Updated: Aug 26, 2019
Forget the debate "is cheerleading a sport or not" (no need for debate when it's a FACT!) - the hot topic that came up recently was ELBOWS!
Never did we ever think that this part of our body could cause so much controversy.. "KEEP ELBOWS TOGETHER" outraged cheer teens on one of our recent videos. They were right. They were also wrong.
We're not here to argue about elbows, but elbows pointed out a really interesting topic we hadn't explored before. TECHNIQUE VS STYLING in cheer. By definition:
TECHNIQUE: a skilful or efficient way of doing or achieving something.
STYLING: the way in which something is made, designed, or performed.
What you need to consider, is that choreography and different types of technique and styling in cheer, but also in other sports and performance arts, constantly evolves and varies from state to country, school, gym or event provider. There is no right and wrong way to perform a technique as long as there is a valid reason / biomechanical logic to it.
A technique is not "correct" or "incorrect" because someone said so. The question to ask is, WHY and does it make sense?
For argument's sake, let's use the elbow example, given that this provoked the most horrified responses (almost comparable to the scandalous act of showing a bare ankle in the Middle Ages..!). The clap or the clasp can be performed in two different ways:
Also known as: Front clasp/clap
Mostly used in: Allstar Cheer
Pros: Easier for everyone on the team to look the same. Keeps arms together creating less swing during jump prep. Higher probability of score due to unison.
Cons: Keeping your elbows together tightens the chest and rounds your back. You get less posterior back power to help you keep the chest up during jumps. Your body has to work harder to keep control of the upper body during the jump.
Also known as: Chest clasp/clap
Mostly used in: High School / College Cheer
Pros: Keeps the chest and back balanced and equally engaged, giving more upper body control to keep the chest up during the jump, as triceps and lats are able to fully contract.
Cons: It's much harder to make look consistent throughout the team, takes longer to drill neatly. Some judges in all star competitions don't like this technique.
It's true, someone might have told you that "Doing X is wrong, you need to do Y". The sport of cheerleading is still relatively new in terms of athletic development and education, and there is no definitive guide to what's right and what's wrong. There are so many styles and types of cheerleading scattered all around the world, and they are all equally relevant within their context.
Instead, there is:
What is biomechanically right: ie is your technique putting you at a physical advantage?
What is right for YOU: because every body is different and could need adaptations.
What is right for your team: based on overall consistency and the preferred technique of your event provider / judging panel.
Trends come and go, but body efficiency is forever relevant and biomechanics is a science.
In your athletic or coaching career, you will learn different techniques, tricks, tips and names for skills from different coaches, teams and in different states or countries. It won't make one right or wrong: it's a question of style, preference and efficiency.
Some will work for you, some will not. Focus instead of improving your body awareness, becoming more efficient and learning the best ways for YOU and YOUR team to hit your skills and look consistent!