Cheer tryouts are fast approaching and cheerleaders are scrambling to prepare.
It is very important that parents encourage them not to attempt skills during tryouts that they have not “mastered”. Many will feel pressed to showcase something they are not quite ready for and parents need to make sure the programs they are involved with clearly communicate safety first.
This time of year, state rules for cheer are being revised and it is important they be communicated and enforced. Make sure you have equipped your athlete with the proper foundation to enter into the cheer arena……physical fitness, conditioning, rules awareness, tumbling classes and stunt and safety awareness.
As parents, we want to provide our children with all the tools and encouragement we can to be successful and safe. Another safety tip is reminding your athlete to warm up properly before every practice. Never “cold” stretch! Always begin with brief cardio to get your heart rate up such as jumping Jacks, light jog, etc. then you can stretch specific muscle groups. It’s also important to close out practices and workouts with light stretching.
Another friendly reminder to make sure your cheerleader is working out regularly (under careful supervision of course). Many cheerleaders are entrenched in their all-star season at this point; but for those who aren’t, and have some extra time, there should be a serious focus in the weight room to strengthen all muscle groups and conditioning for stamina. Parents should strongly encourage year-round training to prevent injury. While training, make sure to give those muscles time to recover. Experts say that cross-training by doing exercises for other sports helps fight off injury as well!
For those athletes that are still cheering basketball, you should pay close attention to safety guidelines from AACCA and your state rules to ensure what is deemed acceptable on basketball courts. It’s very important that parents be assured that their child’s coaches are aware and enforcers of these rules and only executing stunts and tumbling on the hard surfaces that they have done time and again.
At this point in the season, it is often frustrating and challenging to keep our cheer teams healthy and injury free. I have learned through experience the tremendous struggle that is constantly before us in continuing to add difficulty and progress to higher skill levels and maintaining safety. Especially with school teams, where we are combining multiple levels of skill sets.
Unlike summer activities that allow for heavy conditioning and strength building, when “in season” – we are usually doing constant repetition of sideline cheering, stunts, tumbling, and competition routines. With the demands of cheering games, pep rallies, and competitions, there is a huge decrease at this point in focusing on muscle development and cardio and the “wear and tear” seems to kick in. With several injuries on our team and exhausted bodies, it has further emphasized for me the importance of educating our cheerleaders on healthy eating, work-outs and a year round strength program to try to avoid some of these issues.
I also cannot emphasize enough the importance of repetition in stunting and tumbling…also learned the hard way through experience. It is critical to the future of safety in our sport to not compete or perform a skill that has not had an obnoxious number of repetitions with at least 2 designated spotters.
Lastly, I strongly encourage you to inquire about having all athletes at your school to be imPACT tested at your school. This is to provide a base-line read in case there is suspicion of concussion at any point during their athletic career.
Now that most students are back in school preparing for their upcoming sporting events and full-time practices, Parents of all athletes should have submitted physical forms to coaches that are comprehensive in explaining their athlete’s physical health.
I encourage parents, in addition to the physicians assessment, that you share medical background and history regarding specifics of your child so that coaches are very familiar with previous struggles or injuries, allergies, etc. This is a wonderful tool for your coach to give your athlete the care and training that will hopefully prevent injury, but in case there is an emergency – it gives them necessary information to deliver quality, appropriate care. Which leads into our next point of the importance of knowing that your team has an emergency plan established and communicated effectively to your team. The reassurance of knowing that your coach has studied your child’s information and can respond accordingly brings great peace of mind.
I would also advise under this same context, that you familiarize yourself with new findings regarding concussions: getting a “base-line” read of “normal” so if your child ever suffers a fall, knowing danger of a “second impact” and knowing when it’s OK to safely return to activity.
This is an exciting time of year ! Make sure you get involved and support your daughter’s Cheer Program and Coach. Establishing community among your group generates great reward. Be supportive and encouraging about practices and competitions – one cheerleader missing from practice is a BIG DEAL!
Update: I just came across a great article for all sports parents. 15 ways we can help prevent injuries.
The month of May is usually a busy month for cheerleading. For most teams, tryouts have come to a close , parent meetings have been set, and many teams are preparing to go to camp. As we close out this busy month, it is the perfect time for coaches to set the precedent of keeping safety at the forefront of their program for their new teams. It is important for coaches to discuss safety guidelines, review and sign safety contracts with team members, and for your coaches to make sure they are current on their safety certifications.
It’s important for parents to be wise about their cheerleader’s summer training. You are your child’s best advocate to make sure they are maintaining healthy bodies to prevent injuries. It is important to keep them active, make sure they are exercising regularly in the heat to keep their bodies strong, to remind them of the importance of staying hydrated in the summer heat, and also, to encourage them to take time out to enjoy other summer activities that offer healthy breaks from their sport.
Parents should take advantage of opportunities for their athlete to be involved with strength and conditioning programs and weight training so that their cheerleader can maintain consistency in muscle development and endurance. When these types of programs are designed and managed well, they enhance the athlete’s ability to perform their skills. They also serve as a preventative medicine.
Summer sessions are also a good time to attend to chronic injuries by seeing a physical therapist to strengthen that area of weakness and stay on top of preventing a serious injury.
As a cheer parent and cheer coach, I feel that I learn more and more each and every day regarding cheer safety and being a part of a winning team to encourage the discipline/development that our athletes need to advance our sport while remaining knowledgable and keenly aware of safety.
It is important to me to help make information available to parents to help further our education in cheer safety. We have incredible resources available to us through very knowledgable individuals who have researched our sport, studied our athletes, studied their injuries, etc. and can help us “stay ahead of the game” to explore preventative medicine, educate our athletes and coaches and help our cheerleaders rise to their full potential while protecting them from injury.
There are solid rules put in place by organizations like AACCA, USASF, and the National Federation of High Schools and USA Cheer is desperate to get the word out so parents know what to expect from the athletes cheer program in terms of safety, training, and educating the participant and their parent from every angle of the sport.
The USA Cheer website has a link specifically designed for parents to know what to look for, what questions to ask, and how to stay informed and involved. It certainly brings a sense of peace as a parent to know your school/program is educated on the rules of cheer and is implementing those to create a safe environment for your athlete.