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Cheerleaders across the globe hear it everyday: Perfection before progression. But what does it really mean, and why are coaches so intent on it? Let’s find out!
Your health is #1
Cheerleading is and always will be a dangerous sport. We can, however, take many steps to make it as safe as possible. One of them is a slow progression from skill to skill. You can avoid long-term injuries in your shoulders, knees and your back by training flawless technique on a low difficulty level. This should be repeated until you automatically have a perfect stance, no matter what stunt you’re doing.
Build trust through predictability
Doing a high-level stunt for the first time can be scary. It gets even scarier when you’re a flyer and you don’t know exactly what will happen when something goes wrong, or when you’re underneath and you’re not sure if you can bring your flyer down safely.
The first thing you should learn when you do a new stunt is how to collapse it safely at any time. Be that pop-off style, sponging down or cradling out, whatever your coach teaches you. Everyone needs to know, and you need to practice it with the easiest stunts first. Learn to realise at what point the stunt gets out of control, and bring it down immediately. When everyone knows that they’re safe and won’t get hurt, they will execute new stunts with confidence and proper technique because there’s no need to be scared.
Build your house on rock, not sand
Spending time on a straight up extension doesn’t mean that the only thing you’re learning is an extension; you work on 100 harder stunts as well. In the end, cheer technique is very repetitive. You always need to push, stand tight, grip, balance, ride to the top – it’s actually just variations of a few basic techniques. Most stunts start out with a simple show & go! Flyer gets into stunt, bases grip, stunt goes up. However many twists and releases come after that, in the beginning, it’s a show & go.
Now you can either spend the first 5 hours of each and every new skill on getting your flyer to stand up straight and your bases to generate enough power. Or you can learn a perfect show & go once and skip those 5 hours for every future skill. What sounds more efficient?
Decrease frustration in the future
Most of us know the struggle of attempting a stunt for the thousandth time and still not hitting it consistently. Frustration starts rising, and suddenly nothing is fun anymore. With proper progression, this feeling of failure can be prevented. When you know all of the components in your stunt, you can easily pinpoint the problem and work on it separately, or take it down to a lower progression until you feel comfortable moving on.
A practical example
You want to do a high to high tic toc. First, you need to get up to your liberty, so you need to be able to do a single leg show & go. Then, you need to be able to hold a liberty on the right and the left leg. You need a good push and catch, and your flyer needs to switch her feet while staying in place.
If you can hit both liberties perfectly, but something goes wrong during the switch, two things can be the issue: The push of your bases or the switch from your flyer. Separate them. Let your bases do the push without the flyer switching legs, so they catch the same foot again. If that doesn’t work, do it on each leg until it’s consistent. If that’s not an issue, take your flyer down to a low liberty and get your backspot to hold on to both ankles so she can guide the flyer through the switch.
See what we did there? We realised there was no potential for perfection in the high to high tic toc yet, because the progressions weren’t there. So we went down one progression and will practice this to perfection. Once we hit it 10 out of 10, we’ll go back to the high to high tictoc with better technique burned into the minds of all athletes. Climbing up and down the ladder of progression takes the tension out of difficult situation and makes everyone feel safe and comfortable.
Humour your coaches
Yes, progressions can be boring – but only if you have the wrong mindset about them. Keep in mind that your coach is only trying to make the rest of your season easier. If the stunt you’re practicing is easy for you, start focusing on every tiny little detail. Where exactly is your centre of mass throughout the stunt? Where are you looking? Is your core tight enough? Use the time wisely, and appreciate it! Better fix everything now than 2 weeks before championships.