8 MUST DO'S BEFORE YOU START A CHEERLEADING TEAM
So you're thinking of starting a cheerleading squad? Below we have listed the 8 most important things you will need to organise and decide on to start-up your new squad.
1. GET QUALIFIED
Before thinking about starting a cheerleading squad, make sure you have somebody qualified to handle the coaching. This might mean finding a coach that you can hire to start off your season and that you can shadow, or getting yourself qualified. Be warned that cheerleading coaching qualifications are not yet regulated and have no minimum standard. This may mean that after taking some of the courses, you may have the qualification on paper, but not necessarily the knowledge to provide safe and effective coaching. Similarly, a qualification which permits you to coach cheerleaders to a certain skill level often does not cover the important psychology, coaching, developmental and learning principles which are VITAL to know if you want to build a robust and successful team. Learn how the "Body Before Skill" concept can really help to build better skills among the team.
2. DECIDE YOUR OFFERING AND MAKE IT OFFICIAL
Firstly you need to decide if you are primarily a stunting or dance based squad. There are advantages and disadvantages to both, and it will come down to the squad you would like to create, as well as the skills and abilities of your potential cheerleaders. Cheerleading is a very diverse and multifarious sport which includes;
Pom, Hip Hop and other dance genres
Group stunt and partner stunt
Professional sideline cheer
Recreational and display squads
Special ability cheerleading
and that is by no means and exhaustive list! Therefore there really is a cheer style for everyone, so consider carefully what you want and what your squad can achieve and be realistic. You can always add more levels of difficulty, more stunting and more offerings as and when your core cheer skills improve. You may also be limited by your equipment and space, so take that into consideration too!
Find out exactly how to get officially registered within your community (this could be through a college/university, a company, a community group, sole trader etc..).
Do some research to see if there is any budget that you can make use of to offset initial set up costs ie local council grants, participation in sport grants, student services budget etc. Prepare your case extensively and be prepared to have to go to several meetings in a professional capacity to propose the formation (sometimes known as affiliation) of a new cheerleading squad or club, and ensure that you are very well versed in the pros and benefits of starting up a team before you approach anybody. Cheerleading companies and sporting bodies have their own criteria and guidelines to help you start up a squad. You will need to contact them directly to find out more details. However basic bureaucratic documents you may need to think about are:
Health and Safety Policies
Child Protection and Vulnerable Adults Policies
It is also a good idea to have several people state their interest in starting up with your new team when you go to your first meeting, as they can show that your team is a good idea and not just a pipe dream. In a school or university situation there may need to be a minimum interest of 20 or so students to support the formation so make sure you have enough people stating their interest via a petition, for example before you announce your new squad to the world. Remember that in order to get officially recognised within academic facilities, you will need to prove that you exist as a squad, and that you are committed to and knowledgeable about your sport.
3. SETTLE ON A NAME
It may sound very obvious but deciding on a name is one of the most important first steps. Without it you have no identity! There is a reason why films and books are written under a ‘working title’ a name gives a project cohesion and character. A great name will ensure clients and other squads remember you, as well as giving them an insight into your squads personality. You may already have a very clear idea of a name for your squad, but if not we have some suggestions to get you started. Take inspiration from famous features of your local area, colours that mean something to you or have relevance locally, or use the name of your university or school. For example if Ribchester had a university (it doesn't, but it does have some nice Roman ruins) and its colours were black and silver they could call their cheer squad the Ribchester Ravens, because it alliterates, ravens are black and they fly. If you are going to choose an animal make sure it has positive associations; Cats are good as they are associated with feline grace and prowess, Dogs are not so great (for obvious verbal reasons!) If you're thinking of going Co-ed any time soon don't choose a very girly specific name like Vixens as it puts boys off from joining.
4. BE REALISTIC WITH YOUR GOALS
Two thirds of businesses fail in their first year... scary statistic, but you need to be aware that your team is also at its most vulnerable at this stage. More often than not, it is because the team fails to achieve its expectations. This may not be the fault of the athletes. It may be that the goal was not realistic to begin with. If you don't come from an area where cheerleading has been religion for decades, it's not realistic to enter all guns blazing with a competition calendar and division fit for a Worlds team. Excessive pressure and the failure to achieve goals is the main reason why teams dissolve or fail to grow. Set goals that are fun, realistic, and achievable. Take it stepping stone by stepping stone, and if you fail to achieve that, break it down even more. You need to have successes in your year, even if they're small. The enthusiasm and confidence that the small objectives have collectively, will outweigh any gamble in the long run.
