Unlike most athletes, all-star cheerleaders don’t have an off-season. In many cases, teams finish competing in late April or early May, and are holding tryouts for the new season the following week! This means that instead of a typical summer “vacation,” cheerleaders spend those long summer months in the gym, working hard and preparing for the upcoming competition season that will begin in the fall or winter.
Summer practices can be grueling—they are spent conditioning, training, developing and perfecting skills, and tediously starting to prepare the perfect routine. And let’s face it—there are plenty of other things you would rather be doing, especially in the unbearably hot and sweaty weather that summer brings. As a result, you may find yourself struggling to stay motivated to work hard and push through these brutal practices. Have no fear, though, Cheer! Magazine has got you covered with some tips for staying motivated during even the most difficult of practices.
1 – Set goals, and reward your own hard work!
During competition season, it may feel easier to stay focused and motivated because you are working toward a tangible goal, and have the opportunity to reap the rewards for your hard work. Work hard, compete, win, receive trophy/jacket/ring/etc… Seems simple enough! But what to do during the summer when there are no opportunities to compete and win?
Try going into each practice with a specific goal in mind (make sure your goal will challenge you, but is still reasonably within reach). For example, your goal may be to land 10 standing tucks, or to hit your stunt perfectly 5 times, or even just to try a new combination pass for the first time. Setting a goal for yourself gives you something specific to focus on and strive for, while also keeping your mind from wandering off to what your friends are doing at the beach! Goal-setting also allows and motivates you to push yourself harder than you would have if you had complacently entered practice and did ONLY what the coaches required of you. This will ultimately help you improve as an athlete and as an asset on your team!
The feeling of pride and accomplishment from reaching your goal acts as an effective substitute for winning a competition. However, if you still feel like you need a more tangible reward for your efforts in order to stay motivated, try to treat yourself for each goal met! Finally land that double full all the way around? Treat yourself with a cute new sports bra to flaunt at your next practice! Succeed in a new position stunting? Help yourself to an ice cream cone on the way home from practice! Just because someone isn’t handing you a prize like they do during competition season, doesn’t mean you can’t give yourself a prize! There is no better way to stay motivated than by celebrating every small success.
2 – Get creative and keep practices fun!
Perhaps you’ve noticed that you’re not the only teammate struggling to stay motivated. Getting through a tough practice becomes even more difficult without encouragement and support from your teammates. A good way to build team morale and enthusiasm is by switching things up at practices for a change. Don’t be afraid to speak up and suggest some ideas to keep things interesting.
From themed practices, to team-building activities or even events like a team beach day or pool party, to new conditioning “games” or circuits, there are countless ways to spice up a practice! Not only are these things a fun “break” from your normal routine schedule, but they are also a great way to strengthen your relationship your teammates which is so crucial for a successful season together.
3 – Rekindle that comp-season spirit!
For some people, no kind of motivation can quite compare to that competition season adrenaline and energy. If this is the case for you, try rekindling that comp-season spirit by both reflecting on past competition seasons, and looking forward to the upcoming one.
Pull up some old YouTube videos of your own team from the prior year, and focus on the good, and not-so-good aspects of each performance. Watch videos of competitors and pay attention to their strengths and weaknesses, while comparing them to your own. Use these observations to focus on where you can improve at your next practice. Also, try watching videos of teams that inspire you, or that made you fall in love with this sport in the first place. There is nothing quite like the magic of a perfect routine to inspire you to work harder!
After reflecting on comp-seasons past, look forward to the future! If your gym has already released a tentative schedule of events your team will be attending, mark up your calendar with the dates and set those count-down clocks! Having a visual reminder of why you are working so hard definitely makes it easier to put in the work.
4 – Step in someone else’s shoes.
Of course, it can be tough to see all your non-cheer friends’ posts about the awesome summers they are having while you are stuck in a hot, sweaty gym. However, think about how much worse it would be if the roles were reversed!
All all-star cheerleaders have at least one thing in common: we love this sport. If you didn’t love it, you simply wouldn’t endure all the blood, sweat, and tears we cheerleaders go through. Take a second to reflect on the role that this sport plays in your life, and how much you would miss out on without it. The athleticism and work ethic you have acquired, the traveling you have been able to do, the friends from all over that you have made, and the memories you have earned to last a lifetime… Is all of this worth trading for a day at the beach?
If you have ever been injured or sick during a practice or competition, think about how it felt to sit on the side of the mat, desperately wishing that you were well enough to be on the floor with your teammates. Think about how many cheerleaders would love to be in your position on the team you are on, but are unable to due to health, financial, or personal reasons. Think about the cheerleaders who worked their tails off, but still were not good enough to make your team, when you were fortunate enough to earn a spot.
Whenever you are feeling unmotivated, just take a moment to think about how lucky you are to be where you are. Be grateful for each moment you are able to cheer and spend time with your teammates and coaches, because one day it will all be over! Even when it’s hard, savor and appreciate every single second, because someone else out there cannot. Because one day you won’t be able to anymore. Because THIS is what you love to do and THIS is the time that champions are made!
As the age-old expression says, “when the going gets tough, the tough get going.” How tough will you choose to be?