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Cheerleading Practice Design Guidelines

By Dr. Scott Christie

Published August 17, 2020

Cheerleading Practice Design Guidelines

5 ways to reduce athletes’ risk of avoidable injuries

When designing a practice plan the main goal should be to put into place the appropriate elements of implementing the perfect routine. In order to achieve this goal, special attention must be paid to developing skills safely and efficiently, mitigating injury risk and ensuring your athletes have the adequate physical and mental capacity to handle the intensity of practices and performances.

One of the biggest obstacles in cheerleading is being able to ensure that you have full attendance at practice. A coach constantly has to deal with athletes missing practice due to sickness, vacations, weather, other unanticipated events, as well as injuries in and out of practice. Most of these factors are uncontrollable but a coach does have a significant control over avoidable injuries occurring during practice.


To help with achieving full team practices, below are five ways to reduce your athletes’ risk of sustaining avoidable injuries.


1. Chunking your practice (10-15 mins sections)

Chunking your practice is good for two reasons. First, by changing up your activities into small 10-15-minute chunks, you can avoid unnecessary mental and physical fatigue that comes with staying on one movement pattern or skill for too long. Secondly, from a memory acquisition standpoint chunking your practices creates faster learning of skills.

2. Control fatigue

Pay attention to your athletes’ body language. As a previous coach, I know it is very easy to get upset with the poor performance of your athletes at times and as a result push them harder to help develop ‘mental toughness’. This strategy more often than not will lead to an avoidable injury. Cheerleading requires high power outputs and fatigue will reduce an athlete’s power production significantly which can lead to increased risk of injury (especially near the end of practices).

3. Use vivid visualization


Vivid visualization allows for more practice time without actually performing the skill. This can be done at home or at practice once the athletes are too tired to continue safely.

4. Monitor overtraining

Many sports have their athletes fill out short mental health questionnaires out on a daily basis. There are many stresses taking place in an athlete’s life outside of cheerleading. It is important to be aware of this and monitor it on a daily or weekly basis. Try to remember that as much as cheerleading is all about the team, a team is still made up of many unique individuals that require different coaching methods.

5. Improving physical fitness

Athletes that are extremely physically fit are better suited to be able to handle the high physical and mental demands of cheerleading practices and performances. Most sports have their athletes work on their fitness between practices, cheerleaders should be doing the same!

For more information from Dr. Scott Christie please visit our website’s resource page at www.cheerdistrict.com. Interested in implementing training programs backed by science within your gym community? Email support@cheerdistrict.com for more information.

About Dr. Scott Christie:


In the Spirit of Safety

By Jess Forte

Published August 10, 2020

Social Distancing. Quarantine. Travel Ban. Pandemic. Asymptomatic. Pivot. Masks. Sanitize. New Normal. Apex. Virtual…

These words have become what we wake up to every morning, what we talk about with our families, in “social” situations, at work. They infiltrate our heads as we lay down to sleep at night and try to hold onto the hope in our hearts that it will pass. This is our reality now, and it happened so abruptly that we didn’t even have the chance to process it. We are LIVING it. Breathing history, inhaling the narrative of a nation enveloped in fear of the unknown. We can either let it consume us, or we can fulfill our duty as the spirit of the country. Our friend and longtime industry professional/coach, Jeff Manhart, put it best:

“Remember it’s the cheerleaders that continue cheering when down 20 points with a minute left. While some fans head for the exit before time runs out, it’s the cheerleaders that are out on the floor after the game for one more fight song, or school song. Remember what we are: we are the people going nuts and loving life when our situation is going great! But what we also are is “HOPE” when our backs are against the wall. In my mind it will be the “cheerleaders” that won’t give up until the game is over.”

So, when given the “go ahead,” every gym in America created a “re-opening plan” in accordance with their own state guidelines and with the National CDC recommendations. Intensity Athletics in Albany, NY followed suit. New York was the last state to allow competitive cheer to resume in any capacity. So we are cognizant that the hesitancy with which we were allowed to reopen is still looming, so we needed to be as calculated and CAREFUL with our plan as possible.

The first thing that we did was a morning check in every day about any changes in the state of the pandemic and any regulations regarding our ability to operate. Watching our Governor (Andrew Cuomo) everyday at 11:30am became a ritual. This allowed us to gauge the process in regards to the reopening of other industries in preparation for our own to be released. We created a Phasal Reopening Plan which ultimately we were never able to implement as our gyms were not allowed to open in any capacity until the FINAL PHASE (July 6).

