Transitioning from Rec Cheer to Competition Cheer

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As the football season draws to a close, many youth football cheerleaders look to half-year All-Star teams to stay in shape and develop new skills. While the main purpose of a recreational cheer squad is to support a sports team, the only goal in competition cheer is to win at local events and bring home a title. However, with the heavy focus of strong skills on the mat, competition cheer can be an invaluable way to continue to grow in the sport of cheerleading all around. The key elements of cheer skills remain the same in both, but the overall experience can be very different. Follow these few key pointers and help make the transition an easy one.

 The schedule is not the same:

Most all-star teams meet only once or twice a week with one practice possibly being dedicated exclusively to tumbling for your skill level. Cheerleaders will need to use extra focus and energy to keep up. The choreography and conditioning will need to be practiced more individually at home to keep things fresh and sharp.

 The environment is different:

Depending on where a rec team practices, an all-star gym may be a new experience. Gyms are indoors and generally practice is held on spring flooring. This can be an adjustment for anyone used to cheering on turf and tracks. With climate controlled heating and air, it is wise to call or visit the gym prior to practice to ensure proper practice gear. Crop tops and performance shorts are preferred by many gyms. Indoor cheer shoes can also be different and are not meant to be worn outside very often.


The coaches have their teams for a short period of time each week. They have to teach skills and choreography quickly without a lot of distraction. There are generally only a few water breaks, leaving the majority of the time to intense and very focused practice. Therefore, the coach/cheerleader relationship may be slightly less personal. Many gyms have coaches for specific skills such as stunting or tumbling, so there may be many. The individual coaching styles may take a few practices to adjust to, but overall they just want the best for and out of their squad.


Most half year all-star teams will have a wide variety of ages on each squad anywhere from 6 to 15 years old. Finding where one fits in can be challenging. However, working with others of varied ages is great way to practice leadership skills and a wonderful opportunity to find new role models as well. There will be teammates from other schools or even other cities. It is helpful to find common interests; flyers befriending flyers or bases with other bases, for instance, can be comforting if they are struggling with a certain stunt.

 Competition day:

Hair and make-up as well as performance uniforms are often more dramatic than that of a rec team. In order to stand out and look sharp under the lights, all-star teams will max out on the glitter and color. All-star uniforms may be more athletic, like a gymnast, than a “traditional” cheer uniform. Companies run their competitions differently, but it may be necessary to prepare for an all-day/evening event. If trophies are awarded at the very end, comp days can go past 8 o’clock in the evening. This is much different experience than a game day, so be prepared.

Switching from a rec team to a competition team may be hard at first. However, with a little time and a willingness to be open minded, any new all-star member can get the most out of a half year team. Being able to stunt and tumble indoors on spring floors and padded mats is really an awesome way to push for those next level skills. When football season rolls around again next year, those newly perfected abilities will be ready to show off!


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Shelbi Ellis-Allen

Shelbi Allen fell in love with cheer after volunteering to be the head coach for her daughter’s squad in 2010. She is a coach of youth football cheer for the 4-7 age group, a freelance writer, a marketing student, a stage manager, and mother of 5. In the off season, Shelbi likes to read books, do crafts, play games, and dreams of living in Hawaii.


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  3. Patricia Grantham

    January 6, 2015 at 4:58 pm

    Again, Shelbi has hit the mark. I feel very strongly about the benefits of cheer competition in maintaining strong skill sets and abilities as well as building character. Excellent topic!

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