Techniques To Make Your Team SPARKLE!
Presentation by Morton Bergue
- Sharp Motions. I believe it all starts with sharp motions. Something we do not work on enough anymore.
- Correct arm angles. A “High V“ can be done many ways. Make sure all your team is doing each motion how you want them to do them. Get picky and be consistent is correcting them
- Correct placement. Your team needs to learn how to place their motions, especially the path they take to get from one motion to another.
- Quick movement. Each motion should be done quickly, then hold. The example I like to use is hit your motion on the “O” of the number “ONE” not the “E”.
- Body placement. The angle in which the body is facing when doing motions is as important as the motion itself. Make sure clearly define the angle the body is facing when teaching.
- Good motion combinations. Sometimes the combinations of moves and motions create a sloppy athlete. Like putting a “T” to a “High V” to a “Low V” can be done sharply, but it will look a lot cleaner and sharper to add a clasp in between. I try to always put combinations together that have the arms come close to the body center in between motions that are away from the body.
DRILL: Make up a two to four 8-count combination your team can do at every practice. Make sure you fit in most of the motions you will commonly use. You probably can’t get them all in, but that won’t matter. Having them do it every practice within your warm-up will not only give them good, sharp motions but will also make them stronger. Remember, in the beginning to teach it exactly how you want them done and the paths the moves will take. Get really picky and don’t let them slide. The best part is as the years go on; your motion technique will trickle down to the local teas that feed into your program.
- Fierce Footwork. We often forget to clean up the footwork, but it IS a part of the overall feel of the routine.
- Correct placement on the floor. Make sure you clearly define where the footwork is on the floor beneath the athlete, even the direction the toes point. This is really important to the look of your choreography.
- Together is together and apart is apart. The biggest mistake is the athletes try to cheat the footwork. They do it halfway, not full-out. So when feet are together they are touching and when feet are apart its wider than the shoulder. Hold them to that.
- Body placement. Like with motions, the directions in which the body faces are very important to the look and cleanliness of the footwork.
- Correct leg angles. The angles of the legs and feet are really important. It’s really noticeable when an athlete goes down to one knee and the knee is not directly over the ankle or the back foot is not tucked under. Defining these little things will really help get it sharp.
DRILL: Like with motions, create a combination of footwork and leg moves that train your athletes to do them correctly. Add squats, down to one knee, side rolls, legs together etc. You could even combine this with your motion technique combo.
- Clean Stunts. Taking the time to clean up stunts and making everyone knows their stuff is really important.
- Know the counts. If you want clean stunts, give each part of the stunt a count. It makes it easier for the athletes to remember and clearly defines where things go.
- Use good technique. It’s really important that you become a good technician when it comes to stunts. Know the ins and outs of the arm, hand and grip placements and teach that to your athletes. Do not let it be good enough to just “hit” the stunt, but the must “hit” the stunt with perfect technique. If they don’t, they can’t move onto harder stunts.
- Pay attention to the dips. Usually it’s the dips before the movement that gets the stunts to look sloppy. Dips should be small and controlled and the explosion from the small, concise, tight muscled dip is what gives the energy to move the stunt to its next place. The athletes generally think bigger dips give them more energy, that is simply not true.
- Take out any extra up motion. The other mistake athletes make is that they feel they must do a little lift before they move onto the next part of the stunt. This just wastes energy and creates more of a chance for the timing to get off. Don’t let them do this.
DRILL: Create a stunt warm up that you can do each practice to get them to do good technique. Start with loads, then prep bump downs, extension bump downs, then prep cradles, then Extension cradles, etc. Every time they must get out of the stunt and do a strong ending before they start a new stunt. Put all of it to counts and even pay attention to how they start and slap sides and end. Obviously, you don’t want to go through every stunt because of time, but just doing basic stunts (maybe up to lib cradles) will be enough for the team to take that good technique and transfer that to harder stunt combinations. Plus thus will get them in super good shape.
- Timed Tumbling. Great tumbling can make any routine spectacular even the easiest of skills.
- Use good technique. It’s time to really train your athletes on how-to do-good tumbling. Do your research and find out how the skills you want to do must look, then train those skills that way. There is enough information online for you to easily do this. Once you have done your research start with forward rolls and slowly move your athletes on once they perfect a skill.
- Know the counts. Like in stunting, give each part of a tumbling skill a count. This will clean up your tumbling, help your athletes tumble together and make it much easier to choreograph into your routine.
- The more the merrier. The more athletes that do a tumbling skill the more impressive it is, even if it is just a forward roll. Work on these skills and incorporate them into the routines you choreograph.
- Get it all the same. Like everything else we have talked about, it is really important for all the tumbling to look alike even how the athletes start and finish their skills.
DRILL: Put the athletes in lines and start doing skills. Watch from the front and sides to see that they are performing the tumbling tricks a like and correct those that are doing it wrong. Don’t move onto the next skill until they all look alike. This does take some time, but is well worth it.
- Great Energy. Learning how to perform is just as important as perfecting good skills.
