Cheer Tips

5 Tips to Prep for Nationals

Roman Polyachenko

You’ve worked hard, you’ve gone full-out a thousand times, and your team is finally ready for a “HIT” from @cheerUPDATES! Congratulations; you’re headed to Nationals! No matter which major competition your team attends, national events always provide unbelievable experiences and lifelong memories! Whether you’re a nationals veteran or rookie, large arenas packed with thousands of cheerleaders are always intimidating! Here are five tips on how to prepare for these giant, two-day competitions like a pro!

  1. Prepare physically. – The excitement and anxiety leading up to nationals can often cause stress and lack of sleep. Prepare early (2-3 months) by eating cleaner, drinking lots of water, conditioning your body, and sleeping at least eight hours every night! Nationals weekends are hectic and exhausting! You need to be physically prepared for the stress of the competition, travel, late nights in the hotel with your friends, and vendor/restaurant food! Your regular practice regimen, although it is usually on overdrive before major events, may not be enough to ensure you’re physically ready for the trip. If you and your teammates take extra care of your bodies leading up to nationals, you’ll be able to endure the long weekend like champions!
  2. Prepare confidently. – All teams at all levels feel nervous before nationals. Hardly anyone walks onto the stage before they perform assuming they are the winners. Everyone takes the same journey you’ve taken, and each team has worked just like yours. There is no reason for you to worry about what other teams are doing. Prepare YOUR part in the routine to be the best it can be. Give 100% to YOUR team. You’re wearing a uniform that you’ve been proud of all season; don’t change that just because of what teams are in your division. If you’re thinking about your competition’s strengths, then you’re not fully concentrating on your own. You are good enough! You have contributed to your team, and you have a position on the floor that is vital to its success. Focus on the only thing you can control, and that’s YOURSELF! 
  3. Prepare socially. – Social media has turned cheerleading into a highly-connected network of coaches and athletes. By the time nationals season rolls around, you can sing along to every team in your division’s music mix! Stay away from social media. Plain and simple. Many gyms and athletes are put in high-profile positions, and that isn’t always comfortable when trying to prepare for performances of a lifetime! Cyber bullying is an unfortunate reality, and even the slightest negative Tweet or Instagram comment can change the way you see yourself and your abilities. You’ve probably seen this happen between local gyms as well. Parents, coaches, and athletes can get pretty carried away on Facebook. Panels of qualified judges are paid to determine how good your team’s skills are; don’t subject yourself to the personal opinions of your peers, especially right before nationals! Make a pact with your teammates and coaches that you’ll stay off of social media until after the big event! Everyone will wonder what you are up to if your social media accounts go silent, and you’ll get to avoid the often daunting posts from other teams! 
  4. Prepare mentally. – Before nationals (or any competition) you must work on your mental strategy. Visualization is one of the most commonly used techniques by Olympic athletes in all sports. Once you’re about to take the stage, the last thing you should do is take a deep breath and visualize what perfection looks like. In the weeks leading up to nationals, begin teaching yourself how to visualize. Close your eyes, lie comfortably on your back, and relax. Play your routine music while visualizing every move you make as perfect as can be. When you practice this type of visualization, you’re preparing your mind to tell your body to perform with the same level of perfection you’ve envisioned. Mentally recite your routine over and over again as if you’re rehearsing the lines of a play. This is your mental script, and you want to rehearse it full-out every time! Confidence comes from preparedness, and mental preparation is just as important as physical! 
  5. Prepare realistically. – Will you be crushed if you don’t win first place? Are you prepared to handle a last-place finish? Although it isn’t easy to accept, only one team can win each division! Every eight-count presents uncertainty, and you should be prepared for the absolute best and worst! If your team sets realistic goals for nationals, you’ll enjoy the experience far more than the outcome! Remember, you’re only on stage for 5 total minutes at a two-day event! What else will you do to make the most of your weekend? If you and your teammates determine the competition’s success on the process –we had zero deductions, we scored higher on day two, etc. – you’ll cherish the experience far more than if you focus solely on first place. Go into every competition determined to do your very best (and winning is obviously everyone’s ultimate goal), but make the most of each moment regardless of jackets, banners and medals!

You are ready! Make a checklist, pack your bags, and don’t be late for the best weekend ever! Remember that you are good enough to win, and be proud of everything you have accomplished. Hug your teammates, coaches, and family members and thank them for this experience. Take a ton of pictures and videos and have an absolute blast – you’ve earned it!

Good luck!

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