Entering the world of cheerleading is exactly as suggested – entering a whole new world. Compare it to travelling to a country that you have never been to before - the customs are different, the food is unique, ways of living vary, and probably the biggest of them all, a different language is spoken! Cheerleading is similar – upon entering the world we call "Cheer", whether you are an athlete or a parent, you are immersing yourself in the tumbling skills and stunting elements not seen in other sports (countries), you are seeing the importance of repetition, practice, and consistency (ways of life), and of course, as the analogy suggests, the language is completely different!
There are a variety of different words that mean something completely different when they are in the context of cheerleading, and to parents and athletes, whether they are new to cheer or have been there for years, clarification is always helpful! Below are a few words that have been "translated" for you in CF's first version of The Cheerleading Dictionary.
"HIT" – It is quite normal to hear cheerleaders yelling the word "HIT" during a practice or a cheerleading competition. Hitting a skill refers to an athlete executing a skill with great technique, no bobbles, and pure confidence. When a stunt hits, that means that the entire group did their job and completed all elements effortlessly. In jumps, the word hit is said by all teammates to allow the timing of jumps to be pristine. Every time a jump happens, the word "HIT" is shouted out loud. This has also been carried over to competitions where during a routine, it is typical to hear the audience yell "HIT" while a team is jumping.
"PULL" – Not each other's hair, not the fire alarm – but a tumbling skill! The word "pull" often refers to a tumbling skill performed in the routine, regardless of the level that the athlete is at. "Pulling" a skill, literally just means doing the skill. Quite often, "PULL" is always heard after the word "HIT" when doing jumps. In cheerleading it is common to see athletes jump, and do a skill right after it. For example, in All-Star Level 5, it is typical to see a full team do a jump like a Toe Touch, and follow it with a back tuck. When executing these two skills one after the other, you are highly likely to hear the audience, or even the athletes yell "HIT" for the jump, and then "PULL" for the skill.
"HIT ZERO" – Hitting zero is what teams strive for! It goes back to the idea of "HIT". In a routine, athletes are challenged with "hitting" their stunts, tumbling, jumps, dance, and performance. If a team does so successfully and is not given any deductions from the judging panel, then they have "HIT ZERO" – in other words, they have ZERO deductions. As a parent or an athlete, you definitely want your team to always "HIT ZERO". Some competitions have even started giving teams "HIT ZERO" pins to celebrate their accomplishment. How many pins could you collect this season?
"FULL-OUT" – When competition season is in full swing and choreography has been long completed, coaches will begin saying the two words that every athlete knows is coming – FULL OUT! Cheerleading has several components is it that are focused on individually – stunts, tumbling, jumping, dance, performance. In a full out, athletes put their entire routine together during practice, and focus on executing it. Full-outs are vital during cheerleading practices as it prepares athletes for what a performance on the competition floor will be like. The more confident and comfortable the athletes become in their full-outs the more successful they will be during competitions.
"FACIALS" – As much as we may adore this service at our neighbourhood spa, it takes a whole different meaning in cheerleading. Cheerleading is a performance sport – athletes are always encouraged to smile and perform the routine. Routines are meant to be entertaining, and the entertainment aspect does not come from just hitting a routine, but how much the athletes enjoy their routine and using their facial expressions. Facials go a long way, and while some may think it is only the flyer's job (athlete that gets lifted in stunts), it is everybody's job! Not to mention, performance adds to overall impression and is on the judging score sheets at competition – it absolutely matters!
"EXECUTION" – This is an incredibly important part of cheerleading. As coaches, it is heavily stressed that it is not enough to just have a skill. The execution of a skill is important, and is scored at competitions. For example, let's take a look at two Level 1 teams being scored at a competition. All the athletes on both teams have back walkovers. The difference is that team one executes their back walkovers with bent legs and arms far apart, whereas team two has back walkovers with straight legs, tight arms, and pointed toes. Team two will score noticeably higher than team one because they were able to execute the skill with perfection. It is important that in cheerleading athletes understand that getting a new skill is good, but working the skill until all the parts of it are executed flawlessly is even more important. There is absolutely no rush because in the end, execution matters and makes for a better cheerleader.
"WORLDS" – This term often gets thrown around by cheerleaders, especially those at an elite level in the sport. Worlds refers to The Cheerleading World Championships held every year at the end of April at Disney World in Orlando, Florida. In order to compete at The World Championships, athletes must be on a Worlds-level team. These teams are levels 5 or 6 at the Senior or Open Level. It is also necessary to be awarded a bid to this competition. At various competitions throughout the year, Worlds level teams compete for a chance to win a bid, or an invitation to this competition. Without it, they cannot go. Bids are usually awarded to teams with the highest scores at competitions. Being provided with the opportunity to compete at Worlds is an honour and a privilege – it is something that athletes strive for as their cheerleading careers progress. At CheerForce, we are truly grateful to send at least 3 of our teams to Worlds each year!
"SUMMIT" – The Summit is the name of another competition that happens the week after The Cheerleading World Championships, at the exact same place. The Summit is known to many as "The Worlds for Non-Worlds Athletes". The basis of the competition is similar – you must be awarded a bid to compete at The Summit with your team. The Summit offers a variety of different levels and divisions that do not include Worlds teams, providing younger athletes the opportunity to compete on an international level. Last year, CheerForce took The Summit for the first time, with 7 teams representing Canada!