Choosing a Cheerleading Competition
Before your team transitions into the exciting world of competitive cheer, there are many things to consider. You need enough time to practice, the proper funding, and support from your school and/or organization. If your team does decide that they are ready to compete, you then have to plan out which competitions to enter—but that is not as easy as it may seem.
Below is a list of factors that come into play when scheduling competitions. Take them into consideration and weigh the different options with your teammates and coach.
Not all competitions are open to everyone. You must qualify at a regional or state competition prior to registering for many larger national and international events through a score and/or ranking. These qualifying requirements were established to ensure that the larger contests remain fair and open only to deserving teams.
If you plan on attending both qualifying and championship competitions, here are some things to consider:
- Most qualifiers occur early in the season, and the national and international competitions take place towards the end.
- You should sign up for at least three qualifying competitions if you plan on attending a larger, more prestigious event to give your team several opportunities to qualify.
- You probably don’t want the first competition you attend to be a qualifier since you will still be working out the kinks in your routine.
- Schedule the qualifying events as your third or fourth competition of the season so that you have enough time to adequately prepare.
Sometimes cheer organizations give out bids to teams that perform extremely well at regional or state competitions, which means they are invited to the competition at no cost. Receiving a bid to a national or international competition is a huge accomplishment and takes away some of the monetary stress of competing.
Over 38 countries world-wide have competitive cheerleading teams!
2. Prep Time
Preparing for a competition takes time and practice. You must allot enough time for your team to properly prepare and perfect the routine, stunts, and tumbling.
Competition season usually begins between January and March and continues through May or June. It is best to start putting your routine together at least two months prior to the first competition, so that the team has a good grasp of the entire performance before they first step in front of the judges. Come mid-competition season, you should be able to perform your routine in your sleep!
Cheerleading competitions are held all over the world, but you should be practical about which you choose to attend. Who doesn’t want to compete on the beach in the tropics?
Despite the abundance of desirable locations, be realistic and keep your team’s long term interests in mind. Travelling adds both stress and costs to the sport, so try to keep travel to a minimum when you first start and choose competitions in your region or closer to home. It shouldn’t be difficult to find one in your area.
It is best to attend qualifying and non-title events in your area because these lower stakes events are very common during competition season and there should be at least one competition a week within your region. If and when your team does earn their way to nationals, you will probably have no choice but to travel. Save the stress and expense of travelling for these big events—it’s what your team has worked so hard for throughout the season!
Cheerleading competitions are not cheap and cost should always be considered when deciding which competitions to enter.
- Registration fees: Entering a competition can cost anywhere from $20 per cheerleader to thousands of dollars per team, so make a budget prior to signing up and narrow down the choices based on what your team can and cannot afford. Keep in mind that the pricier events are usually more competitive and may require qualifiers.
- Choreography: While you can create your own competition routine, most squads look to experts for help. Many former cheerleaders and coaches choreograph routines for competitive squads—usually at a high price, but bringing in outside expertise can make a huge difference since you want the routine to be good enough to use throughout the entire season.
- Uniforms: Many teams use the same uniform for game-time cheering and for competitions, but some teams do opt for more elaborate uniforms to help them stand out when competing. Items like warm-ups and cheer bags are also a must for competition season because you don’t want to be stuck in your not-so-comfortable uniform during the long event hours.
Hot Tip: Uniforms on a Budget
Don’t have money for separate competition uniforms? No problem!
- Try buying large, bright ribbons for the entire team to add a little extra color to the uniforms.
- Instead of warm-ups, buy sweatpants in the team colors.
- Have screen-print t-shirts made with your team's logo front and center.
- Colored crop tops also dress up cheer vests and make the squad look more clean and uniform.
When you enter a competition, you must first select the proper division for your squad as determined by the age, sex, skill level and number of members. A team must fit all criteria to enter into a certain division. (For example, if your team is made up of ten varsity-aged girls, you would enter the all-girl, small varsity division.) The competitions are divided up this way to ensure a fair contest for all participants and so no team has an added advantage.
Because of the different requirements, some divisions are less competitive than others—which can be good or bad, depending on the skill and experience level of the team. If your squad is new to competing, entering a less-competitive division may help boost their confidence and get them used to the whole process in a less stressful environment. But if your squad is highly competitive, you will probably want to avoid the less popular divisions in lieu of a larger, more advanced collection of teams.
Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, is the most common location for national and international cheerleading competitions!
Put Your Game Face on
Competing is one of the most rewarding experiences that any cheerleader can have, but you want to pick and choose which competitions your team enters wisely and take all of the above factors into consideration before doing so—you do not want to spoil your competition season by being under-prepared or running out of funds. Take time and plan out competitions as a team to ensure the best season possible.