We get this question so often, we thought we would dedicate a full article to cheer coaching qualifications and certifications. Based on your country or organisation - the requirements might be different. This article is therefore not aimed at a specific country or organisation, but rather looks at the necessary qualities and skills you will require, as well as helping you think about what type of coach you want to be.
Being a cheerleading coach is one of the most wonderful and rewarding jobs in the world. Nothing beats the smile on an athlete’s face when they successfully performs a new skill for the very first time, or when a team achieves a goal they've been working toward under your tutelage.
A cheerleading coach is required to have a myriad of different qualities and skills and the position comes with many responsibilities including the welfare, development and safety of your athletes. . A coach should be qualified and knowledgeable*, but also inspiring, creative, respectful, passionate, diplomatic, persevering, determined, flexible, approachable, organised and encouraging ...to name but a few attributes! The great thing is, that once you’ve decided what type of cheerleading you want to teach and have qualified as a coach, many of these attributes can be honed through continued professional development opportunities.
If you want to become a cheer coach, there are a number of things you will need to consider:
STEP 1: WHAT KIND OF CHEER COACH DO YOU WANT TO BE?
Before you start your cheer career, you need to know what type of coach you want to be. There are so many different types of cheerleading, and every country, state and organisation have different varieties of coaching requirements.
There are six main types of cheerleading, as well as many sub-genres:
Sideline: Promotes and supports competing sports teams in a tournament. Can involve stunt and tumbling elements. Poms are often used.
Varsity Cheerleading: High School or College teams that compete against others in an organised tournament usually split by skill level and age.
All-Star Cheerleading: Private cheerleading training facilities and organisations where the main focus is on producing teams for competitive cheerleading events. Routines will involve stunts and tumbling. Poms are not used.
Recreational: Classes and activities set up for no distinct purposes other than participation, skill attainment and personal development.
Pom Dance: Main focus is dance skills. Stunts or tumbling skills may be involved but are generally basic and primarily used for visual enhancement. Poms are used throughout or for the majority of the time.
Professional Cheerleading: Trained dancers performing as a team and supporting a professional sports team (usually receiving a wage for their performance). Stunts and tumbling elements are rarely utilised. Use of poms depends on team and sport (e.g. NFL pro cheerleaders use poms more often than NBA pro cheerleaders do).
Regardless of the label, we should recognise cheerleading as a sport or an athletic performance activity, therefore as a cheer coach you should train and develop your cheerleaders as athletes and/or performers.
Despite public perception, an increasing number of countries worldwide are recognising cheerleading as a sport and are becoming involved in international championships. As these numbers grow, and with more and more countries focusing on overall public health and particular inclusion of females in sport, we expect the popularity, funding and recognition of cheerleading to grow exponentially over the next decade.
STEP 2: SEARCH FOR YOUR LOCAL ORGANISATION
In many countries there is no official governing body for cheerleading. In order to create an NGB (national governing body), the country must agree to elect one representative organisation, among other criteria. In countries with multiple self-determined 'bodies', creating an NGB has proven to be very difficult.
Depending on your country, event provider and institution, there will be different variations in the legal responsibilities and requirements for coaching cheerleading.
Our main recommendation is to contact your NGB or a recognised event provider, and ensure you complete an entry point qualification that is specific to your country and/or organisation. An entry-level coaching certification will give you all of the basic steps you need to comply to your legal and ethical responsibility as a cheerleading coach, as well as ensure you can find employment and be covered by a sports insurance.
To find your local organisation, we would suggest searching the ICU database (the International Cheer Union is the world's recognised governing body for cheerleading, with each country having a member representative):
STEP 3: GET CERTIFIED
Before you start coaching, it is essential that you go through training and certification - not only to ensure the safety and welfare of your athletes, but also to gain some valuable lessons and tips to bring your squad success. Whether it's in cheer, stunt, pom, dance or sideline, appropriate certification if a MUST.
The types of training and certification offered, and who offers it, will vary from country to country. So with so many options to choose from, how do you know which one suits you best?
WHAT KIND OF COACHING COURSE ARE YOU LOOKING FOR?
In most countries there will be the choice of courses and exams online or in person. Some will offer a comprehensive training programme to accompany the exam, while others will simply offer the written test with no teaching. Look for the type of course you feel would best equip you at your personal stage of development.
Are you are a novice looking for a hands on experience, or a seasoned coach looking to quickly recredential?
Alternatively, a National Governing Body, competition event providers should be able to offer a list of credentialing bodies which they recognise - They may even run their own courses. Crucially your entry-level / primary certification should be recognised by insurers.
