Even though cheerleading scholarship opportunities vary from program to program, they’re still possible to obtain. Generally, the more competitive and established the cheerleading program is, the more funding they have for student-athletes. This section breaks down all the important aspects of cheerleading scholarships, from how to get one to which cheerleading colleges offer them.
How to get a cheerleading scholarship
While each cheerleading coach has their own set of criteria they look for when recruiting student-athletes, they prioritize scholarships based on a variety of factors. Here are a few tips to keep in mind when it comes to landing a college cheerleading scholarship:
- Compete at the highest level: Cheer scholarships tend to be most available at programs that are highly competitive and have a deep tradition of cheer within the school’s history. As college cheerleading continues to evolve and get more competitive, coaches want to bring on recruits who can take their routines to the next level. Make sure that your skillset stands out compared to the rest of the squad’s. Coaches prioritize scholarships to the cheerleaders who compete. So, if your skills don’t align with the current roster, your chances of receiving a scholarship decline.
- Attend college clinics: College clinics are an important part of the recruiting process because they’re designed to teach recruits what skills and routines will be performed at that school’s tryouts. Recruits learn sideline cheers, stunts, and the fight song, as well as the skills needed to compete on that squad. Basically, college coaches use clinics and open gyms to scout athletes.
- Maintain a high GPA: College coaches highly value recruits who maintain a high GPA and have solid test scores. In fact, some college cheer programs award academic scholarships to student-athletes who maintain a certain GPA. Having a solid academic background can open doors to scholarship opportunities at almost every school.
- Create a recruiting video to showcase skills: College cheer coaches can’t evaluate every recruit in person. So, they turn to online evaluations. Some schools actually require a recruiting video that showcases specific skills before the student-athlete can try out for the team. It’s important to showcase your skills and send them to college coaches at the schools you’re interested in. The earlier you get on a coach’s radar, the better chance you have at receiving an invitation to try out and make the squad.
- Know your best college fit: Make sure the school is both an academic and athletic fit. Know the coach’s desired qualifications, review the team’s roster, view competition footage, and review the school’s necessary academic acceptance information to best understand if you’d be accepted into the school and receive a spot on the squad.
What cheer skills are needed to compete in college?
Cheerleading coaches typically use recruiting video and in-person tryouts to evaluate a cheerleading recruit’s full ability, from jumps to stunts to tumbling. While each program comes with its own desired qualifications, many coaches generally look for baseline requirements within each position, including flyers, tumblers, stunters and dancers. The level of cheer stunts needed completely depends on the program. Non-competitive teams will look for basic cheer skills, while top programs in the country want to evaluate advanced skills. Here are some examples:
What do college cheer coaches look for in recruits?
This answer really depends on how competitive the cheerleading program is. Cheer coaches at colleges that place at the NCA or UCA championships are extremely selective in their recruiting. They look for cheerleaders who align with or out-perform the current talent on the team and add consistency to their program. From an athletic perspective, they want recruits to master the fundamentals while being able to develop their elite skillset enough to perform well at competition.
Most importantly, though, a coach’s specific needs could change from year to year. Some squads bring on recruits who specialize in a position, while others are more versatile, such as being a flyer and tumbler. The best way to determine what a coach might be looking for is to visit the team’s college roster and study the athletes’ backgrounds and positions. This should give you some indication of what skills are needed and which positions will be graduating.
Additionally, like every sport, cheerleading coaches want to bring on positive team members who can boost up the squad, be in good academic standing, and responsibly manage their time and college responsibilities. They closely evaluate a recruit’s character, academic background, and leadership skills in addition to their athletic ability.
Once a recruit identifies colleges that are an overall good fit, both athletically and academically, they need to create a recruiting video and send it to cheer coaches. In fact, in order to try out for a college cheerleading team, many coaches require that athletes submit a video first. Typically, the college will lay out the video’s requirements online in their tryout application. These videos and college cheer tryouts are the most common ways college coaches evaluate recruits.
Can you cheer in college with no experience?
