Just as a well-executed stunt starts with a solid foundation, a flawless competition routine needs to have all of the essential elements that appear on the score sheet. These elements are the fundamentals taken from gymnastics, dance, acro-sports, and more, similar to the way an elementary school program must include the basics of math, reading, science, history, art, and physical education.
In cheerleading, the sections of a routine consist of the following:
1. Opening (2-4 8-counts):
The opening section can demonstrate any type or variety of skills. The most important thing to remember is this will be your first impression on the judges, so be sure to show your strengths.
2. Standing tumbling (2-4 8-counts):
This section is typically placed in the opening, or soon after, due to the strength needed to perform these skills. Most standing tumbling refers to back walkovers (for lower levels), back handsprings, or a tumbling series ending with a tuck, layout, or full twist as the level increases.
3. Partner stunts (6-10 8-counts):
These are stunts (lifting or tossing a flyer) with at least one base. There may be multiple groups or pods, but the flyers do not touch.
4. Running tumbling (6-8 8-counts):
This section can be performed either as a group or as an individual’s specialized skill.
5. Jumps (2-3 8-counts):
Toe touches, hurdler jumps, and pike jumps should all be included in routines to max out points. Mixing multiple jumps together and combining them directly into standing tumbling always increases points if performed properly.
6. Basket tosses (2-3 8-counts):
For this section, two bases with a front and back spot toss a flyer in the air and catch them in a cradle. The flyer will hit a skill in the air as well, such as a toe touch. Some lower levels cannot perform this skill.
7. Pyramid (6-10 8-counts):
A pyramid is executed by multiple groups lifting multiple flyers, with the flyers connecting in some fashion by touching or bracing one another in the air.
8. Dance/motion section (4-5 8-counts):
This section is typically placed toward the end of the routine and considered the fun part when the team can express its style.
9. Transitions (one 8-count):
Transitions are placed between sections, and it is always best to reduce the length and number of transitions to maximize the use of your time gaining points. Transitions do give the judges time to digest and note things, but if they can’t look down because so many creative things are happening, that’s always a good sign. Combining jumps and standing tumbling is a great way to eliminate a lengthy transition. Another way to reduce transition time is to make sure the tumbling sections keep the stunt groups on the same side of the mat.
We’ve listed a wide range for the number of 8-counts dedicated to each skill section because it will vary depending on the age and level of the team. The number of 8-counts is based on a 45 8-count mix, which has an overall time of 2:30. The points system often dictates how much time is allocated to the various sections, which is based on the competitions you attend. It’s important to remember to spend more time highlighting strengths and minimize the time allotted for their weaknesses. Creativity, visual effects, and smooth transitions always help keep the judges and audience engaged and impressed.
Which comes first: the routine or the music?
Twenty years ago, most teams were ordering music and creating their routine to fit the music, but in recent years, cheer has evolved to a point where most teams aim to cram in as many skills as possible in order to max out the points. For that reason, a majority of elite teams with big budgets create their routine and all the skills in it. Then, with a count sheet and video, the cheer music producer magically takes the desired songs, theme, style, and feel and creates a mix that fits the team’s movement and identity. These custom mixes come at a price, often $700-$3,000, or more.
All of our mixes at Power Music Cheer are set up in the same fashion that the majority of our elite clients prefer. We dedicate the same number of 8-counts per section in the same order they perform them. Plus, if you find the right mix but need more time in one section and less in another, we can fix that! We also offer song swaps if you love a mix but do not like a particular song in the mix.