As soon as our sport guidelines came out, we read through them all and created a document with all of the regulations that would apply to our staff and our customers.

We then did a “walk through” of the gym and took notes on how to make each room compliant and what potential hurdles we would need to overcome. This allowed us to create a “To Do” list of things that needed to get done in preparation for reopening which we dictated in a separate document, along with a list of supplies we needed to purchase:

  • Gloves
  • Hand Sanitizers and Refill
  • Ice Bags
  • Ice
  • Lamination Paper 
  • Bleach Cleaner
  • Floor Stickers
  • PlexiGlass
  • Disposable PPE
  • Lysol
  • Lemocide
  • 3 Fumigators
  • Paper Towels
  • Automatic Paper Towel Dispensers
  • No-Touch Thermometers
  • 3M duct tape

All hands were on deck! Our staff each took responsibilities and got to work! Laminating guidelines, putting tape on the floor for social distancing, creating a gym entrance process. We even created a video that we pushed out via email, social media, and our website so parents and athletes knew what to expect and how they could stay compliant with the guidelines we needed to follow.

It took us at least a week to prepare for the BIG DAY! And still, we were nervous to press play. July 6 came and each staff member was ready! The multiple zoom staff meetings we had prior to opening day were important in creating cohesion where not only did everyone understand the plans, but they were “all hands on deck,” so to speak. All of the Intensity Staff was willing to not only do their designated jobs but to pick up the slack if something needed to get done, whether that was bring a child to the bathroom, open up doors for parents, run to the store to grab something last minute. 

Currently, in NY State nothing has changed since July 6 in the way of regulations for our sport. They have not tightened or loosened. We are playing it incredibly safe as we do not want to take advantage of this opportunity to physically operate after being virtual for so long. Right now, “group trainings” are not (and cannot be) mandatory. We set up a computer at every practice and create a google meets link which we attach to our google calendar which is shared with each team separately. This way, team members who do not feel comfortable coming into the gym, or are quarantined from it, can still participate! All of our practices follow social distancing, so we are not stunting at all. We are training with backpacks! And “stunt buddies!” We adapted these techniques and trainings based off of Spring CDT’s BASE system!

Kenny Feeley is a mastermind when it comes to stunting and his ability to pivot in this setting and to create a system so that our athletes are able to maintain (and gain) strength and technique for our sport is genius! This, coupled with some of our own drills have allowed our athletes to mimic the movements of stunting without actually doing it. We have created 2.5 minute stunt workouts to IPPs 8-count track that we repeat. Check one out HERE!

We are confident that we will have no problem getting back into the groove of stunting once it is safe to do so.

It is so important to us to put the athletes first right now. Every family’s situation is different, so it is very important to us to be aware of this and make sure we are not making any families feel uncomfortable. We are also very aware of the reality of what would happen if a breakout happened at our gym. We need to be looking 10 steps ahead. If we were to have multiple athletes with COVID in our location, we would need to shut down again, losing revenue and potentially customers. It could cause the government to tighten restrictions on all NY State All Star Programs. Not to mention, our athletes contracting it could have serious health ramifications for them and their families. Because of this, we are 100% abiding by the NY travel ban. We are also sending athletes home if they have ANY symptom whatsoever. Headache, tummy ache, cough, runny nose. You name it, they are going home! We even have our bathrooms labeled by which floor the kids are practicing on for contact tracing! We are going by the motto that “you can’t be OVERCAUTIOUS!”

Today I asked an athlete who was frustrated about the situation, “who won the race? Did the hare win? Or the tortoise?” Right now, patience will win out. We have a responsibility to our athletes to keep them safe. They are trusting us. And most importantly, their parents trust us. That is a huge responsibility. When they are dropped off at our front door, as we take that temperature and escort them to their “x” on the spring floor, their well being lies in our hands. Right now we show our families that we are that “home away from home.”

We need to be the constant in their lives. We were there virtually the moment the pandemic shut us down. We were there to “foot-five” the kiddos after they did their back handsprings for the first time again in 3 months. We will be there this season in whatever capacity we are able to practice (and compete) our sport! The kids need us to be that constant, but also need us to have their best interest at the forefront. The health, the wellbeing, and the safety of each athlete is the priority in the “new normal.”

Remember, we are making history. Let’s do it right!