In short, it really depends on the school and the intensity of the program. Some highly-competitive colleges have tumbling requirements that take years of experience to achieve, while non-competitive teams or spirit squads may only require basic fundamentals that you can learn on your own. Usually, gymnasts with no cheerleading experience have the easiest transition as they already have a good foundation of tumbling skills. Student-athletes with no experience, though, should research programs with teams that are split into JV and Varsity, because they’ll have a better opportunity to train and grow at the college level. They may also have a chance of making the squad at schools that don’t compete and only cheer on game day.
If a recruit is interested in becoming a college cheerleader, it’s recommended that they visit an All-Star or gymnastics gym in their area to learn cheerleading fundamentals, such as correct body positioning and tumbling skills, strengthen their core, and improve their flexibility. Sometimes these gyms need alternates on their squads, so it’s also an opportunity to work up to performing. Keep in mind that if you work hard, you have a shot. The majority of cheer coaches discover recruits by evaluating their recruiting video, scouting them at clinics, and seeing how they perform in tryouts. Cheerleaders with no experience can still capture the coach’s attention this way.
How to become a college cheer flyer
A flyer, also known as a top girl, is a crucial part of cheerleading programs as stunts and pyramids bring in the most points during the competition. While there’s a variety of skills flyers perform, coaches look for consistency, proper technique, and overall confidence in each. All flyers need to have body control, balance, flexibility, and strength.
In elite programs, flyers must be able to pull three different body positions, a full down from extended one-legged stunts, and a double down from prep level. In most programs, coaches evaluate flexibility by looking at the recruit’s heel stretch, bow and arrow, and scorpion. One of the most important skills for a flyer is being able to maintain proper lines, meaning the flyer has a strong core and uses her hips to pull up through her belly button so that her center of gravity is fully supported.
If a recruit wants to become a college cheer flyer, they can start by learning at a nearby club, such as an All-Star gym or Pop Warner team. Here, cheerleading is broken down into different levels, starting with the basics. For example, recruits can perfect basic stunting, such as a cupie, a prep level one leg, and tick-tocks. And as they become more advanced, they can incorporate more skills like a double-down from two legs and a double-twisting toss. Elite programs turn to the highest level of skills, such as a single-based cupie, tuck tosses, and a full twist toss.
College coaches often find recruits through these club gyms, especially All-Star teams, and also by receiving a recruiting video from the athlete before tryouts. If a recruit is interested in being a college flyer, they need to visit the college’s website to review the skill requirements needed and better understand the tryout process. Some tryouts require a video first, while others are open to all student-athletes. Either way, it’s important for recruits to proactively email cheerleading coaches at the schools they’re interested in. Showing personal interest in the program and highlighting cheer skills is the best way to establish a relationship with coaches.
Tumbling recruiting guidelines
All coaches evaluate cheer tumbling skills when prioritizing their list of recruits, both running and standing. But because cheer programs vary, there isn’t one set of tumbling requirements across the board. Even in the same division level, like junior college or NCAA Division 1, you can have one program looking for elite skills and another accepting basic tumbling.
In fact, if you visit the college’s athletic website, you might even be able to find the list of specific requirements needed. For example, the University of Tennessee is a top competitive cheerleading program, and their tumbling requirements include standing back tuck, standing backhand spring back tuck, and a tumbling pass including three skills or more. Plus, a running pass with a full rotation is highly recommended.
Of course, not all programs require this level of skill. While elite programs look for specialty passes and twisted tumbling skills, many programs stick to fundamentals, like back handsprings, front tucks, and round-off back tucks. The best way to understand the recruiting guidelines for the schools you’re interested in is to visit the team’s website and see if requirements are listed and then watch their competition video. Evaluate their routine, noting the different tumbling skills and experiences of each cheerleader on the roster. Then, decide if your skillset aligns and if you’d meet that coach’s tumbling recruiting guidelines.
The thing about colleges in the US is that training sessions fit around the student-athlete’s schedule. This creates the perfect environment for students to excel in their sport with world-class facilities and equipment. In addition, it encourages and pushes them to excel academically. These programs are designed so that students can succeed in both, providing they have the right mentality and drive to do so. Does this sound like something you would like to be a part of? If so, contact us today!