Preparing for UCA Camp

Some people say don’t lift a finger while preparing for cheer camp. Others will go all out and pre-plan every moment of camp. While I’m sure some are just trying to make it to Day 1 of UCA Camp with the whole squad present and healthy. 


Get Started Early (the Boring Paperwork Stuff):

Look for the emails from your State Director or Varsity Rep regarding the release of the Dates & Locations for the upcoming summer (December) & the opening of Cheer Camp Registration  (January). This will help you get the camp date and location that fits your squad best. Confirm with your Rep/State Director that you are set for the camp of your choice and have the pricing for your athletes ready following tryouts.

After tryouts, get everyone’s date of birth on a spreadsheet with their contact information. This document will help your rooming list setup to make camp arrival smooth sailing. No need to rush on this, the Varsity system will guide you through the process by automated emails, just make sure you remember your login email.

In the weeks approaching camp, print out the following:

  • Participant and Coach Waivers – get these signed between practices and file them away to bring to camp.
  • Camp Rules Sheet – you will receive this in an email from UCA. Get it filled out by the team at practice, file it away for camp.
  • Your rooming list – the dorm or hotel will likely just hand you the stack of keys and say have at it (that is unless you have an amazing Redshirt [Varsity Camp Administration] present)

Be sure you sign up to receive your Team Up 4 St. Jude Letters in advance of camp. This way you can have your athletes get their addresses early and be able to fill them all out to ship ’em back to Memphis to St. Jude.

To Prepare Or Not To Prepare for UCA Camp:

After 7 years of seeing squads at camps as an instructor for UCA and attending 6 UCA College Camps personally, I have to lean towards the side of preparing. Specifically preparation focused on the new team dynamics, physical fitness, and material & performance prep. The key is to find that balance between not going overboard with practices in the lead up to camp versus the team being clueless as for what to expect at camp.

New Team Dynamics-

Tryouts were a couple months ago, maybe you have had a couple practices before summer started or maybe you have have had weekly practices since then. Either way, going to Cheer Camp is a whole different experience than just a couple practices, so its time to prepare.

Create a dialog at practice during stretching or warm up at the beginning of practice and also during water breaks. Ask the team questions about their day and get them to open up to one another on their own terms. During stretching I like to go around the room and have everyone share a moment from their day that they viewed as positive, no matter how trivial, gotta share something.

Now is the time to work out those stunt groups and see who works best with who. Run your basics to counts, looking for consistency (hitting 3 in row, 5 in a row, etc) before you progress through skills. Try stuff out, see who wants it more this year, switch those bodies and see what jives best. You want to find the best combination of stunt groups that will all be able to learn new skills through out camp.

Consider having two sets of stunt groups for your squad, maybe one version has just three stunt groups and is more elite, while the other version has 4 or 5 stunt groups and the skills are more even across the board.

Physical Fitness-

Cheer camp is exhausting. I’ll say it if no one else will (I doubt that is the case), but that doesn’t mean you will regret going! Four full days of cheerleading, living with your teammates, eating with your teammates, cheering with your teammates..

So now is the time to get ahead of that exhaustion curve! Besides some regular practices to get everything else lined up with your team, try to have a ‘work week’ or ‘uca prep week’ where you cram a bunch of practices into the week or so leading up to camp. Plan to work on your fight song and cheering mechanics, stunt basics and technique through progressions, workouts and conditioning, jumps and flexibility, and other skills like pyramids, baskets, and standing tumbling.

Mix it up if you can too! Theme practices, outside practices, go to a local gym for a practice, team dinners after practices, arts and crafts to prepare stuff for camp (door signs, bows, shirts, etc), bring in special guests/alumni, and play team building games. Keep it fun but focused.

Material & Performance Prep-

Should you plan and practice your Xtreme Routine before camp? No.

But you should try some pyramids and small stunt sequences so that your team has some experience building skills to counts. Also consider practicing linked jumps or jump sequences as a way to have additional useful skills for your Xtreme Routine.

Should you plan and practice your Cheer before camp? No.

But you should go through the mechanics of a good cheer with your team, by working on an older one (either from Nationals or from Camp last year) that is familiar to some of the team. Focus on what makes a great cheer: sharp sign work and pom usage, building stunts while cheering, random spiriting with skills, yelling loud and together as a group, and just having a good flow and energy throughout. Video it at practice, send it to your team, let them see themselves cheer so they can fix those things you keep nagging them about.

Should you practice your fight song before UCA Cheer Camp? Yes.

It’s your fight song and you want to represent for your school right? Then practice it, clean it up, make it sharp, make it pop. There is no excuse for your own material to be sloppy!

Why am I so stressed about camp, feeling like I’m not prepared? Chill out.

You guys pay all that money for camp for instruction. Use it! Your instructors will take the time to prepare your team for the upcoming season. If you missed one of the above or just don’t have the time, it will be okay, your team won’t suffer or be behind.

Should I go over game day scenarios with my team? Slightly.

Have your seniors or upperclassmen spend 30 minutes of a practice telling the new team members and reminding the others about how the squad works in a game day scenario. This will lessen the chaos during on your Game Planning Classes at UCA Camp because your team will already know what to do for: touchdowns, first downs, kickoff, tip off, free throws, and more!

Preparing for UCA Camp Takeaways:

Take some time for your team to get ready for camp. The practices you have don’t have to be full of drills and conditioning, but I have always found it helps to get through those team hiccups out of the way before camp. Camp is supposed to be fun, camp is supposed to be a learning experience, camp is supposed to be a team bonding activity. And it will if you just prepare a little bit.

Throwback to Summer 2011, when I got to work alongside Lauren for a couple camps, not realizing in a few years she’d be my wife.