New Cheer Building At ESPN

My first time competing in UCA College nationals we competed at the Indiana Jones Amphitheater. Over the years Varsity has moved its competition location. It has moved to holding all finals in the Milk House which is called something else at this point. This year they are opening a new venue, the Arena. While it will he used for other sports as well, cheerleading was a major consideration in the design of the facility. Here is a picture of the ribbon cutting ceremony.

Cheer Signs

The first time I made cheer signs was a bit of an adventure. I remember calling my old college coach for help and getting all the details. If you search google, you’ll find a ton of places trying to sell you signs. Some of these products are good and some of them aren’t as good. I’ve always made my signs through a sign shop, though one of my co-coaches ordered them form a website and I can say they were no where near the quality I expect from my signs.

Signs are a tool cheerleaders use to engage the crowd. They are usually designed to get the crowd to shout with you. How to use signs is a whole different post but let’s just say that legibility and durability are major factors. To that end I’ve found that signs called “coroplast” signs are the best for both of these.

Coroplast signs are short for Corrugated Plastic signs. The signs are made out of a rigid plastic and usually they use vinyl lettering. These signs are robust. Rain will drop off them, they handle being dropped from stunts and while they might gain a crease, they can even handle a light step. I’ve seen these signs last years if they are well taken care of. So that is the type of sign.

Next let’s talk about lettering and size. These are connected. You want your signs to be readable from a distance. You want fans to say what is on them. So firstly the words need to be large. Long words are hard. For example, the word Francisco in San Francisco is probably to hard to fit on a sign. In the past I’ve done 2 foot by 3 foot signs with the words “PURPLE” and “STATE” and they have both been on the edge of what I’d consider readable. The problem is that when you have a long word you want the height to width ratio of the word needs to be reasonable. If you have very tall letters it is hard to read the individual letters. There are other options than spelling out long words. Many words can be abbreviated or represented with symbols.

To explain this a bit, here is purple in the correct size for font where there is unused white space around it. NormalPurple

As you can see, purple is readable, but it is small. There is a lot of missed space. If you back up a bit, the purple becomes less readable. One solution people have is to stretch the letters to fill the full height and width of the sign. This is good in theory, but in practice, it makes the text less readable: StretchedPurple

This might look better, but as you drop back from this, the lines tend to join together and it becomes hard to distinguish between characters. If your word is larger than “PURPLE”, like say “FRANCISCO” as in San Francisco, you run into some serious readability concerns.

This year we solved the problem using symbols for our involved cheer. Our cheer was S-F-State, Purple-And-Gold. S and F were simple enough. State is right on the edge or readable, we decided to use a purple cutout of the state of California. Purple was just too long to be readable at a distance so we solved the problem by just coloring that side of the sign all purple. We then used an ampersand for “And” (make sure you get it facing the right direction, ours was backwards until I got it fixed), and then used a Gold side for the color gold.

Some cheers are very simple and only require one side, but our cheer required our athletes to flip their signs. This is another challenge. Turning a sign isn’t super easy. The easiest way to flip a sign seems to be flipping it from top down. The hands don’t have to move, but this means you need to have your letters upside down. Most sign makers aren’t used to this, I have found it helps to over what you want with the sign makers in person. A simple notecard is a great tool to fully explain what you want. Also, if you end up doing coroplast signs, most sign makers can easily change a misplaced word.

Lastly, you need to consider the size of your signs. A common size is two feet by three feet, or 24″ x 36″, but I have issues with some of our smaller flyers being able to flip signs this large. This year we did 24″ x 24″. Because of the sign design, we were able to get away with squares. It made it much easier for our team to flip the signs, and they were still readable from a distance. If your words are to large, you might need to stick with the 24″ x 36″. Make sure you account for enough time to practice the sign flipping with your team, larger signs require more practice.

If you have any interesting sign tips, please leave a comment.

UCA and NCA, college edition

Recently returned from Daytona Beach, FL for the NCA college nationals. It was a great trip, but as college cheerleader I had a unique experience or competing at both. Post my college career, I’ve visited UCA and coached a team at NCA. Each competition has it’s own experience and deciding where to go can be difficult. While both NCA and UCA are owned by varsity the events has it’s own character. Here are some of the factors that are relevent for my team when deciding between the two:

Category NCA UCA
Date Early April MLK Weekend January
Tryouts April April
Summer Starts early August Usually Weekend a month, Full outs in February
Taping December October (+crowd tape)
Thanksgiving Break Full Week Break Five Days
Winter Break Starts Before Finals, come back mid January ~5 days for Xmas, 24 hours for NYE
Spring Schedule 5+ days a week Light practices
Spring Break Doubles Off
Missing school Miss days of school (usually Wed through Friday) Miss days of winter break
Cost $600+airfare, due in spring $600+airfare, due much earlier
Post Comp Event Stunt Fest Block Party, Disney World Access
Grades First semester grades counted First semester grades not counted
Location Daytona Band Shell Disney, Orlando
Number of participants 20 Coed (max 11 men) 16 Coed (max 9 men)
Format 45 second cheer, 2:15 music section 2:30 with cheer included
Dance Full Team Dance section (5+ 8-counts) Small number of participants, only a couple 8-counts
Jumps Own Category on score sheet Not scored in coed

The factors listed above are specific to my team which is currently a large coed program. All girl teams have different score sheets and number of participants.

Do you have preference on nationals? If so, which one do you prefer and why?