Sunday, December 10, 2006

8 Ways to Make the Most Out of Your Last Competition

If competitions are what you make of them--and if your Last big national competition is right around the corner, make sure that you don't let any moments, big or small, flip right past you. Chances are that you're feeling a million mixed emotions right now. After all, your teammates probably haven't just become your closest friends, they've also become like a second family. Whether you plan to cheer in college, become a staff instructor, coach at an all-star gym or hang up your poms for good after this year, vow to make your last big competition unforgettable.

Here are eight surefire ways to make the most out of the season's last competition, plus 10 extra ideas for your teammates and coaches.

1. Get Connected
Remember the Girl Scout song that goes, "Make new friends but keep the old?" One of the best ways to make your last competition count is by mingling with other teams and getting to know their cheerleaders on your own. Bring a notebook to jot down the e-mail addresses and phone numbers of your competitors. Talk to competition staffers if you want to become a camp instructor, and spend time with your coach one-on-one while you're away. After all, who better to get that much-needed college cheer advice from than someone who cheered herself?.

2. Pass It Along
Give the returning cheerleaders something to remember you by next season: Create a spirited poem, inspirational quote page or make a decorative framed picture and give it to your teammates at the Last practice before Nationals. It'll inspire them next year and may even become a squad tradition.

3. Scrapbook It
Take lots of pictures throughout your trip and scrapbook them afterwards. Make sure you collect the little things along the way too, such as plane tickets, restaurant business cards, confetti, hair bows, etc.

4. Be a Savvy Traveler
Make the bus, plane or car as fun as possible by bringing along games, quizzes, magazines and music. While you're at it, why not show off your senior style, too? "We make special bag tags for the seniors' luggage," says Ashley Parish and Alora Price of Oak Harbor HS in Oak Harbor, WA.

Also, consider wearing the same cheer shirts on the plane or sporting cute cheer bows in your hair.

5. Fun in the Sun
Headed to Disney? Competing right near the beach? If there's time and your coach gives you the OK, hit up local attractions like amusement parks, the hotel pool, cool restaurants or beachy spots to get the most out of your trip. Quick tip: You might be able to score discount passes through the competition company or get a cheaper rate because you're a student, so don't be afraid to ask!

6. Pump Up the Jams
You probably sing the songs in your competition routine every day, so why not take them with you as a memento? "Make a CD with all of the songs your squad has used in competition routines," says Katie LeBlanc of the Sparks All-Stars in Stoughton, MA. For a funny bonus CD, speed up or slow down the tempo, or write cute quotes from your teammates on the inside case cover.

7. Host a Sleepover or Nationals Party
If your parents give you the thumbs up and you've got enough space, consider hosting a Nationals sleepover, pizza party or ice cream social at your home. "Throw a slumber party for everyone close to Nationals," says Chelsea Nosworthy of Paul Laurence Dunbar HS in Lexinginton, KY. If space is limited, find out if your coach can rent out a hotel room on behalf of the seniors. "Sometimes we go to hotels, rent out a room and have a swimming party [instead]."

8. Toughen Up
If this is your last Nationals, then you've got even more cause for motivation--how about finally landing that standing tuck or full? "I'm taking private [lessons] to get my round-off back handspring for competition this year," says Heather Maher of the Spirit Celebration All-Stars in Piano, TX. "I want to set a good example for the rest of my team and gain a sense of accomplishment and pride for everything I achieved this year."

Competition Blowout!
If you're not a senior, give your graduating seniors an ultra-special send-off. A cheerleader's last competition is a super big deal, so here are just a few ways your teammates and coaches can show the seniors how much they'll be missed.

By Colleen Leonard

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