Cheerleading competitions are amazing and really stressful for everyone involved. Here are some ideas on how to keep your stress level low, whether you’re a competitor, coach, or parent.

First, get ready. The best way to combat the stress of competition is to have a routine that everyone on the court masters and feels confident completing. From stunts to tumbling passes, make sure everyone is in sync on several perfect tries before loading up the trucks to head off to the competition. This means making sure practices count and that everyone is there for every practice. No apologies. Even participants who aren’t feeling too well can come in and watch and detect for any last-minute changes.

Second, make sure your squad is prepared with what it needs. Does the routine require props (signs, megaphones, pom poms, flags, etc.)? Make sure they are loaded on the transport the night before you leave.

Triple check everything!

Third, make sure the competitors have everything they need for the uniforms they wear. Shop the jumbo size (2.5 gallon) slider bags. Ask participants to bring what they need (shoes, belly, shells, skirts, socks, hair bows, spankies). Neatly pack each complete uniform in a slider bag. Label the bags with the name of each participant with a permanent marker. If available, pack extra uniform pieces in different sizes as well. Keep all the uniforms together! Do not give them to the participants until it is time to prepare!

Fourth, pack the makeup kits. Make sure you’ve decided on a makeup color scheme and eye pattern before you arrive at the competition. Do not experiment when you are on the spot! Do a dress rehearsal one night the week before the competition. If your squad wears hairpieces, include them in the rehearsal and pack them with the make-up kits. If not, be sure to plan accordingly for hair rollers or tongs for the style your team uses, and pack plenty of hairspray. Go all out with uniforms and makeup. Run the routine several times for parents and students. Some squads charge admission to raise funds and invite the school and community. They may offer a spaghetti dinner or hot dog dinner along with the entertainment. After the tryout, it’s the perfect time to pack up the uniforms. They’re all together, and it makes it so much easier.

Keep two accordion folders with copies of the registration information. Give one to a trusted assistant coach or parent. Make sure schedules, payment confirmation, and any other information relevant to the competition are kept in the accordion folder.

It is also important that parents feel as little stress as possible. Your kids are performing in front of a lot of people. They have probably invested a lot of time and money in cheerleading at this point. They want a good return and a happy child when all is said and done. Make sure they have directions to the venue, a schedule of events with times and stages for your squad(s) highlighted if possible, a set meeting place for before and after the competition, a schedule of the awards ceremony and a list. of possible places to stay and eat if it is an evening competition. Many parents like to “book” together when it comes to travel arrangements. Make sure they know where the team will be staying well in advance to make this an option for them. Be sure to keep parents informed at all times of possible changes in times or locations. You can set up a phone tree, but don’t count on it always working. Use emails, text alerts, and Facebook notifications to alert parents about what’s happening with the event.

Preparation Checklist:

1. The routine has been successful in practice several times without errors.

2. Each coach has at least two copies of the competition music.

3. All accessories are accounted for and packed.

4. There are two folders with all the registration information.

5. All uniforms are packaged, labeled, and transferred together.

6. All makeup kits are packed.

7. All parents have several ways to contact them to keep them up to date with schedules.

8. Room reservations (if required) are paid in advance and confirmation is in hand.

9. The start time allows for delays, hair and makeup issues, and possibly some testing before the competition.

10. Participant waiver forms are on hand with insurance information. Many times these are sent earlier with the registration. Keep a copy with you!

Some useful tips for the multitasking trainer:

1. Use Vaseline on the teeth to prevent the lips from bending and sticking together. Funny, but it works!

2. Use hairspray sprayed on the upper thigh and buttocks to prevent spanking from riding up during the routine.

3. Artist brushes work great for eye makeup. The longer handles allow you to work without being right in the girl’s face.

4. Wear hairpieces if the team can afford it. They are so much easier than trying to do your hair for every competition.

5. Makeup is always the same for girls. Same colors and “patterns” on the eyes or face.

6. Bring extra hair clips, extra hair ties, and extra safety pins!

7. Don’t get excited in front of the team before the competition. Don’t be scared when someone does a stunt during practice time. Don’t start crying or laughing hysterically (whichever way you deal with it). Wait until they are off the competition track. If someone makes a mistake, try not to dwell on it. They’ll go down badly enough when it happens.

8. If you can afford it or the parents want to help, have a small gift for the children when they are done. Even if it’s just a keychain or stuffed animal to help them commemorate their racing achievement, it will mean a lot to them.

The more prepared you are, the more stress you are going to feel. The less stress you feel, the less stress the participants will feel!

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