As competition season begins, we may start to stress. The reality of performing our skills and routines in competition can fill us with worry, doubt, fear, and even panic. The pressures on having to hit can sometimes feel overwhelming. It’s one thing to perform cool stunts and tumbling in the gym, it’s an entirely different thing to have to compete them.

When we train our skills in practice, we are free to make mistakes. This freedom allows us to think about how to HIT each skill. In practice we are able to remain focused and confident. Every attempt teaches us something we can improve and it helps create the muscle memory needed to repeat the skills successfully.

Over time and with deep practice, we learn not only how to HIT, but how to adjust, fight, and save skills. The purpose of training in the gym is to learn, improve, and KNOW how to HIT. When we finally figure out how to HIT our skills, we feel an enormous sense of pride. We train for everything so we are ready for anything!

As we enter into competition season, the purpose of cheer seems to change. Before season started we were cheering to learn, improve, and perfect, but in-season the purpose seems to focus on winning, jackets, rings, and bids.

We all know that competition is filled with judges, fans, parents, other teams, officials, cheer-superstars, etc. We get one chance to perform and we don’t want to make mistakes. Athletes may feel that making a mistake at a competition will be humiliating, embarrassing, or they may lose the competition for their team. Pretending these thoughts don’t enter our minds is a lie and ignoring these thoughts isn’t helpful.

We can also feel the pressure of having to HIT. Focusing on winning, jackets, rings, or bids can add pressure and stress. We do not HAVE to HIT. Cheer is an optional sport. We choose to cheer, we choose to compete, and we don’t HAVE to HIT…We WANT to HIT!!!

Logically we know that competition is a part of cheer. The judges, fans, parents, other teams, officials, cheer-superstars, etc. are another part of the game. This is a what we train for and we look forward to every year.

In our hearts, we may still worry about them. Having these worries are normal. We all will doubt and worry from time to time. However, the reality of competition season is there are stresses and pressure. We are human and we will have times where we start to doubt ourselves. We don’t want to make mistakes and that’s okay. So when we start to worry, what can we do?

Has this every happened to you?

Training was going well, then one day you fell on an easy stunt. Your mind started to wonder…”WHAT IF I do that at the competition? Oh my gosh, I don’t want to fall on that. I would be so embarrassed.” Then falling or not falling on that easy stunt seems to be all you can think about.


I am sure we have all had these days when little doubts pop into our minds. We might make a mistake during practice and suddenly start to think WHAT IF I do that in the competition? We may watch a competition and see the point flyer fall and think, WHAT IF I fall? We may hear someone make a comment about having to get a paid bid and think WHAT IF I fall and ruin it for the team?

WHAT-IFS are a nasty little monster that seem to creep up when we least want or need them to. We usually look at these as a BAD thing, but we can look at these WHAT-IFS as a good thing.

WHAT-IFS are really only little reminders to pay attention. They are like Sticky notes for your performance. When something goes wrong during practice and you start to wonder…WHAT-IF, you are in deep thought. We usually stick on the worry and deeply think about all that can go wrong. We try to stop thinking about it, but the thought it still there. Trying to unthink or stop thinking about this mistake does not make the thought go away.

The only way to make the WHAT-IF go away is to answer the question.

WHAT-IF I do fall on that easy stunt??? I will most likely be sad, the routine will have a deduction, we may not score as well as we would have liked, and maybe not get a ring, jacket, trophy, or bid. Hopefully the team and coach are extremely compassionate towards your mistake, mistakes happen. And they can happen to anyone.

So the performance didn’t go the way you, the team, or coach wanted. With any and all performances… there are always lessons to learn. Learn the lesson and move on. Everyone will be okay, sports is not life, it is an amazing part of our lives. It does not reflect who we are, it is only what we do.

Once we can understand that IF we make a mistake we will be okay, we can decide what we are going to do about the WHAT-IF.


WHAT-IF I fall on my easiest stunt? You will be sad and then you will get over it. Life will go on.

Now what? Now decide what to do about it. Do you want to fall? I am sure the answer will be NO!

Great, then what do you want to do? I can safely assume your answer is, You want to HIT!

Nice…HOW are you going to do that?

How to HIT!

During practice you train and train. You know HOW to HIT! You know the timing, rhythm, and technique. You know how to adjust if you are off and you know you can save almost every skill you perform. You have worked and worked and are very wise when it comes to your skills.

Okay, so you are worried you are going to fall. You don’t want to fall. You want to HIT. Get deep into your thoughts. Think about what it FEELS like when you HIT. Visualize what it LOOKS like. Hear it HIT to the music. Where are your hands, feet, and body? What do you see, hear, and feel? Can you see yourself do it right, can you see yourself make the corrections needed to HIT?

Focus on THAT!!!

When you take the floor instead of wondering WHAT-IF I fall or hoping not to fall. You will now think about HOW to HIT!

When you feel your thoughts wonder into the future, bring them back to the NOW. What can you do about it NOW?

  1. Think about the WHAT-IF. Don’t try to avoid the thought, give yourself and answer. The truth is that even though we don’t want the worse to happen, if it does…we WILL be okay. This is just sports and anything can happen (good and bad). So we want to be okay with the outcome. Great teams don’t judge each other or hold grudges. Great teams work on the journey and fight for the same outcome. But are also there to love and support in times of struggle.
  2. Answer your WHAT-IF. So you are worried about something, what are you going to do about it? Rather than feel helpless, do something about it. You don’t want to fall, well who does???? Then what Do you WANT to do??? You want to HIT, great!!!!! Let’s do it.
  3. Now that you are focusing your energy on what you WANT, lets go into deep thought about HOW you are going to do it. If you don’t want to fall on a stunt…deeply think about what you do to make it HIT. IF you don’t want to fall on a tumbling pass, then what do you do to make it. HOW does it feel, sound, or what is the rhythm?

When it’s competition day, keep your energy focused on what you WANT to do. If you start to worry, doubt, or stress. Ask yourself what you are worried about. Answer the question, then focus on what you WANT and HOW to do it.

When it is time to perform, take a deep breath, step onto the floor and be in the moment. When you focus on the process of the performance, it doesn’t feel like a competition at all. It’s a show. Enjoy the opportunity to entertain. Work it from beginning to end!!! Feel the energy. And remember why you love cheer.