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Sep 19

Creating a Team Out of a Bunch of Cheerleaders – Team Bonding!

Photo by woolennium http://www.flickr.com/photos/woolennium/270903071/

I was a cheerleader all through middle school and high
school. I did all the games, all the competitions, all the rallies, and I don’t
think I missed more than a handful of practices for doctors’ appointments or
whatever. For all of those six years, I can’t say that I enjoyed all that much of it.

I had a few friends on the squad each year, but for most of
those six years, we just weren’t a tight knit group.

There was a strong bond, and a togetherness that was lacking
from most of the teams I was on in my school days. I figured that was just the
way it was. We weren’t there to be friends, we weren’t there because we were a
team, we were there just because we were all cheerleaders.

As a coach, and as a captain of my adult fundraising team
after high school, my perspective changed. I experienced that it isn’t about
whether a group of people gel or not, it isn’t a take it or leave it situation.
There are measures you can take, easy activities and games you can use, that
can actually make a difference in how a team interacts with one another, and
how comfortable they feel coming into a practice or event, working with their
team.

Changes like that can make immeasurable differences to the
team as a whole. Trust me. Try it.

Here are a couple of ideas that I have tried, that you can
use to bring your squad closer together. With these, and others, you can set
the foundation to really build a team out of a group of cheerleaders.

5-4-3-2-1

Get your team split up into a couple of groups, maybe based
on where their names fall in the alphabet. Then give them a piece of paper, a
pen, and a finite amount of time (a couple of minutes, give or take, depending
on how many people are in the group- more time for a greater number of people.
5 minutes is usually good for a group around 8 or 9) to come up with something
close to the following:

  • 5 things they all have in common (this can be like, we all have belly
    buttons, or nobody has nail polish on)
  • 4 things none of them have in common (this can be like, they all have last
    names starting with a different letter, or none of them have the same
    favorite color)
  • 3 things they all want to accomplish (this can be like they all want to see
    Paris, or they all want to place top 3 at nationals)
  • 2 things they never want to do (this can be like, they all never want to
    have braces, or they all never want to eat a bug)
  • 1 group name (they should come up with a name for their little group, and
    now they know a ton about each other, so that should be easy!)

After the time is up, have each group share what they came
up with. If you are just having way too much fun to stop, mix up the groups and
do it again!

 

The Trust Train

A little more interesting and more involved that your typical trust fall or trust circle,
this will require a wide open space, and at least three spotters.

Line up your squad shoulder to shoulder across the room. You
need to only take up about half of the room standing like this, so if your
squad is big, or your room is small, break it up into two groups.

Have every other person face the opposite direction so that,
let’s say, the first person in line is facing east, the second is facing west,
the third is facing east, the fourth is facing west, and so on. Then, everyone lay
down on the ground, so that they are still shoulder to shoulder, and every
other persons’ legs are sticking out in opposite directions. With me so far?

Their shoulders need to line up, so that when they put their
hands up toward the ceiling, they are all more or less in line. Next, the
spotter you placed at the beginning will help to lower the first trusting soul,
on their back, onto the hands of their awaiting teammates. The “flyer” in this
scenario will then lay stiff as a board, as he or she is passed down the line
on the hands of their team mates. Think, the most organized crowd surfing you
have ever seen.

Have your second spotter follow along next to the “flyer”,
just in case. Then, your third spotter helps the “flyer” off at the end of the
train, and the “flyer” lies down next to the last person in the train, facing
the opposite direction, and she then becomes the last person. This is why your
train needs to only take up half the room, because it will migrate as the front
disappears, and the end keeps growing. Then, the person who was first in the
train line gets up and becomes the “flyer”. Since you will have around ten
hands on each person at any given time, this should be safe for every member of
your squad to take a turn as the “flyer”.

If you have enough people to do two trains at once, this is
a great one for a race!

 

The Human Knot

The human knot is always a great one. This is more of an
icebreaker than anything else, but it is great to get the blood flowing and get
rid of some tension before starting practice, or doing a team building exercise
like the 5-4-3-2-1.

Break your squad up into smallish groups, maybe between 7-12
people, then have them stand in a tight circle Everyone in the circle reaches
across the circle with their right hand to grab another person’s right hand.
The group then reaches in with their left hand to grab a different group
member’s left hand. The object is to untangle the group without letting go of
hands until a circle is formed. If the group ends up in more trouble than they
can handle on their own, someone can come help, and be the “detangler”, either
by just helping offer direction, or by breaking apart one set of hands, but
each group only gets one freebie! Any other unsanctioned breaks in hand holding
will result in disqualification. At some point, you might decide that the knot
isn’t coming undone without the aid of scissors. No big deal, you had a good
time trying!

 

Make-Your-Own
Practice Gear

Get your team together, preferably somewhere that you can
hose down afterwards, and provide them with plain t-shirts or tanks tops
(either in white or in your team’s primary color), fabric markers, fabric
paints, puff paints, and some embellishments like little iron on patches, or
rhinestones. You can get all of these things very inexpensively at craft stores
or big stores like Target and WalMart, but if you have a big squad, they can
definitely add up. See if your squad would be willing to put in $3-5 each, or
do an extra fundraiser for team building activity supplies to cover the costs.

With all of their supplies in front of them, they will put
their name on their own t-shirt, and a little bit of decoration, then pass it
on to the next team member.

Remind them that these shirts are for practice, so
everything should be family friendly (there is always that one squad member who
likes to push the limits), and nothing too racey. At the end, every member of
your squad will have a unique piece of useful memorabilia that every other member of
the squad has contributed to.

 

For more great stuff in this area, Pam Headridge at http://www.oakharborcheer.com/TeamBuildingGames.html
has a ton of great ideas for team bonding games and icebreakers! I particularly love The Amnesia Game.

2 comments

  1. Ciara

    I so happened to be on the squad with you in high school.. hehe. And you’re right. We were just too highly competitive. And you guys grilled the hell out of me and were intimidating cuz it was 1st year vs. 3rd year cheerleaders. And I know how badly you guys wanted to end your last year with a trophy and we did it! But you’re right. We should’ve bonded better.

    1. Your Beloved Cheertator

      Hi Ciara, great ot hear from you 🙂 As a matter of fact, that year with you guys was probably the closest to a real team that I ever felt during my school years. Weird, right? We weren’t all that close, probably the strongest thing holding us together is that we generally liked each other, we all identified as ‘cheerleaders’, and we all wanted a trophy. At the time, that seemed good enough. After what I experienced with Cheer San Francisco, I don’t think it was good enough anymore.
      But you don’t know what you don’t know. I never would have thought to look up “team bonding” activities for us back then, because I figured that was just how it was. I mean, we were spending at least ten hours a week together for crying out loud! How could that possibly not be enough? It never occurred to me that there was more.
      With the increased athleteciscm in cheerleading, just in the last decade or so, I think minds are expanding. People are looking outside of their own little bubbles for resources, new techniques, and new ideas. Hopefully sites like this, of which there are a few, will help more people get to this kind of information more readily. It can only make cheering a more positive experience for everyone involved, and keep it growing.

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