The Lost Art of Technique
There is a difference between holding a stunt and keeping a girl in the air. In order to explore this issue, we’ll need to take a closer look at the basic idea of the stunt.
To truly hold a stunt, a base must be in full control of the entire body position of the flyer. For this to occur, the flyer must be able to maintain a body position in such a way that the base can handle the direction and balance of the flyer — to control the stunt.
But where does the control originate? Well, let’s start with the grip. The grip should be the top priority of the base(s). The position of your hands on the feet will directly determine how much control you have over the flyer. A good grip in coed stunting will result in solid support from the right hand under the heel while the left hand will be firmly gripped under the ball of the foot and around the toes. For the all-girl group, the main base should have their right hand underneath the ball of the foot and over the toes while the left hand is firmly under the heel. The side base should have their right hand gripping the middle of the foot and their left hand on the main base’s right wrist.
While proper placement is key, don’t assume you’re doing the right thing just because you’re in the right place.
The use of the fingers is vital, as well. In coed and all-girl stunts, the use of the fingers is where the majority of the control can be most effective. In coed, focus on the use of the thumbs and pinkies is essential in order to gain the majority of control in the stunts. In all-girl, the main base is responsible for maintaining a balance between the toe and heel, while the side base’s responsibility is to control the foot from shifting from side to side. The use of the fingers to make some small adjustments will prevent the stunt from moving in such a way that the bases will not need to move their feet should the stunt begin to lose control. This is just the basic principle of an all-girl grip and it may require adjustments.
Grips are the key to controlling a stunt. Don’t live by the “Never the Same Grip Twice” motto. If you’re consistently getting bad grips, then you’re consistently making your job more difficult; and it will reflect in your flyer’s performance. For all you active bases wondering if your grips are good enough to control a stunt — stunt on your back! If you’re a coed base, lie on your back and have the flyer line up and step into the stunt from the top of your head. For all-girl side and main bases, lie on your backs in opposite directions (your shoulders should be lined up) and have your flyer step into the stunt from the side. Stunting on your back allows you to only use your grip to control the flyer by taking your feet out of the equation. If you can’t hold a stunt on your back, then odds are good you’ll have trouble controlling the stunt when you’re standing on your feet.
Now let’s talk about something we’re all lectured about — progressions. Every single one of us needs to hear it again. Progressions are not only key to fully understanding how to control a stunt, but it’s instrumental when developing upper and lower body strength. In today’s highly competitive cheer world, we are all trying to find that advantage to make us stand out from the crowd. What stunts can we throw to make someone notice? What kind of difficulty can we show to wow the crowd and the judges? As a judge and coach, let me just say that you will grab my attention, not just by the stunt you throw in the air, but by the way you catch and hold that stunt. It’s painful to watch a highly advanced or elite skill get thrown into the air only to watch the group struggle to keep it up because of bad lines or grips.
Work your basic progression stunts, and then when you’ve got those… DON’T MOVE ON! DO THEM AGAIN AND AGAIN AND AGAIN. If you get bored, start making up short combination stunt sequences using the same basic stunts. Play stunt “P-I-G” with your teammates and restrict yourself to basic skills only. Playing “P-I-G” with the new younger guys in college is hilarious to this former cheerleader. They love their rotating stunts, but they always get beat by basic transitional stunting while never tossing above hands. They don’t know how to transition and have no idea what to do other than flip or toss to the top. For the most part, they can be beat with creative high school level skills.
Bases who skip the basic, intermediate and advanced skills in an attempt to learn the elite skills faster are actually robbing themselves of the opportunity to effectively learn how to make adjustments and understand the true meaning of holding a stunt. Take your time when working those advanced and intermediate skills — you’ll thank me later. Want to know a secret? You actually use those skills more than the elite skills when you get to college.
Stunting can be a mesmerizing skill if it’s executed properly, and it can be painful to watch if it is not. To be honest, it’s almost like a dance. The base shifts weight from side to side while squeezing the foot of the flyer in order to create a steering wheel of sorts- two strong objects trying to balance themselves on each other, but one object has control of the other. That ability to control is what separates a holder from a base, to catch a full up stunt just outside of the base’s center line, then catch the feet with a clean grip and slip that line back over the top without even moving your feet. An onlooker may not ever realize there was a brief moment in time where that stunt went wrong- a moment when it should have fallen. But, you knew it. You also knew that your partner would hold their line and that you could make that slip of the hand, that shift of the hips and knees, to pull the stunt overhead. It’s a dance really, and to a great extent it’s a form of art.
To watch a true base take part in a stunt session with their partner is like watching an artist putting the final touches on his masterpiece. To listen to a partner stunt couple speaking in their lingo and to watch them mimic their own adjustments with their hands or body during a good stunt session is impressive. For the faint of heart– it’s pure poetry. Two people moving in such a manner as to create fluid transitions, high flying and breathtaking structures that at first glance, looked effortless. But when watched up close, the art embodies such great amounts of strength, technique and difficulty that it’s hard not to appreciate its delicate and intricate design. That’s what separates a good base from a great base. A good base can put good stunts in the air, but a great base will make it look so effortless that a novice onlooker might believe they could do it, too.
Stunting is a difficult yet fulfilling skill to master. Take the time to sharpen your craft and allow yourself the chance to truly understand how to control a stunt in the air and not just keep it up for four counts. Stunting should be executed smoothly. Your technique – not your strength – is your greatest ally. Technique is what will allow you to get your stunts in the air and dismount safely. It also allows you to save your strength for other parts of your routine. When a stunt is done correctly, it should feel effortless. Make it a point to clean up your grips, there’s nothing worse that seeing a picture of your favorite stunt and noticing that you had a terrible grip. Make these changes in your advanced and intermediate skills so they’re already mastered by the time you attempt the elite skills. Make the future of cheerleading a future of good technique, and avoid being that base that never has the same grip twice.