Whether you’re coaching an all-star team or a coach for a recreational school team you are probably used to the excitement and anticipation that comes with preparing for national competitions. However, what happens when your team does not get a bid to nationals? How do you keep your team engaged after such a dejection? This reality is especially hard for coaches who are now forced to plan for their teams continued success in the off season. Listed below are some suggestions on ways to keep your team focused and ensure success during the off season.
- Compete in a spring invitational
Many states hold small cheerleading invitational competitions in the spring. These competitions allow teams to showcase new skills or revamped routines in a more relaxed setting. Most importantly, cheerleaders will be able to compete without feeling the pressure of having to place or bring home a trophy. Instead, they can focus on having a great time and enjoying the true thrills of cheerleading.
- Teach proper technique
Coaches should take advantage of the relaxed nature of the off season by using this time to strengthen their teams’ weaknesses. Specifically work on building technique during this time. Focus on teaching safe and appropriate stunting practices, fixing motions, and critiquing proper jump technique.
- Bring in special guests
Try contacting local professional cheerleading teams to see if a couple of the members would be interested in coming to work with your team. If you are coaching youth or high school level teams consider reaching out to colleges in your area to see if they would allow your team to watch one of their practices. The inspiration your team will gain from watching the older athletes will motivate them to achieve greatness. Similarly, you could bring in a guest choreographer to teach the girls a new dance or cheer. This learning experience will be a fun distraction from normal cheerleading practice.
- Take time to explore
When I found out that my team would not be making the trek to Florida for Nationals 2016 I decided to change our practice agenda. Instead of focusing on perfecting our routine, I decided to ask my team what they would like to focus on for the next couple of practices. I specifically asked my team members if there was anything they hoped to try during the season that we simply did not get to cover. An overwhelming amount of girls asked to try more advanced stunts. Coaches should take this opportunity to teach their team advanced stunts or innovative new techniques that they can build on during future seasons.
- Have bonding activities
The off season give teams a perfect opportunity to engage in bonding activities and strengthen team relationships. Consider holding a “girl’s night” during a normal practice session. Some suggestions for “girl’s night” activities would include ordering pizza, having the girls curl each other’s hair, and playing games. Another idea is having a “battle of the classes” type of event where the girls compete in cheerleading challenges (highest jump, longest extension, best tumbling pass) based on grade level. A team needs to be able to laugh, cry, and work together and this deepened bond will strengthen your team on and off the mat.