Tryout Season is Here! 5 REAL Tips from a REAL Judge

White blooms signal tryout season is near!

It’s that time of year again!

I know gardening and cheerleading don’t really have anything in common, but every time I see the white blooms sprout on the Bradford Pear trees here in Texas I know tryout season is right around the corner.

And with this being my 11th year to judge cheer tryouts, I’ve come up with a few things over the years that I wish EVERY tryout candidate would’ve been told before they got in front of the judges.   Of course this is Behind The Megaphone…not some generic post on a website you might find with a google search.  So these aren’t the ‘Stay Positive’ or ‘Try Your Best’ kind of generic tips.  These are real, honest nuggets of wisdom from the mind of an actual longtime judge (me).

For those trying out, please remember…

1) Tumblers need to cheer too!

This is NOT gymnastics, it’s cheerleading.  So even if you throw an amazing tumbling pass in your entrance don’t forget to CHEER to your spot in front of the judges and keep your energy up through the entire tryout.  Nothing disappoints me more than a candidate that throws a beautiful full in their entrance and then walks quietly to their spot to begin their cheer.

2) Tone of voice is VERY important

It’s not just about being loud.  You can yell “go gators, take it to the top, beat those bears…” ’til you’re blue in the face.  But if you sing the words or say them with a monotone voice as opposed to CHEERING with some genuine enthusiasm, don’t expect a high score on your entrance or your voice/projection.  This is especially important if you don’t tumble – you can still score decently if you actually show real spirit on your run in and give me an idea of how you’d perform on game day.

3) Starting over – once is fine, twice is pushing it, three times is NOT a charm

If you mess up in the cheer, FIRST try to pick up from where you are and finish strong (the judges may not even have noticed that you messed up).  But if you must start over, it’s not the end of the world (unless of course your coach has told you ahead of time starting over will not be allowed).  You might not get a perfect memory score but if it helps you feel more comfortable, go for it!  BUT take a second to think about the words and the motions before you start again.  Starting over more than once is an invitation to begin scoring you harder as I see more and more flaws in your performance with each attempt at that double toe touch.

4) Judges watch your jumps all the way through the tryout

The jump at the end of the cheer is just as important as the 3 jumps you did before your entrance.  Especially if there’s nowhere on the scoresheet to score jumps in the cheer separately.  I’ve changed a jump score based on what I see in the cheer many, many times.

5) Look at the judges!  Seriously…

I know making eye contact might be tough, it always threw me off when I was trying out too.  But at least look in the direction of the judges – not at the floor, the ceiling, or the upper right corner of the gym (awkward).  I want to at least see that you can cheer towards a crowd, after all that is kind of a big part of being a cheerleader…

Believe me, every tryout judge knows how nerve-wracking it is to try out.  We’re people too and most of us have been in that same spot, trying out for a cheer team at some point in our lives.  So do all the normal things like SMILE, STRETCH, and BE LOUD but also keep these 5 tips in mind – they may make the difference between cheering on the sidelines in a uniform next fall or cheering from the bleachers.

Coaches – feel free to share these tips with ALL of your tryout candidates before your tryouts.  And if you need any help with your tryout, check out the NCA Tryout Packet on the web or hit me up – here on the blog, on twitter (@TyleratNCA), or via email (

Good luck with tryouts this year!

– TT

This entry was posted in Coaches, School Cheer and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Tryout Season is Here! 5 REAL Tips from a REAL Judge

  1. Pingback: Behind the Megaphone: Tryout Season is Here! 5 Real Tips from a Real Judge | Spirit Post Squared

  2. Pingback: 5, 6, 7, 8 and Spring! | Behind the Megaphone

  3. Pingback: A great post about Tryouts from NCA’s Behind the Megaphone blog » Tiger Cheerleading

  4. kenzie says:

    all i can do is a series of backhandsprings when everybody else can do tucks and layouts! but when it comes to motions and dance (rythem) i blow everybody out of the water!!!! does that make a difference if im a strong tumbler or not??? i also have really good form in jumps but they are only level

  5. Tyler Torres says:

    Looks like my reply might have gotten cut off so here’s the full text:

    Hi there, thanks for your question!

    Tumbling is usually only one part of the total score at a tryout and it’s typically weighted just as much as all the other areas of the scoresheet. Cheer tryout judges want to pick the best overall cheerleaders for the school – not just the best gymnasts. So like you said – if your motions, dance, voice, memory, etc are awesome – you should be able to make up some points that you’d lose by not having higher tumbling skills.

    However, even with that said, there are some coaches/teams that place a larger, disproportionate amount of points in the tumbling section. Usually this happens when the school/team is traditionally known for having a very high percentage of skilled tumblers. I have judged tryouts like that – where there are not only points given on the difficulty or execution of the overall pass but more detailed parts of the tumbling pass and landing. From what you said – it does not sound like this would be the case at your tryout. On a typical scoresheet, with a 1-5 point scale – a strong backhandspring series and a series to a tuck would only be separated by 1, maybe 2 points based on how well the two passes were executed.

    What I would do is ask the coach this – how much weight does the tumbling portion of the tryout carry? Is it the same amount of points as the other areas like memory, motions, dance, voice, etc? If it is – then you should be able to make up some ground and compete for a spot on the team. Also the makeup of the tryout scoresheet should not be a secret – everybody trying out should know what they’re being judged on and the point scale for each area on the scoresheet – so asking these questions shouldn’t be an issue at all.

    I hope that helps, good luck!

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