Surviving The Summit: Seven Tips for the Seven Days Leading Up to Competition

Preparing For Cheer Summit

The Summit is the biggest competition of the season for most teams. It’s the culmination of the hard work cheerleaders have put in throughout the season, and it’s the time in which they leave it all on the mat. 

Teams train all year for these two, two-and-a-half minute routines. Judges hand down rankings that will establish the best in each division. As each team takes the floor, coaches hope that they’ve prepared their athletes to be the best they can be. The Summit is the event that everyone is determined to do well at.

This all seems a bit overwhelming, right? It definitely can be. That’s why we created a guide to help you survive The Summit! Ditch the usual, pre-competition stress by doing something each day to get ready to rock the mat. Whether you’re a first-timer or Summit veteran, follow these seven tips to ensure you have the BEST experience!

7 Days Before The Summit

Make the last practices your best practices

The final practices of cheer season should instill the necessary confidence your team needs heading into The Summit, so it is crucial that you give your best effort at every one of them. If there is a time to push yourself physically and mentally, the week before the biggest competition of the season is it. Take every aspect seriously, from the warm up to full-out routines. At the end of your last practice, you should feel assured that you have given it your all.

Many teams have a “show-off”. This is a gym-wide event that allows family and friends to watch and show support for the teams competing at The Summit. This is also an opportunity for coaches to see how their teams will compete under a little pressure. If The Summit is the test, show-offs are a quiz.

Use the show-off to gauge which of your skills and stunts need to be perfected. If there is something that you aren’t feeling confident about, let your coach know at this time. If your gym doesn’t have a show-off, that’s OK! You can use a full-out routine at any regular practice to gauge how you are feeling about your skills.

6 Days Before The Summit

Set goals for the competition

Although all teams want to place well at The Summit, it’s important to set some goals aside from your ranking. Keep in mind that winning isn’t everything, and you don’t want your entire experience to revolve around getting a first place trophy. Besides, what matters most is that you try your best and have fun!

A goal for most teams is to “hit zero”, meaning a team hits their routine both days with no deductions (no stunt drops, tumbling falls, etc.). Although that’s a team goal, make it a personal goal to contribute to this by hitting your parts in the routine perfectly.

Hit your standing and running tumbling with great technique. If you are a flyer, hit the sharpest body positions you can with no bobbles or body checks. If you are a base, make sure you provide a stable platform for your flyer to stand on. Don’t forget to transition cleanly, hit motions sharply and serve some sassy facials, too!

Another personal goal could be to encourage your teammates while competing. “Mat talk” keeps the team’s energy high throughout the routine. Two-and-a-half minutes doesn’t seem like a long time to most people, but cheerleaders know it can feel much longer in the midst of a jam-packed routine. A simple “you got this!” or “keep it up!” can be the boost of energy a teammate needs to hit his or her skills. Let the rest of your team be a part of this goal and get everyone mat-talking!

5 Days Before The Summit

Practice outside of your scheduled practice time

This is the time to put some extra effort into your preparation. While you are going to work super hard at your last practices, there’s ALWAYS something you can improve on.  Come in 15-30 minutes before your scheduled practice time to work on a skill or stunt that needs some cleaning up.

For example, if you touch down on your standing tumbling pass once in awhile, take this time to throw it a few extra times. Also, ask your coach for corrections or tips to improve your pass. If your stunt section isn’t always consistent, ask your stunt group to come in early to work on it. Figure out one thing each member can do to ensure the stunt is solid come competition day.

Struggling with your jumps? Get a good stretch before practice, and do your jump section a few times. If you can, get a teammate to jump with you to practice your timing. 

Going the extra mile at these last practices can make a HUGE difference. There’s no better feeling than stepping onto the mat knowing that you are prepared to succeed. Doing a few extra passes and stunts throughout the week will get you ready to perform your best at The Summit.

4 Days The Summit

Start packing ahead of time

There is nothing worse than arriving at a competition and realizing you didn’t pack something you needed. Make sure this doesn’t happen on your trip to Florida by packing a few days before you leave. Create a checklist of all the things you will need to bring with you. Tick off each item one-by-one until you are completely packed. 

