Updated: Apr 1, 2019
YOUR BRAIN IS YOUR SECRET WEAPON: USE IT!
Did you know your brain is always talking with your body and it’s not a one way conversation! In fact, it doesn’t just ask ‘how it’s day is going’, but it also talks about ‘what it’s feeling’, ‘how and what it’s doing’, ‘how soft something is’, and much much more. The communication back and forth, combined with our ability to execute those tasks properly is called our Neuromuscular Efficiency (or simply our brain and body’s ability to communicate to ensure we are using the correct muscles for the job). Without thinking, our body does many cool things so that we can focus on what’s right in front of us. It has been proven that as humans we aren’t able to truly focus on more than one thing at a time. This is why we have certain parts of our body that do their jobs on their own!
TEST THIS THEORY AT HOME
A quick test to show you an example: 1.) Sit facing forward, looking straight ahead. 2.) Have a friend or teammate move their hand quickly (without hitting you), toward your temple
Now notice how you may have braced for impact, or blinked, or even tightened muscles in your neck without telling those body parts to move! This is evidence that our brain and body reacts and executes tasks without us ever having to think.
WHAT IS HAPPENING BETWEEN YOUR BRAIN AND YOUR BODY
I like to think of that conversation with our body and mind much like taking notes in school. What we write down in our notes when we are taking them plays a part in how well we do on the test. Now when it comes to cheer, these internal convo’s are super important. How many times has your coach asked if your eyes were open, or what you were spotting? What about why weren’t your arms up at this part of your skill? More often than not, my athletes will say “Wait I thought my arms were up!” This is an example of poor internal communication or inefficiency and CAN BE FIXED: with some focus and determination you can be sure your brain and body messages communicate like they have iMessage!
If you think about your teacher as your coach, taking notes as learning a new skill, your notebook like your muscles, and the notes are the technique we are trying to learn for that skill. Writing down the notes can be compared to warming up your fundamental skills in Cheer. If we warm up and execute drills lazily, your technique or aka our notes, will not be where they need to be to succeed!
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HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO REMEMBER EVERYTHING?
Your body also remembers everything you do: This really exciting thing called MUSCLE MEMORY. It’s incredible and it’s what allows you to hop on a bike after not riding for five years and your body always remembers. This is true for us as cheerleaders as well. This is how we can come back from a long break and still execute skills we’ve practiced over and over with few mistakes.
HOW TO GET CONSISTENCY IN YOUR CHEER SKILLS
Why are these concepts so important to Cheer? How many times have you walked into a private lesson or class and started warming up. You start the routine that your coach has given you and sort of go through it because they said to. You try to focus on a few things you remember them saying we needed to fix…. And then you start warming up some standing back handsprings. Then some round-offs and then connect your handsprings to them. But for some reason your tumbling feels weird today. Out of your handsprings you keep rebounding up and forward uncontrollably.
How you execute your basic skills is how you will execute everything! If your head is out in your handstand, I can promise your head will be out in your handsprings and then into your tucks. It won’t magically get in, once it pops out! Which in turn makes our sets lower! How do we fix this?
WARM UP LIKE YOU ARE ABOUT TO COMPETE IN THE OLYMPICS
When you warm up, perform each drill like you're about to compete it: paying attention to every muscle in your body. This goes for all of your skills and here is a quick checklist to ensure your body does it job and allows you to focus on your skills.
Warm up your entire body and ensure you have mobilised the areas you’re going to be working on so that everything does the jobs it’s supposed to do
Execute skills the BEST you possibly can every time
This goes for drills, warm-ups, and skill progressions that you warm up every class or lesson
Start and FINISH every single skill
If a coach asks for a rebound out of a skill, ensure you do one with the best technique you can
Do skills in the mirror or record yourself
This is so you can see what you are doing compared to what you “think”
Ask for feedback or help
If you aren’t sure what a body position, skills, or technique is supposed to be executed, ask someone that does!
It should be a coach that is trained in that sport
Ask what you can do at home
Although you may not be able to do the skill at home, you can prepare the body to be ready for those skills. This includes strengthening, stretching, and body shaping to create solid muscle memory for the next time you go to work on that skill.
Give your best all the time
When we use poor technique our body remembers. When warming up a handstand with our head sticking out and legs bent; our brain basically then has that picture imprint stuck in it until we change it. As we know a handstand is in the middle of a handspring. Now consider our tumbling like a math problem.
Sitting back into a straight jump+ handstand+ handstand block+ rebound = a back handspring.
Now, instead of your best possible handstand, insert that lazy handstand your brain remembers. Those technique errors will make it much more difficult to achieve your goal of a pretty back handspring don’t you think?
So take our advice and try to master every single basic skill before progressing BECAUSE every higher level skill is a combination of those basic skills put together! Now go out there and take the time in your fundamentals so you can get that 10/10 where it matters so that you build a solid building block for your next skill.