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The first skills day for the Swiss National Team 2020 took place on the last weekend of January. On Saturday, junior athletes from across the country gathered to start preparing themselves for a shot at getting chosen for the national team. Sunday was all about the best Swiss senior athletes with a record turnout of over 60 participants. After the last cheerleaders had left the gym, I got a chance to sit down with Head Coach Marion Gämperli and Assistant Coach Kira Perez to ask them some questions about “Project National Team 2020”.
Why did you decide to change the established system (one single try-out day) and organise these skills days instead?
We wanted to more athletes to have the courage to show up. A single try-out day can be intimidating, especially when we send out a list in advance with skills everyone needs to be able to perform. We realised that many stunt groups did not participate because they didn’t have some specifics skills from our requirements yet, even though they are strong athletes. We didn’t want that anymore.
Also, we observed change in cheerleading across the country. We felt like the sport was stagnating, or even regressed. To counteract this trend, we restructured the national team program so that we could build something more lasting together with the athletes and coaches. That’s also one of the reasons we added the junior category: in just a few years, they will be our senior athletes who have to push the sport beyond its current limits.
You now decided to postpone the junior national team for another year. What are your plans for juniors until then?
We hope to still be able to provide two more skillsdays to junior athletes. That way, we can build on what they learned this week and prepare them for participation in the national team, be that as juniors or as seniors.
What do you expect from the athletes who were here today? What will they have to do on the second skills day?
They should practice exactly what we worked on today. It’s important to us that they can translate these technical inputs into action and apply them to their stunts. If they have questions, we expect them to show initiative and ask. We hope to pick up where we left off today and to not be forced to repeat all those drills next time.
So they can always contact you with questions?
Exactly. They can send their questions and videos to our e-mail address (nationalteam(at)swisscheer.ch) and we’ll be happy to answer. That applies for all Swiss athletes with intentions of joining the national team at some point, not only to the ones who are participating in our skills days for 2020. The earlier you start out with the right technqiue, the better.
What’s the most important thing for athletes when preparing for the second skills day?
Basics, Basics, Basics. All teams should practice the progressions we showed them today until they can hit them with near perfect execution. That sounds obvious, but it’s really no use to work on full ups and double ups when you haven’t yet mastered an extension. It’s exactly the same for all other stunts, though the progressions might not seem so obvious, but we hope that we conveyed that message today. Basics and drills pay the bills. We hope all athletes work diligently on those progressions so that we can move forward fast next time we meet.
More than 20 stunt groups signed up for the skills days. How many will be in the national team?
First I’d like to say that we were pretty overwhelmed at the record turnout. It shows us that we’re on the right track with our new system.
We’d like to take a large squad to world championships, as we enjoy the luxury of being able to pick the best from a large crowd of great athletes. Our goal is a team of around 32 athletes, though that always depends on many influences.
When do you start choosing those athletes?
Actually, we’ve already started. We watch everyone closely over the course of these skillsdays to see their work ethic and their strengths. Today we’ve already seens some groups that surprised us, and some who seem to have a very good foundation. But we do take our time. Experience shows that those who seem strongest at the beginning of the season might not still be the best at the end of it. On the other hand, there are teams who start behind everyone else but with hard work and dedication to their craft manage to overtake the other groups. Our decision will be made at the final skills day.
What advice would you like to give those who aren’t currently trying out for the team but would like to do so in future?
Again: Basics, basics, basics. We need a stable foundation to build on. It’s no use to us when a group shows up with the craziest of stunts, but they can’t hit them consistently. We’d rather work with teams who have very solid basics and want to work hard on our inputs. Against that, a stunt group that can hit crazy stunts but only with THAT specific grip and THOSE specific bases and only THEIR specific timing will lose. We need athletes who are coachable and able to learn quickly.
In the end, it’s all about the athlete’s investment. Always show up for practice, do extra hours, work out, give it your all. If you’re not 100% in it, it won’t work out for you. If you don’t know what you should learn or which technique or grips to use, write us an e-mail and we’re happy to help.
Thank you for your time, Marion and Kira, and good luck on this journey with the allgirl national team 2020!