Start by packing the clothes you plan to wear when you’re not cheering. Throw in a cute outfit for dinner, a comfortable outfit for Disney World and don’t forget your pajamas! Then, pack your uniform. Triple check that you have your top, bottoms, bow and any other accessories needed. Pack any practice or team-issued apparel you will be wearing during your trip.

Lastly, don’t forget your cheer shoes. If possible, put your uniform and cheer shoes in your carry-on luggage. That way, if your checked luggage gets lost between airports (especially if you have a layover), you will still have your competition necessities! 

Oh and don't forget your stretch pack from Stunt Stand!

3 Days Before The Summit

Have some team bonding time

Before your team leaves for The Summit, get together and chat about your feelings going into competition weekend. Chances are there will be a mix of emotions! Some teammates might be excited, while others may be feeling nervous. Some may be eager to get it over with! All, or even a combination of these emotions, are completely normal. However, it’s good to talk through these feelings as a team. Let the energy of your excited teammates get you pumped to compete, and address any concerns your teammates may have. 

Use this time together to not only discuss the weekend ahead, but to also reflect on the season as a whole. At this pow-wow, share your favorite stories, memories and moments from the season. There is sure to be a lot of them!

These activities will remind your team that you’re all in this together. Most likely, you’ll even realize that the girls and boys you once saw as just teammates, have now become family.

2 Days Before The Summit- Travel day

Take care of yourself

Travel days mean getting up early, stopping on layovers and sitting for hours at a time. This can take a bigger toll on your body than you may think. Fatigue can be the result of an early morning and long day. You may get stiff from sitting for too long, and flights can cause dehydration. So, it’s important to keep a few tips in mind during your travels to ensure you are feeling your best on competition day. 

Get a good night’s rest the night before your flight. Keep in mind how early you have to get up, and try to get to bed a bit earlier than usual. Even if you can’t fall asleep right away, the rest will still benefit you. Take a short nap on the plane, too.

Stretch on your layovers to prevent your body from feeling stiff or sore. It doesn’t have to be a complete stretch like you’re getting ready to go full-out. Touch your toes, stretch your shoulders and roll out your wrists and ankles. Simple stretches can make a big difference. Don’t have a layover? Get up during your flight to walk around. Any type of movement can help shake off a long day of traveling.

Swap juices and sodas for water on your flight. The lack of oxygen and moisture in a plane causes serious dehydration, so it’s crucial to replenish your body with tons of water. Staying hydrated will contribute to preparing your body for the competition weekend ahead.

1 Day Before The Summit

Rest and relax

Once you arrive in Orlando, you’ll realize there’s tons to do. While your day off could be used as a mini-vacation, you may want to rethink how you’re spending that time. Too much sun and too much activity can impact your readiness to compete. 

Although you may be looking forward to relaxing by the pool or taking a trip to Disney World, it’s important to remember that competition is the main priority. Exposure to the sun can be super draining, and the Florida heat is no exception. Activities like walking or swimming can fatigue your muscles, causing serious soreness. It’s best to hold off on all non-cheer activities until after you’re done competing. Besides, going to Disney World as a Summit medalist is much more fun, anyways!

The Summit

Remember your “why”

It’s easy to get wrapped up in the nerves of any regular-season competition, and The Summit is no different. If anything, it can be even more nerve-wracking! Not only is The Summit the biggest competition of the year, but it also marks the end of another season, which can be bittersweet. Fight off the jitters, pressure and stress by remembering your “WHY”.

Why are you there? Why do you did decide to compete this season? Why are you a cheerleader? Because you LOVE what you do! Cheerleading sparks a certain kind of joy in you that nothing else can bring. Remember that, and bring that energy when you step on the mat. Let the judges see your passion for the sport you love.

Enjoy the moments of your last performance. Remind yourself that you have done everything you can to prepare. Once you take the floor, all you can do is try your best and have fun. This will be a moment you will remember forever, so soak it up and take it all in. It’s your time to shine!


Good luck at Summit! Go kill it!

Kiara Nowlin is a 3x cheerleading and power tumbling world champion. For 10 years, she has traveled across the US and internationally hosting tumbling clinics. Nowlin won three national championship titles as a member of the Baylor University Acrobatics & Tumbling team, where she also earned spots on both the Academic and NCATA All-American team. She graduated with a major in public relations and minor in Mandarin Chinese.

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