- Facials that are strong not fake. Great faces are a needed part of every performance, but “**** fish” face is outdated. Big smiles, open eyes and the occasional cute look is what is in. This does need to be practiced, like every other part of the routine, at practice. Make your athletes smile and perform as they work on skills. You can even add choreographed facials into the routine until they get confident themselves.
- Moving with purpose. Most athletes don’t realize how they move from one thing to another is important. They tend to move slow and lose posture as they go from one section of the routine to another. Teaching them to move quickly and with purpose will not only give your routine more energy, but actually more counts to do more skills. It is very rare that you need a full 8-count to move from one section to another.
- Fully extending with arms and legs. Doing good motions and footwork is wonderful, doing motions and footwork with an extra extend is what makes those moves and footwork look more energetic. Give it a little more and you will get a lot more in return.
- A good pose never hurts. Adding fun poses and moves at the end of a tumbling pass or the completion of a stunt sequence will always add to the look and energy of a routine.
- Music that works. I know music is a bit hard to get great at this point in the USA. Covers just don’t seem to have the same impact and who really can afford to have music specifically produced for the team? But none the less you must try to really have good music if you want the team to perform well and the audience and/or judges to enjoy it. Find a music producer that will work with you and be picky on what that music producer provides for you. There are some good premade mixes out there you can insert mascots and colors into, but make sure that mix is something the team really likes and will perform to.
- Words we can hear and understand. So, I like a good, creative storybook cheer. It’s my era and I am not giving up without a fight, BUT I have had to tweak my style a bit because it is so important that the audience understands the words and that the team can say the words loudly and with good diction.
DRILL: Once you have perfected a stunt sequence (leys say a start, set, build a prep and dismount to an ending pose) then add in facials and words. It can be as simple as making them smile the entire time, but they must do it, all of them, even the bases. I always video this to show them how cool and fun it looks.
- Impactful Uniforms. They say, “Clothes make the man”, well this concept applies here.
- Good fitting uniforms. A good fitting uniform is much better than an expensive uniform. Like any clothing item it looks better on the athlete and the athlete feels much more confident. I realize for some teams this is hard because uniforms are handed back in at the end of the year, but if this is not the case, fit them well (maybe get a good team seamstress).
- Bold colors and lines. Choose uniforms with bold colors and lines. Some of the uniforms of today are so complicated and have gotten so creative with fabric choices and sublimation, the impact has gotten lost. Remember the athlete perform pretty far away from their crowds and judges. You want the uniform and its letters and stripes to be easily scene. I am not saying don’t put a sparkle fabric here or there or maybe a cool zebra print, but just be careful on how that uniform looks in a group and far away.
- Maybe add a rhinestone or two. The rhinestone phenomenon has been a real plus to the uniform in terms of sparkle. They really do bring out the uniforms and create another level of “pop” on the floor. I do think it has been taken too far on many uniforms I see on a daily basis, but putting a few, high quality rhinestones strategically placed on your uniform can really spice it up and get the attention of the crowd and judges.
- Don’t forget the accessories. Paying attention to the shoes, socks, bows, scrunchies, make-up, etc. is an important part of your overall look. Make sure it all works. Look at each athlete individually and as a group before they perform at a rally, game or competition. This is the first thing people see and will set their mood for the rest of the performance.
DRILL: This drill is really for you the coaches. Start watching videos and don’t look at the stunts, tumbling or dance, but look at how the uniform and accessories are coming off in the video. Does it catch your eye? Does it compliment the movement? Do you like what you see in terms of uniforms, make-up, facials, etc? This is much harder than you think, but it will really help you design your best uniform, create the best make-up plan and choose the best accessories.
- Banners, Megaphones and Signs. These will always add an extra “Umph” to your routine.
- Clear lettering. Make sure your signs, banners and megaphones are easy to read and big enough to be seen from far away. Use contrasting colors and don’t decorate it too much with extras.
- Know how to use the prop. The biggest mistake is that coaches don’t teach the athletes how to use the props properly. How to snap the sign hard or tilt it with purpose. How to move with banners and how to hold a megaphone so it shows to the audience the best. You must practice with the props A LOT to get it right.
- Different sizes, shapes, and materials can make a big impact. Signs don’t always need to be 3’ X 3’, they can be round or rectangle. They can be put on boxes or rolled out on fabric. So long as you follow the rule of clear lettering you can get really creative with the signs.
- Get creative without losing the message. You can also move your props in interesting ways to make even greater impacts. Taking a banner low across the floor first then over your head. Tilting the sign behind your head then flashing it forward in front of your face. Rolling up a sign and putting it under the uniform top them bringing it out in a surprise way. These are all examples on being creative with the movement. But again, make sure it helps the crowd read the sign to repeat the saying, if not the creativity is now a hindrance.
DRILL: This one is just like the uniform one. Start looking at videos of teams that use signs. Watch the ones you feel are the best and lead the crowd effectively. Listen to the commentators and if they say, “That was good”, use that technique.
Good Luck and SPARKLE!