Once you have your certification, it is highly recommended that you undertake regular continued professional development to keep up with the latest sports science developments and things like competition rule changes.
CPD opportunities can be found annually at coaching conferences, and all year round on our CheerConditioning.Academy platform (which offers a library of sport-specific workouts, lesson plans, and resources, as well as short courses)
Whether you train online with CheerConditioning.Academy or attend a course through your Event Provider (EP) or Governing Body (GB), here are the different topics and cheer coach qualifications that are available worldwide:
STEP 4: ADMIN CHECKLIST
Before you start coaching, and based on your country's requirements you might need a number of the following documents in place. Your entry-level cheer qualification and NGB (if you have one) should help and direct you to create or assemble the necessary documents and requirements for you to start coaching:
Rulebooks, age-level and grids
Risk-assessment or Method Statement
Child Protection & Vulnerable Adult policy and procedure for reporting
Equal Opportunities Policy
Club Mission Statement / Vision
Tryout & Team Policies
Criminal Record Checks (police background checks) for you and your staff
Insurance Policies (Public Liability / Professional Indemnity / Athlete Protection)
STEP 5: LEGAL RESPONSIBILITIES OF A CHEER COACH
Once you've successfully qualified as a cheer coach, remember that your first call of duty is the responsibility of your athletes. Below, we share the obligations or duties that have been identified as absolute requirements for coaches and athletic administrators based in the United States.
These standards have evolved as a result of various case law proceedings and legal judgments against individuals and school districts. This summary is not all-inclusive but is generally accepted as the “Legal Duties of Coaches” by the NFHS (National Federation of High Schools) and NIAAA (National Interscholastic Athletic Administrator Association).
This forms a solid understanding of a coaches’ duties and responsibilities:
Duty to Plan – A coach must demonstrate awareness of the maturity, physical development and readiness of athletes with appropriate plans for instruction, conditioning and supervision.
Duty to Supervise – A coach must be physically present, provide competent instruction, structure practices that are appropriate for the age and maturity of players, prevent foreseeable injuries and respond to injury or trauma in an approved manner. This duty requires supervisors to make sure facilities are locked and that students are denied access when a competent staff member cannot be physically present to supervise. This duty may also require coaches to control reckless player behaviours. Supervision responsibility also pertains to athletic administrators who are expected to be able to supervise coaches competently.
Duty to Assess Athletes Readiness for Practice and Competition – Athletics administrators and coaches are required to assess the health and physical or maturational readiness skills and physical condition of athletes. A progression of skill development and conditioning improvement should be apparent from practice plans. Athletes must also be medically screened in accordance with state association regulations before participating in practice or competition.
Duty to Maintain Safe Playing Conditions – Coaches are considered trained professionals who possess a higher level of knowledge and skill that permits them to identify foreseeable causes of injury inherent in defective indoor and outdoor facilities or hazardous environments.
Duty to Provide Safe Equipment – Courts have held athletic supervisors responsible to improve unsafe environments, repair or remove defective equipment or disallow athlete access.
Duty to Instruct Properly – Athletic practices must be characterized by instruction that accounts for a logical sequence of fundamentals that lead to an enhanced progression of player knowledge, skill, and capability.
Duty to Match Athletes – Athletes should be matched with consideration for maturity skill, age, size and speed. To the degree possible, mismatches should be avoided in all categories.
Duty to Condition Properly – Practices must account for a progression of cardiovascular and musculoskeletal conditioning regimens that prepare athletes sequentially for more challenging practices and competitive activities.
Duty to Warn – Coaches are required to warn parents and athletes of unsafe practices specific to a sport and the potential for injury or death. This warning should be issued in writing and both athletes and parents should be required to provide written certification of their comprehension.
Duty to Ensure Athletes are Covered by Injury Insurance – Athletics administrators and coaches must screen athletes to ensure that family and/or school insurance provides basic level of medical coverage. Athletes should not be allowed to participate without injury insurance.
Duty to Provide Emergency Care – Coaches are expected to be able to administer standard emergency care (first aid, CPR) in response to a range of traumatic injuries.
Duty to Design a Proper Emergency Response Plan – Coaches must design plans to ensure an expedited response by EMS and an effective transition to the care and supervision of emergency medical personnel.
Duty to Provide Proper Transportation – In general, bonded, commercial carriers should be used for out of town transportation. Self or family transportation for local competition may be allowed if parents have adequate insurance coverage for team members other than their family members. (follow School District guidelines)
Duty to Select, Train, and Supervise Coaches – Administrators have responsibility to ensure that appropriate skill and knowledge levels exist among members of the coaching staff to ensure appropriate levels of safety and well being among athletes.