The Main Elements of a Cheerleading Competition Routine: Part 1

What do cheerleading judges want to see?

Level 2 Cheerleading Arabesque Stunt
C. Mitchinson

Cheerleading competition routines get more exciting and more creative every year, but one thing never changes—competition routines always include 6 elements—jumps, dance, stunt sequence, pyramid sequence, standing tumbling, and running tumbling.

Make sure you cover all 6 of the elements you need in your competition routine to improve your team’s score. Read about each element below.

Jumps

The number one rule in the jump section of a competition cheerleading routine is the more jumps the better!

Gone are the days when you could link two or three jumps together and know that you have done your best. Judges are now looking for more than 3 jumps.

What the judges want to see:

3+1 or a 4-Whip

Most competition routines now have at least 4 jumps. For example, a 3 + 1 is a combination of three jumps inked together with a fourth either following but separated by another move or somewhere else in the routine. A 4-Whip is four jumps linked together.

According to the National Cheerleaders Association’s ‘Common Questions from Coaches,' the variety isn’t as important at the form. This means it is okay for a team to do three toe touches or a triple-toe, and a pike if these jumps are clean. NCA stresses that it is more important to use your 2 best jumps to cover all four in your routine than try for three or four different jumps if any of them aren’t strong.

More advanced teams have even started a trend of linking four or five jumps in their routines, but that is a gamble as every single jump must be nearly perfect.

Dance

Often saved for the end of the routine, the dance is often a judge’s favorite part of the routine. With multiple transitions, level changes, and clean, sharp motions, the dance is a lot of fun. It should be flashy and exciting.

Keep motions crisp, quick, and exaggerated to catch the judge’s eye.

Make sure your choreography included a fast-paced, larger-than-life dance, full of energy, which will have the audience on their feet clapping along with the beat.

What the judges want to see:

When it comes to the dance, judges are looking for transitions, level changes, energy, all of the things listed above, but they are also looking for one more thing… fun! The judges want to see your team enjoying every moment of their time on the mats and with a fast-paced, complex routine sometimes the dance portion is your best chance to show the judges that you love to cheer.

Stunt Sequence

This is the part of the routine where the team is divided into smaller groups, called stunt groups, and perform a series of stunts. The groups should be performing the same stunts or series of stunts with little variation. The key factors to strong stunt sequences is synchronicity and timing. In USASF Levels 2 and above the stunt sequence is often used to show the flexibility of flyers with one-leg stunts like bow and arrows and spikes. Remember that a lib is not considered a body position, so when you are trying to rack up enough body positions in your level to score high, libs don’t count.

In some routines, there may also be a separate basket toss sequence for teams to showcase their skills in baskets, such as toe touch basket tosses and full basket tosses.

In USASF Levels 2 and above, there is a section on competition score sheets for basket tosses.

What the judges want to see:

NCA looks for consistency in the elite level skills that they consider necessary for each level. If you have a look at the list of skills required at each level, you will see that some of the more difficult skills which can be performed aren’t on it. That is because the skills they list for each level are what they believe that each team at that level should have and that is what they are judged on first.

It is important to ensure that each stunt group on your team can hit the required skills cleanly. Any additional skills may add to the team’s difficulty score if they are performed with good technique.

For basket tosses, there is no difference in scoring for a team who has fronts versus a team who doesn’t have fronts.

This means that a team of 20 athletes may perform 4 baskets with fronts or 5 baskets without fronts and they will not be scored differently, but once again, all groups must have clean skills, so if a team or 20 goes for 5 toe touch baskets and one has poor form, this could bring down the team’s score.

Check out the last 3 elements of a cheerleading competition routine in Part 2.