It is the best time of year–competition season! Congratulations on making it this far, and with final competitions quickly approaching, you might be thinking what’s next. Your team has their choreography down, travel and lodging is taken care of, uniforms are in tiptop dry-cleaned shape and you are all set to go. However, you know as an experienced coach, once you arrive at the competition, anything and everything can go wrong–especially when it comes to run-throughs! Every year, it is something new, so here are a few ways to make run-throughs better at your next competition.

1. Have a family meeting right when you get there. This meeting should include parents, or anyone involved in pickup and drop-off, i.e. chaperones or carpool parents. Depending on the age of your team and if this is your team’s first competition, some parents need to be informed of what to do more than others. Most parents new to cheer may not know about run-throughs at all! During this meeting, break it down for your parents. This might be your 12th competition season and you may think parents might know what to expect, but I can guarantee you, they have no idea and have probably never even heard the word ‘run-throughs’ before in their life. I can also guarantee they have no idea it is closed to parents or that they have 3-4 hours to kill before their child actually competes. Make it clear and then proceed to check into the hotel.

2. Time is not on your side. I cannot stress how important punctuality is at competitions! These competitions are like well-oiled machines: schedules are strict, and not something to mess with. If you are late, you will lose your practice spot. Period.

3. Judging. Don’t get it twisted–teams are being judged from the moment they walk in that door. Some competitions are stricter than others, and things like poor sportsmanship can cost you a few points before you even set foot on the mats. As soon as your team walks in that building, they are representatives of the cheerleading community as well as their team. Be sure to talk to your team about cell phone use, appropriate competition conversation, etc. You don’t want to miss out placing because of something that could be easily avoided!

4. Know what needs work. Your team has been practicing this routine for weeks, and you know what parts of it need last minute practice time to get right. As a coach, your team has worked hard to get to this point and you do not want to waste precious practice hours just doing the routine over and over.  You need to push those last-minute practices to make sure everyone hits their portion just right. Of course, you will want to do full routine run-throughs and take a few breaks before you go out to the main stage. But, you really want to focus on what needs most attention to make your routine flawless.

By following the steps above, run-throughs will be a breeze. The competition atmosphere is intense and a lot of things are going on all at once. Having a game plan together and being prepared is the best thing you can do take make sure all aspects of your competition day will run smoothly.

How do you have to better competition run-throughs? Share your tips with us in the comments!