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Polishing Pom POM Routines

Your cheerleaders or dance team has learned their new pom pom routine, they have every step down by heart, they look great in their costumes, but is your squad REALLY ready for their big performance?  A good question to ask is, “Have they been polished?”

Being polished is what sets the Rockettes or any other exemplary, award-winning team apart.   Cheerleaders or dance teams that just practice their pom pom routine over and over without breaking down each and every motion (and path to that motion) will not have that added something special. Performing as one unit takes time, but it is worth every bit of effort.  So, how do you get that clean, polished look?

Before Polishing:

  • Learn Pom Pom Motion terminology along with proper technique.  Be sure to note the fist placement of each pom pom motion. For a list of Pom Pom Motions & Technique, click here.
  • Evaluate your pom pom choreography. If there is a step that is too difficult for your team, simplify it before you begin polishing.  Clean and simple is always better than difficult and messy.
  • Begin practicing with performance posture (a straight back with chin and chest lifted up, as well as shoulders pressed down and back).  You will have to drill this throughout your entire pom pom routine, but without good performance posture all your polishing efforts will be for nothing.
  • Encourage your cheerleaders or dance team to use arm motions with lots of controlled energy.  Arms should feel tight, not loose.  For easier control, train your team not to extend their arms past their peripheral vision.  It is hard to control pom poms that fly past that point.

A Typical Polishing Session:

POSITIONS, PATHS, & STOPPING:

Literally break apart the pom pom routine, count by count.  Start with the beginning position and discuss its exact placement.  Next, take count 1 of the first 8 count and discuss the POSITION that they should end up in and the PATH in which they get there.  The shortest path is the cleanest. Count aloud “5, 6, 7, 8, 1” and have your team STOP (or freeze) on count one.  Make the necessary corrections and have them STOP on count 1 again.   Do not go on to count 2 until everyone has count 1.  When they do, repeat the process for count 2.

Continue by having them show you the POSITION and the PATH for count 2.   Count aloud, “5, 6, 7, 8, 1, 2” and have them STOP on count 2. When everyone has count 2, you can add that to count 1.  Repeat the process for the entire 8 count. 

Once you have polished an 8 count, add the music, make corrections, and repeat. Do not go on until everyone has memorized the polishing for that 8 count.  Repetition is key.  You may only get a few 8 counts polished in one practice session.  That is okay.  Your team will catch on to this process and get better at it over time.

A few pointers:

PRACTICE WITH pom POMS:
Make certain each team member practices with their pom poms during all polishing sessions.  On certain positions, you will want to discuss whether the pom poms are touching each other or a few inches apart.  In a squat position, it will look cleaner to have your pom poms touching.

VOICE:
Your cheer or dance team’s pom pom motions will reflect the way you count.  If you count in a soft or “sing-songy” voice, their pom pom motions will look that way.  Instead count in a loud, crisp, sharp tone and add clapping to emphasize certain pom pom motions you would like them to emphasize.

VERBAL CRITIQUES:
Invariably, the person in charge of the polishing will make plenty of corrections.  Cushioning corrections with lots of positive comments will only serve to motivate your cheer or dance team.  Come up with genuine insights beyond just, “Good job.”  You can use the “I noticed…” phrase.  (“I noticed you kept your pom poms in front of your body that time.”  Or  “I noticed you got that tricky part.”) We all like it when someone takes special notice of our individual progress.  It makes us feel good and work harder.

“A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.” (Proverbs 25:11)

ROTATIONS:

For a change of pace, divide your pom pom routine into equal sections. Assign each squad leader a section of the routine to polish and a small group of performers to polish.  Give the squad leaders 15 or 20 minutes to polish their section. When the time is up, each small group should rotate to the next squad leader.  Continue the rotation until each group has been to every squad leader and the whole pom pom routine is polished.  It is a fun and efficient way to polish.

HALF & HALF:

Performing half and half is a great way to end practice.  Allow half of your cheer or dance team to watch while the other half performs the pom pom routine. Be sure to perform the entire routine even if you haven’t polished all of it.  That way your team can see the fruit of their efforts.  The polished sections should outshine the unpolished ones.  Not only will this give your team a sense of accomplishment, but it will also serve as a visual picture of what is left to do.

After your cheer or dance team has performed their polished pom pom routine, the feedback from the crowd will be a huge reward; however, it won’t compare to the satisfaction and pride your team will have in themselves for working hard, encouraging each other, and achieving something special.  What could be a better payoff than that?


Written by Michele Summerall
Former University of Texas Pom Team Co-captain
Former Kilgore College Rangerette Lieutenant


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