5. FIND A MENTOR
Luke Skywalker needed Yoda - You need an established expert behind you. Scout around for a reliable, experienced coach who can come in to set the basics and then help you to develop your team. Don't be afraid, there are plenty of coaches and gym owners who are happy to help out emerging new teams. Send them an email or give them a call and tell them you are seeking their guidance. A local team can recommend a coach for you, or even send one of their members with a qualification to come and give you extra help. Ask other established squads if you can go watch them practise to get an idea of how it’s done. Not only will this provide you with a valuable source of advice, but also give you someone to share your pains and worries.
6. PLAN A CLINIC
If you're starting up at the end of a season or over the summer break, why not run a few fun skills, technique, fitness and games clinics for those who have already expressed their interest in joining or those who still need a bit of convincing? This is a great way to build interest, talk and potentially revenue before the season officially starts and will give you an idea if your club will catch-on in the local community.
Holding a special clinic or two early on in the season with all of your new members can set the tone, help you run more efficient practices, teach skills, techniques and choreography and also provides a greater amount of set checkpoints for skills, conditioning, coachability, and team bonding. Make it fun, make it a special occasion. This will bring so many benefits to all of your squad members.
If you're short of cheerleaders in your school, sports team or even your local area. Don't dispair.
Here's a list of people with highly transferable and useful skills who would be easily trained and would probably have some of the core skills and fitness levels you need to make your fledgling squad take to the skies sooner rather than later.
Dancers - for obvious reasons of flexibility, grace and performance skills
Gymnasts – Many gymnasts give up training in their early teens and secretly wish they could get back on the mat. Every cheer team benefits from experienced tumblers, so ex-gymnasts are like gold dust when recruiting!
Break dancers - might seem random but a lot of break dancers use aspects of gymnastics in their routines which can easily translate into cheerleading with a gentle push
Ice Skaters - Pretty uniforms, lots of make up, spins and stretches, cheerleading is ice skating without the ice or skates.
Rowers – Rowers have excellent upper body strength and the guys in particular make excellent bases for stunts
Body builders - Why lift weights when you can lift girls?!
NFL/Rugby/Hockey/Basketball players - once you have shown your support on the muddy fields, at the end of their season you can challenge them into a macho game of 'throw a cheerleader' (in the hands of some very responsible coaching, obviously!). Men's competitive nature will start playing the trick, and soon enough you'll have lots of eager volunteers around for stunting! Make sure that with getting the men involved, you do so gradually, or they will be scared off!
8. DELEGATE RESPONSABILITY
First rule of effective management is delegation. Once you have recruited enough people for a team, it is beneficial to delegate certain tasks to core members, i.e a committee or staff of coaches. You will have way too much on your plate to do everything, however organised you are. As the person who set up the team you will probably end up being the head coach / president / director, but you may also want to consider other beneficial positions:
Team captains for different teams
Specialist coaches (dance, stunt, tumbling, fitness)
Social secretary / communications / outreach / marketing
Uniform / Kit Captain
If you are relying on people volunteering their time, it is really important not to overload them with tasks and to assign them a role that they potentially enjoy doing. Manage their expectations of the role so that you make sure everyone keeps to deadlines without it consuming too much of their schedule. Meet regularly with your committee / staff, and offer them incentives in return for their time (such as free training, kit, competition entries, discounted fees etc) if needed.
One of the most useful things to put together is an 'Operations Manual'. This is a blue-print of who does what, and how it should be done and it's a great way to keep communications efficient and understand how everything fits together. Start by breaking down the main tasks for running the team, and put down 5-10 bullet points max for each tasks explaining how this should be completed. Do this, and stay super organised! Make sure you share this with the rest of the staff, using something like Dropbox, Basecamp (Jessica Zoo's new fave), a private web page or a Facebook group! We recommend revising a document like this before the start of each season to suit the needs of your growing operations.
Do you have a successful Cheerleading start-up story? We'd love to feature your experience, highs and lows for others to read and learn from - That's what the CheerConditioning.Academy community is all about!