**”But WHY do I need to repeat the same level AGAIN?”**
As we near the end of the cheer season and tryouts loom ahead, the question above is one we hear time and time again from athletes and parents alike. At Melbourne Cheer Academy we are very strict on when we let students progress to a new level. Sometimes students can get frustrated if they have felt they wanted to progress to a higher level before our coaches believed they were ready. However there are some very strong reasons as to why you should take your time as you move through the levels of cheerleading, and some of the most important are listed below.
Strength and Safety
It takes a long time for your body to be strong enough to perform the death defying stunts and tumble skills required of each level. It is important to spend adequate time on the foundational moves (including conditioning) or you simply won’t be strong enough to achieve the more difficult skills. Even the most elite cheer athletes need to spend hours each week conditioning and working on their strength for their bodies to perform the moves they require. And not being strong enough can result in every cheerleader’s worst nightmare – an injury that could prevent you from training for weeks, or even months! By taking time and building a strong foundation of basics for tumbling and stunting, your body will thank you and this will form a good base for the future.
The more you repeat a certain skill, the more discoveries you make about your own body, the way it works and the mechanics of the skill. Although you may be able to do a backhandspring or fly a double down, it takes many repetitions to have enough understanding of the skill so that your body is a step ahead of you the whole time. This helps you to make necessary adjustments in body positioning and to work on perfecting the details of the skill such as squeezing your legs and pointing your toes.
Repeating a skill and practising it helps you to get the chain of movements necessary to perform the skill into your body’s muscle memory. This means that your body knows where it’s going next without you consciously thinking about it. This is very important because it not only helps the flow from an aesthetic and performance perspective, but also from a safety perspective, because if your body knows what it’s doing next, you’re less likely to fumble and (gulp) fall….
It’s not fair on your coach to expect her (or him) to give you a heavy spot for moves that are too advanced for you to do. Spotting or assisting a student with a tumbling or stunting skill is something that many coaches will do, but the coach is there to help you if something goes wrong, not to physically carry you through the skill. It’s dangerous for you as an athlete, and for the coach. Cheer and tumble coaches already put a lot of stress on their bodies in teaching such a physical sport, and carrying students through tricks they aren’t ready for isn’t safe or fair on them.
A team is made up of many different personalities, strengths and weaknesses. Sometimes you may be placed on a team where you are a little older or more experienced than some of the other athletes. Don’t let this discourage you! This is actually a sign that the coaches see you as a leader and is a massive compliment to you as an athlete and the strengths that you bring to a team. We need strong leaders on our teams to help them succeed. It is an amazing opportunity for you to develop leadership skills that will benefit you for life!
All Around Athlete
A lot of athletes make the assumption that since they master one of the key skills of a certain level, that means that they are ready to progress. For example an athlete may learn how to front handspring, or fly a straight ride basket and believe they are ready for level two. But can the athlete round off backhandspring? Confidently fly or base single leg prep stunts? Connect multiple jumps fluidly? Dance with sharp motions and performance? It’s important to be an all around athlete so that all team members can contribute to the team equally.
The process of learning
In learning new cheerleading skills, you shouldn’t just aim to do a skill once and then move on to the next. There is SO much more to it than that. You are learning to perform and compete and to ‘wow’ an audience.
You need to:
– try the skill (and maybe fail)
– try it again, and hopefully get better at it
– try it again, until your success rate is higher than your failure rate
– try it again, until you’re certain that you can do it, with ease and confidence
– try it again, and make it look pretty, with pointed toes and straight legs or performance
– try it again, this time in a sequence of skills to make sure that not only are you able to do it on its own, but different combinations, i.e. twisting from all shapes, tucks from all jumps
– try it again, a few weeks later and frequently revisit the skill to make sure you still remember it
– and then: keep trying it, training it, practising it, and experimenting with it, because it’s the only way you will be sure that you have truly mastered the skill.
It’s not just about being able to struggle your way through a stunt or tumble skill, take a picture for Facebook or Instagram, and then collapse out of it. We are CHEERLEADERS. The whole thing has to look graceful, athletic and fierce. And most of all it has to be safe.
So please don’t be embarrassed or ashamed to repeat a level. An athlete doesn’t stop running because he or she already knows how to run.
Repeating is an investment in your future as a fierce, strong, sassy, flexible, knowledgeable and safe cheerleader. It’s not a race. Enjoy the process. Repeating is repetition, and repetition is TRAINING. Which is exactly what you need to do if you want to be the best all around cheerleader you can be.
We are always proud of the athletes who move up a level at the end of year after tryouts. But we are just as proud of the students who say, “I’m not quite ready to move up yet. I don’t feel like I’ve truly mastered everything in this level, so I’m going to stay here for another year.” And at times, we are even prouder of the athletes who go back down a level, to revisit the skills they might have forgotten to perfect the basics. It shows humility and a long term perspective, which is what makes for a well-rounded and safe cheerleader in the end.
Remember, parents and athletes, there is no shame in repeating a level. Get strong. Get flexible. Get fierce. Be sassy. Be safe. Be awesome.
Want to join the MCA Family in 2019? It’s not too late to join for next year and there are teams for all ages and ability! Contact us today to find out more.