Have you ever wondered, “How much is too much?”

It’s a valid question or concern for any coach, parent or even an athlete that’s old enough to reflect on their training.

Like everything else in life, Cheerleading is bound by the Law Of Diminishing Returns – which basically states that at some point, regardless of how much extra effort is put in, the end result will most likely not improve any further.

In weight-lifting it’s also known as overtraining, and while it’s rare, I should point out that avoiding it is a must.

So when I received a question from a concerned parent about whether or not his daughter should progress to a higher level while making sure she doesn’t suffer from overtraining, I knew that I had to publish my answer to the world.

Here’s what I got…

Hi coach.

My daughter Bre* just turned 7 and is involved in allstar competitive cheerleading. She started just over 2 years ago when she was 5. In the past year she has learned her running back and front tucks, standing tucks and cleaning up her running layout. She does 1 private a week 2 tumbling classes and 2 cheer classes. My question is how to avoid burning her out? The gym also wants to move her up to level 3 next year but the team is mostly 12-14 year olds. Not sure I want her with older kids. Please help.

Thanks

Kevin*

*Names have been edited to protect the sender’s identity.

My Response

This is an excellent question Kevin, mainly because the way you handle Bre’s progress, work load and expectations can determine whether she goes on to become a world champion, or the athlete that “had so much potential.”

Since I’m not her coach, I’m going to tell you what I’d do with one of my own athletes if she was in a similar situation, along with how I approach progress in training. But you should still know that what I’m giving here is my personal opinion, and I encourage you to talk it out with her coaches in order to choose the best course of action.

First of all, you should be proud of everything she’s managed to accomplish in such a short amount of time. You most definitely have a natural tumbler on your hands, so be sure to encourage her to the fullest.

However, getting a skill is very different from having a skill as I wrote about in my earlier article, Master Tumbling Skills As Fast As Humanly Possible.

Unfortunately in cheerleading, the fast progress mentality has become very commonplace, and I personally don’t care for it. Kids gets pushed before they’re ready which results in injuries that could’ve been avoided. And obviously, an injured athlete is practically useless for a team sport, so they get replaced.

If this keeps up, allstar cheerleading will join NFL, Female Gymnastics and MMA as a sport where athletes have very short careers – and there’s no reason they should when we have such watered down tumbling rules.

So as far as her joining level 3, I’d say wait another year or so and make sure her level 3 tumbling is solid.

In fact, you might not have to wait a year. She might be ready in 6 months.

How will you know?

Do a test. Everything I do in coaching revolves around a test, and re-test. I try and look for hard evidence over assumptions. So if I were you, I’d ask her coaches to let her compete a level 3 solo routine first.

If her tumbling looks as good on stage as it does during practice, she’s ready. You see, most people consider an athlete “level 3” the day they land their first round off tuck.

This is a huge mistake.

I consider my athletes level 3 the day they compete level 3 passes at a competition (either a solo or team routine). This means if an athlete hasn’t done a round off tuck, round off back handspring tuck and a front tuck during a competition with lights in their face, the crowd screaming, and their heart racing, then they are not yet level 3.

This philosophy is something I borrowed from martial arts – specifically Jiu-Jitsu where you can be a brown belt that knows all the techniques ever created, but until you go out and win a grappling tournament you can’t earn your Black.

You can call it initiation or a right of passage, but either way, it’s needed because it forces you to apply what you’ve learnt and builds a foundation that will last a lifetime.

As fast and exciting as the life of a cheerleader can be, you have to remember they’re still athletes. And the life of an athlete is still a turtle race – especially at her age. Keeping her in level 2 right now for another year could mean that she’ll go level 5 or 6 by the time she’s 13.

One step back, so that you can take two steps forward later.

How To Avoid Overtraining (Burning Out)

As I stated before, overtraining is quite rare – especially for someone that young since children actually recover and heal quite quickly.

Most of the time there’s no such thing as overtraining, only under-eating and under-resting (tweet this).

Assuming that all the training she does is on separate days, it looks like Bre is training 5x a week. This is about the max you should personally allow her to train since at her age, she should still have time to be a kid without added mental pressures and stress.

Having said all of that, here are some practical tips to avoid overtraining:

    • She’s too young to listen to her own body at this time, so make sure the communication lines are free and open with her. Don’t just ask her how her practice went. Instead, ask her how she’s feeling, what she thinks about her training, if she’s having a hard time keeping up, etc. Use the feedback you get from her to gather some poof. Once you’re sure, you may back off a little bit. (Note: General soreness doesn’t mean she’s being overtrained. Instead, look for an overall drop in performance over a consistent period of time.)
    • If and when she gets any minor bumps, scrapes and/or injuries, be sure to notice if they’re taking longer than usual to heal. If they are, she might need to take a few days off (take this time from the private class or the tumbling class, not the team practice as it’s unfair to her team-mates if she doesn’t show up).
    • Make sure her nutrition is in check. She should be taking a daily multi-vitamin and getting adequate protein, carbs and fats to fuel her training and recovery. Organic chocolate milk is an excellent option that has all three of these macro-nutrients. Usually, good nutrition can increase the level at which she can push herself, further reducing any chance of overtraining.

I hope this helps, and I wish your daughter the very best. You most definitely have a champ on your hands, so take the time to help her develop herself at a consistent pace.

Now I’d like your feedback!

Do you think athletes suffer from overtraining in cheerleading often? Or have you suffered from it during your own practices? Let me know in the comment section below. And if you enjoyed this article, pass this one to at least one fellow athlete, coach or parent.

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