by Melissa Hay
Whether for evaluations or tryouts, as each athlete prepares their skills to max out their potential, one skill appears to be over looked: motion placement. Motion placement has different interpretations and meanings depending on the style and type of your team and program. However, if you plan to cheer in college, motions and motion placement is a skill that needs to be developed and sharply executed.
All Star and School cheer employ two different styles of motion placement. All Star cheer uses motions throughout the entire performance. Most noticeably this occurs during the stunts and dance portions. As All Star cheer has incorporated more skills necessary to obtain higher ranges, motion sections have been removed from routines. Motions are primarily seen in the dance section in which they are creatively used to express the theme and energy of the choreography. Dance motions in All Star routines have a performance value, to add to the flair and showmanship of the routine. School cheer differs from All Star in that motions are used to lead the crowd during the game. Motions with the use of signs, poms and flags are collectively used to generate cheering from the stands. Competitive School Cheer receives a score for sharp motion placement on the score sheet. Crowd leading is viewed as a competitive element for School teams and equally weighed as part of the overall score.
If you intend to cheer in college, sharp motions and crowd leading are one of the main features. “A fundamental component of cheerleading is engaging and leading others in cheers and chants. We do not only do this verbally, but visually with signs, poms, and especially motions,” states Matthew Ortega Head Coach and Program Director of the University of Wyoming.
“Crowd engagement and interaction is a major component to college cheerleading,” Darryl Lyons, Head Cheer Coach/Spirit Coordinator, Georgia State University describes the importance of motion placement for his program, “Motions are Life in College! 75% of what we do at games, rallies, and events includes motions. They are important in all of our band songs, sideline chants, and in stunts. Sharpness is super important because when the crowd of non cheerleading people sees the cheer team on the sidelines, the first thing they notice is sharpness and synchronization. The correct execution of motions adds to the excitement and overall appeal of the team. And, of course if you catch the crowd’s eye with sharpness on the ground as well as in the air on top of a stunt or pyramid, you can lead the crowd and get them pumped up for your team.”
A majority of your requirements in College Cheer involve game day skills. The more a team can do to lead the crowd, the more successful the team is during the game. Lyons also tells of the importance of crowd leading at the NCAA Basketball Tournament, “The spirit team and the crowd can make a huge difference in the outcome of a game. A great crowd leading team and crowd can truly be “the sixth man” on the court!”
Game day is a major component of college cheer but for those programs that do compete; the cheer portion is an important part of the score sheet. Both NCA and UCA College Nationals emphasize cheer on the competitive score sheet. Motion placement and crowd leading are a significant part of the success of college competitive cheer. University of Central Florida has demonstrated success on the competitive mat as well as with game day cheer. James Kersey, Cheer Coach at UCF describes the use of motions in a competitive college routine, “When creating a routine, we always focus on being clean and sharp in every element we perform. A strong emphasis on motions is critical. All through the fall, cleaning up motion placement and creating a habit of being clean leads to sharper motions in our routines. This helps to create a clean, crisp and entertaining performance.”
As a future College Cheerleader, what can you do to have strong motion placement for game day and competitive cheer? “Focus on the basics at first,” says Nestor De La Pena of The All Star Cheer Consultants.” Work on the fundamental motions and correct placement, all other motions start from these basics. Fully extending your motions through your shoulders keeps your arms straight minimizing bent writs.” Correct placement is important to all College Coaches but sharp motions are a key part of team synchronization. “There is a rhythm to all cheers, chants and band dances that each member must hit and sharply execute with each motion. Practice each motion and don’t rush your placement. Each motion has a count. Hit each motion on the correct count,” states De La Pena “Motions are like every other cheer skill, they take practice to perfect.”
“Whether leading chants at a game or on the mat competing, strong and sharp motions convey athleticism and precision both of which are qualities that are desirable in any athlete of a performance based sport,” Ortega adds as words of encouragement for those planning to try-out for College Cheer teams.
College Cheer is mixture of athleticism and performance that needs to be confidently conveyed to the crowd. Coaches seek athletes who can best demonstrate clean game day skills; whether on the ground or in the air, motions are an important part of the college cheer requirements.
Key Steps to Sharp Motions:
1. Start with the basics and correct placement.
2. Practice motion placement in a mirror, watching for placement and level of motions.
3. Fully extend your motions through the shoulders.
4. Keep your arms tight.
5. Go from one motion to the next without any bends or breaks.
6. Work with motion drills and combination of motions emphasizing placement as well as sharpness.
7. Execute on the count or a word, work with the rhythm of the cheer or dance and hit each motion on time.
8. Don’t take motions for granted.
9. Make motions big and expressive for the crowd.
10. Practice till perfection in front of a mirror at home.