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What Level is My Team?

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Competitive teams are required to select what level they will compete. Determining this level occurs at different points in a season depending on your organization. All Star teams generally has an idea of team levels and then holds tryouts to place each athlete onto the appropriate team. School cheer may have less options. High school is generally Freshman vs JV vs Varsity and again, tryouts are used to determine placement. However, Pop Warner and AYC teams are a little different. Coaches may not know the skill level of athletes they have until practices begin. They then have a few weeks to select the level that their team would be most suited. This post will focus mostly on these teams.

So, how do you determine the level? A lot of it is based on your competition score sheet. and, in most cases, it comes down to 2 categories, stunting and tumbling. You want to set your team up for success but also make it challenging enough that they are not bored and working on advancing their skills. Start by understanding the experience level of your athletes. Have they cheered before? Are the also on an all star team? Are they a gymnast? This should give you an idea of where to begin. If 80% of your team has mastered their standing backhandspring then, in most cases, you would consider a level 2 placement. However, if you have one handspring, 4 wonky walkovers and a handful of okay-ish cartwheels, then Level 1 is probably where you will stay.

Is tumbling the main determination of level? Usually. But, it all depends on your scoresheet and your goal for your season. What percentage of your score is attributed to tumbling difficulty? Are you willing to sacrifice this score (and possible a win) if your teams stunting ability level is higher than tumbling? While coaching Pop Warner and AYC, I have bumped my team up to a higher level to keep them engaged when they have mastered the lower level stunts. In those cases, I felt teaching them the next level far outweighed holding them back just for a trophy. 

Now that you have an idea of their background and your goal for the season, observe how they execute the skills. 
Tumbling: Have the cheerleaders complete the highest level standing and running tumbling they feel comfortable doing without a spot. Are they closes to the next level skill with a spot? Do you, as a coach feel comfortable spotting and caching them to that next level? Do you plan to incorporate regular tumbling classes into your season?
Stunting: Start your stunt progressions. How far along can they hit each stunt? Do you have a team with a goof distribution of experienced flyers, bases and backspots or is it a team full of flyers that need to learn a new position? Are your athletes open to the idea of learning a new stunt position if needed or will that be a struggle all season?

Once you have a good handle on your teams skill level, sit down and take a good look at your scoresheet and level rubric. Determine where your highest skill level falls. Now, think about the execution level of those skills and how many athletes, stunt groups can hit that skill. Does it meet the threshold required to score in that top difficulty range? If not, are you willing to take the chance that the others will rise up to that level?

Taking advantage of the resources available and team progression checklists will indicate the level or two possibilities. But, it can't get you all the way there. Coach's discretion is still a factor. You know your team best. 


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