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So, the time has finally come, and you’re getting ready for cheer tryouts.

Have you ever wondered what are some of the things that judges look for in tryouts specifically?

Although technical skills like jumping, stunting, and dancing are important, judges in cheerleading tryouts also look for overall confidence, enthusiasm, and a positive attitude from athletes.

Having a great attitude and being coachable are the two of the most important things those trying out for the cheer team must have.

But what exactly is a “great attitude”, and what does “being coachable” even mean?

In this article, I will break these two things down (plus 15 more tips) from actual cheerleading judges so that way you can show up to tryouts feeling confident.

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depends on school.. some schools have score sheets

Cheer Tryout Tip #1: Make A Good First Impression

There’s an old saying that goes, “you never get a second chance to make a first impression.”

When you go about your business day-to-day, how are you presenting yourself? How do you walk, how do you talk, and how do you act?

All of these things contribute to your overall character, which is really the first thing that will be evaluated at tryouts. Judges will hold off on evaluating your specific skills and experience until you actually start your tryout, but they will size you up at first glance to get an idea of what kind of person you are.

According to psychologist Alex Todorov, people make snap judgments about others before they are actually able to articulate how they feel. He states that “we decide very quickly whether a person possesses many of the traits we feel are important, such as likeability and competence, even though we have not exchanged a single word with them. It appears that we are hard-wired to draw these inferences in a fast, unreflective way.”

Now, what does this have to do with cheer tryouts exactly? Well, knowing that judges will form an impression of you before you even hit the platform, you can begin to think of how you will present yourself at tryouts. What kind of person do you want to be known as? Or, rather, what kind of cheerleader do you want to present yourself as?

Cheer Tryout Tip #2: Attitude Is Everything

I recently came across a photograph of two kids who had won a competition or event of some sort, and were standing on stage with their medals.

The kid who had the third-place trophy was completely enthusiastic. You could see in the photo he was totally stoked and smiling ear-to-ear. The other kid who had actually won the first place trophy was staring at the one who came in third place and looked totally bummed out.

You see, things are what they are – we cannot change that fact. The only thing that we can change is how we perceive these events and how we respond to the events that happen to us. This brings us to tip #2: attitude is everything.

You could be a rockstar cheerleader and have all of your stunts dialed into perfection and show up to tryouts with a sour attitude. Or, you could be a beginner cheerleader with no previous experience or technical skills but have a great attitude and a willingness to learn. Which of these is better?

In my opinion, the second cheerleader has an advantage compared to the first one. Sure, the first cheerleader with the technical know-how will have an easier time adjusting to the routines, but will be a drag to be around. Have you ever been around with someone who feels like they walk around with a black cloud over their head all day? Well, I have, and I can tell you one thing: it’s not a fun time.

Compare that to the second cheerleader who may need a little more coaching and hands-on experience but is open-minded and has a great attitude, and is a joy to be around. Well, that’s exactly what coaches are for: to help athletes develop their physical skills and abilities. Teaching an athlete how to perform a cheer is a lot easier than trying to complete rewire an athlete’s attitude and mindset!

Cheer Tryout Tip #3: Smile Big

Do you have any friends that always seem to be having a great time and are always smiling and laughing? If so, have you ever noticed how great you feel when spending time with this particular group of friends?

That’s because energy is contagious. When you put out happiness and positivity into the world, you’re going to get it back. And that brings us to tip #3: smile big.

If you’re serious about making the cheer team and are genuinely interested in being involved, why would you not showcase your excitement with a nice big smile? I mean – assuming that you’re grateful for the opportunity to try out in the first place – a nice smile seems only fitting for the occasion.

I understand that some folks may be a bit nervous about trying out for the first time. If so, I recommend checking out this post where I discuss five things you must know for your first cheerleading tryout. By reading that post (and this one), you will begin to feel more comfortable with the whole tryout process, and hopefully, that should help quell some anxiety and nervousness that you may be experiencing.

If you do find yourself struggling to crack a smile and say “cheese,” I recommend rehearsing in your head three things that you’re grateful for. In neuroscience, it is understood that the brain cannot be in both a state of fear and appreciation at the same time. You can be in one or the other, but not both. So, remember that next time you’re beginning to feel worried, and in the meantime show off those pearly whites!

Cheer Tryout Tip #4: Don’t Try and Fit In – Stand Out!

As corny as it may sound, you are very special and unique. As a matter of fact, all of us are!

We all have many little things that make us who we are. We all have different desires, tastes, preferences, opinions, and lifestyles. In my view, this is what makes life so interesting. Now, imagine if you repressed all of your thoughts and emotions and tried to blend in with everyone else – what would happen? Sure, you probably wouldn’t stick out so much, but is this a good thing?

At cheerleading tryouts, you’re going head-to-head with others who are just as skilled as you, if not more so. What sets you apart? In other words, what makes you, you?

If you took a dozen cheerleaders of the same skill level and had them run through the same stunts and cheers for tryouts, how would you select the athletes to keep on the squad and those to eliminate? Again, assuming that each of these cheerleaders was of the same caliber technique-wise. It would be a tough thing to do.

But what if you had one cheerleader who had a little twinkle in their eye, or had a little more swagger in their performance? Do you think this would stand out when the judges are running through the performances and trying to decide who to keep and who to let loose? You bet!

Now, I’m not saying you should totally reinvent yourself for cheer tryouts. But I am saying that you should really emphasize those traits and characteristics you have and are proud of in cheer tryouts. This will display confidence and will certainly help you stand out in a good way.

Cheer Tryout Tip #5: Put Some Pep In Your Step

The fifth tip is to put some pep in your step.

In other words, have some passion and take pride in what you’re doing.

This tip kind of ties in with the previous ones. If you really want to be a part of the cheer squad and are enthusiastic about being there, be sure to showcase this.

Having a cheerleader just run through the routines with zero emotion is a bore for the judges. After all, cheerleaders are there to help bring out the energy from fans and cheer their team to victory! I cannot imagine a cheerleader just mumbling their chants or moving with zero sense of purpose throughout their routines.

The judges can clearly tell whether you want to be at tryouts by the way you present yourself. So, be sure to consider this when getting prepared for tryouts!

Cheer Tryout Tip #6: Have Some Drive

Cheerleading can be a pretty intense sport that encompasses different aspects of dancing and gymnastics. It requires a lot of practice and repetition to get the hang of things and really make some progress.

As a cheerleader, you’re going to be required to improve yourself and become a better athlete continuously – there’s no way around it. If you do not possess the drive or determination to keep improving, this will make your time cheerleading a very arduous process.

Not to mention, you’re going to be working closely with your teammates on your cheer squad to rehearse and lock in routines for both competitions and cheering during sports games. If you are not engaged with your teammates and are not putting your best foot forward each day in practice, this will burden your entire team.

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With that being said, having the drive and constantly improving yourself will benefit your experience at tryouts and your entire cheerleading career as a whole.