prepared and bring their own bag to practice. Your bag should have an adequate first aid box, all emergency contact information, your progressive stunting sheets, team note book and ice.
An example of a progressive stunting sheet is attached below. Feel free to adapt to your needs. Fill this out religiously after every practice and you will know where to start the next practice and which stunting position best fits each cheerleader. It also is your guide when a parent or cheerleader approaches you and asks why they are not the flyer or back spot…by keeping good stunting notes you will easily be able to point out the necessary skills have not been mastered yet to have that position OR the needs of the team based on all stunting sheets is that this particular cheerleader best fit is _________ . It is important to explain to everyone, including parents, that there is no bench in cheerleading. All girls are used in everything you do; they are a team, and you are not there to highlight a chosen few but to develop everyone.
A Team Notebook is a great coaching tool. Attendance records, practice notes, messages from parents, goals can all be kept in one notebook. That way if one coach can’t be at practice, another coach can pick up where need be. Setting goals for every practice keeps everyone on the same page and also keeps you and the team focused. It makes it very easy for you to track progress.
Ice. Keep a few dozen ice cubes and several zip lock bags in your coaching bag. The chemical ice packs that are included in first aid kits or provided my most programs should not be used on the face or broken skin which translates as useless in cheerleading terms more times than not. Have each cheerleader use their own towel in between the chemical ice pack or yours as an extra barrier. Zip lock bags are also good for storing jewelry should someone forget and where some to practice…bring a sharpie to label the bags.
Be sure to treat the girls as you would like to be treated. Always begin every critique with a positive note. Be constructive and informative. Don’t tell the team it didn’t go well or that the stunt didn’t stick...tell them something they don’t know and how to fix it. Also, end every practice on a positive note. Give the team something to think about focusing on the next practice and also what they did do well, if they reached the practice goal, if they worked as a team, projected their voices, etc.