How To Maximize Your Score At Cheer Tryouts

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There’s more to doing well at tryouts than just learning a few routines. Some teams have their coaches judge tryouts, while others bring in neutral third parties. Either way, whether you’re trying out for a school team or all-stars, these tips will help you score big points.

Learn What Your Judges Are Looking For

The best way to know what your particular team values is to look at the score sheet. Most coaches are willing to share it with you before the big day, but you might need to ask.

First Things First

It might surprise you to know that the first line of many score sheets is reserved for your grade point average. Most schools require a minimum GPA, and some score sheets actually assign points based on your grades – 4 points for an A average, 3.5 for a B+, etc. Coaches need to know that you are conscientious and won’t have to drop out halfway through the season because of schoolwork. If you need help, ask your teachers now!

Teacher Recommendations

Teams may also give points based on teacher recommendations. Your current teachers know whether you’re a hard worker, so make sure you’re a good citizen as well as a good student.


Many teams post their tryout material online, so you might think it’s OK to skip the workshops. Think again. Many score sheets award points based on your attendance at workshops, and workshops allow coaches to get to know you, so don’t just show up, show off! Use this opportunity to impress your coach with your skills and positive attitude.

Sharp, Crisp, Tight

Whichever term your coach uses, you will probably hear it many times. The best advice I got at my own tryouts (back when dinosaurs roamed the earth) was, “Make your motions definite.” Even if you have the material memorized perfectly, you’ll lose points if you motions are weak or sloppy.

Proper Technique

The little things mean a lot. Are your toes pointed? Do you finish your tumbling properly? Are your hands and wrists in the correct position? These are the same points that competition judges look for, so focus on the details.

Neatness Counts

Most score sheets give points for appearance. That doesn’t mean you need to look like Jennifer Lawrence. What it does mean is that you should appear neat, clean, and fresh–hair tied back, fingernails trimmed, shoes clean, and clothes and hair bow in team colors according to the dress code.


The easiest way to earn points is with a simple, sincere smile. Forget the goofy exaggerated facials and just look like you’re having fun!

Don’t Lose Points

Watch out for these “gotchas” that may actually cause you to lose points:

Rules Are NOT Made to Be Broken

It’s important that you follow the safety rules that are meant to protect you, your fellow candidates, and the equipment. Don’t waste everyone’s precious time having to be reminded to tie your hair back, remove your jewelry, spit out your gum, etc.

Too Much Talking/Talking Back

Paying attention is crucial for your safety and the safety of others. You can’t talk and listen at the same time, so close your mouth, open your ears, and listen carefully. And never talk back to or criticize the coaches or judges. No matter how well you perform, giving attitude will hurt your chances of making the team. If you have a legitimate complaint, ask to discuss it in private.

Body Language Speaks Louder Than Words

If you cross your arms and roll your eyes when you’re speaking to the coaches or judges, it shows you’re not open to suggestions. But if you stand up straight, make eye contact, and acknowledge their guidance with a pleasant expression, they’ll know you’re willing to take their advice.

Falling Apart After a Mistake

If you forget an 8-count or miss a tumbling pass, do you frown, pout, get flustered, break down, or even quit? If you make a mistake, just move on calmly, preferably with a smile. Sometimes judges will allow you to try again, but you won’t know if you don’t ask.

Refusing a Direction or Request

You need to trust that the coaches and judges will only ask you to do things that they know you can do safely. So when a judge asks for your best tumbling pass, if you do a round-off when you’ve been throwing great handsprings at the workshops, you might not lose points, but you certainly won’t earn as many as you could.

Not Being a Team Player

As the saying goes, “There is no ‘I’ in ‘Team'”. If the team has an overabundance of flyers and you refuse to even try to switch to backspot or base, your chances of making the team just shrank.

Tryouts can be nerve-wracking, but there’s no need to stress out. If you go in well prepared and with an enthusiastic, positive attitude, you will have already passed the hardest part!


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Marge Packman

Marge was a member of her high school pom team and has coached youth and school cheer for over 17 years. She has a BA in English from Northern Illinois University (Go, Huskies!). After graduation she joined the Peace Corps, met her husband, and moved to The OC. After cheer practice, you can find her watching football with her son or perusing the scrapbooking aisles with her daughter.

1 Comment

  1. savaha

    August 11, 2017 at 1:46 pm

    I’m in 7th grade and this is my first time trying out for a team im super scared I was on many other teams but your advice helps a-lot thanks

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