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Cheerleading

Cheerleading squads cheer for non-professional as well as professional sports teams.

Cheerleading requires the performance of stunts. [©Jupiter Images, 2009]
©Jupiter Images, 2009
Cheerleading requires the performance of stunts.

Cheerleading

Cheerleading is a sport whose function is to encourage fans to cheer for a favorite sports team. It involves stunts, dances and cheers. While some do not consider cheerleading a sport, cheerleaders break bones, perform stunts that require strength and stamina, practice many hours and receive scholarships from certain colleges and universities. There are also cheer camps and competitions, where rival teams demonstrate their skills.

How to Get Started in Cheerleading

Many people are familiar with the high school cheerleading squad. However, with the increasing popularity of cheering and dance squads, children as young as 5 years old can join a cheerleading squad through organizations such as Upward. Organizations that offer youth cheer programs teach small children the basics of cheerleading, including cheers, small cheer moves and pom-pom techniques.

Another option for young children to learn cheerleading is private gymnastics facilities. Many of these facilities offer gymnastics, dance and cheerleading instruction. With private gyms, students as young as 4 years old can take advantage of basic cheerleading instruction. Students who receive cheerleading instruction during their younger years have a better chance of making the cheerleading squad in junior or senior high school. For kids who don't start cheering until later, trying out for the junior high school cheer squad is a good start.

A city or town may have some recreational cheer squads to cheer for local sports teams. The parks and recreation departments of cities and towns usually organizes these cheer squads.

Cheer Costs

Depending on how early a person starts cheering, cheerleading can cost a family thousands of dollars. Cheerleaders cover the costs for application fees, cheer camps, shoes, uniforms, bags, accessories and any other incidental costs that come with cheerleading. Students who receive cheerleading instruction from a private facility may also have tuition costs tacked onto the regular cheerleading costs. The average cost for one year of cheerleading in high school, including cheer camp, is about $600. That cost doesn't reflect the costs of competitions, including travel, hotels and food.

Cheer Camps and Schools

Cheer camps are an integral part of cheerleading and provide intense short-term instruction on stunts, cheers and dances. Professional cheer organizations, such as the American Cheerleaders Association and CHEERSPORT, offer squads cheerleading camps that cover a variety of skills.

The American Cheerleaders Association offers private camps for beginning squads, low-budget squads or squads not comfortable in a large camp setting. CHEERSPORT separates its camps into cheer camps, stunt camps, compete camps and hosted camps. No matter which organization a cheerleader chooses, camp instruction includes cheer drills, handspring drills, twisting drills, jump drills, stunt drills, dance drills and crowd involvement drills.

Cheer Competitions

Cheerleading competitions are an incentive for many cheer squads to practice and do their best. Winners receive a variety of prizes, including trophies, medals, banners, jackets, cash and scholarships. There are regional and national cheerleading competitions. These competitions involve travel to the competition destination. One of the most popular cheering competitions is the World Cheerleading Association's national competition, which takes place in Nashville, Tennessee.

Cheering competitions judge squads on a variety of cheering skills. Common scoring sections include:

  • Dance and motion
  • Jumps
  • Stunts
  • Synchronization
  • Pyramids
  • Tumbling
  • Tossing
  • Running
  • Choreography
  • Transition
  • Showmanship


Scoring is strict and there is an infraction's judge who takes points off for everything from hands touching the floor during moves to falls and errors during moves.

Professional Cheerleading

For the cheerleader that wants to go beyond high school and college cheerleading, there is the option of being a professional cheerleader. Professional cheerleaders work with specific sports teams to cheer at football and basketball games. Professional cheerleaders earn an income and, depending on popularity, may pose for calendars and photo shoots for sports magazines. Sports fanatics view professional cheerleaders as celebrities and young cheerleaders view professional cheerleaders as role models.

The Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders have audition information available on their website. Other professional cheerleading squads also hold auditions for prospective cheerleaders. Anyone wishing to become a professional cheerleader must prepare to relocate to the state in which the cheerleaders practice. While most squads won't have a residency requirement for auditions, they will expect accepted cheerleaders to relocate to the area. Professional cheerleading does pay, but most cheerleaders also have a part-time or full-time job.

A prospective professional cheerleader should prepare for the cheer audition just like a regular job interview. Some tips for a successful audition include wearing the right clothes, applying makeup naturally, pulling hair away from the face, smiling, practicing moves and working out for a few weeks before the audition. Depending on the team, some part of the audition may include posing and freestyle dancing, so practice those skills before the audition. The number-one point to remember when auditioning for any cheer squad is to work hard and perform as smoothly as possible.

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