What's the Best Age to Start Competitive Cheerleading?

What's the Best Age to Start Competitive Cheerleading?

These days, sports are so competitive that kids are excelling at younger ages. USASF offers a competitive Level 1 "Tiny Cheer" division for kids aged six an

May 20, 2016 by Vicki Dill
What's the Best Age to Start Competitive Cheerleading?
These days, sports are so competitive that kids are excelling at younger ages. USASF offers a competitive Level 1 "Tiny Cheer" division for kids aged six and under, and there isn’t an actual minimum age listed. Most programs offer a “Show Team” for kids aged three to six, which gives them the opportunity to explore non-competitive cheerleading without committing to the time, expense and travel of competition cheer.

With more options available for young athletes than ever before, there are several factors to consider when determining the proper age for a child to start competitive all-star cheerleading: 

  • Are they mature enough to pay attention during practice? 
  • Will they burn out and lose interest in cheerleading if they start too young?
  • Will they be able to stick with the sport through an entire season?
  • Are they comfortable being away from their parents during practices?
  • Can they handle competitive cheer and school?
  • Will they have time to play and do kid stuff?
  • Will they be able to remember and execute choreography?
We asked parents, kids, coaches, and gym owners their opinions on the best age to start competitive cheerleading—here's what they had to say:

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Natalie Stavinoha | Worlds hip-hop coach

"The younger, the better! Starting young eliminates the fear you develop when you’re old enough to realize what you’re doing is scary!"

Swati Athavale | Mom of two competitive cheerleaders 
"I think age three is a good age to begin. They will learn confidence early and get over stage fright."

Peggy Byars | Mom of a competitive cheerleader and competitive dancer
"I would say seven to eight years old is a good time to start. Around that age, they truly know what they want. Tumbling prior to that would be a plus, but competitive cheerleading should start around that age so they aren’t too shy and have that 'edge.'"

Terri Escobar | Coach and mom of a former competitive cheerleader
"Age three to four—the earlier, the better! It develops confidence!"

Charles Gilbert | Gym owner
"The earlier, the better—probably around age three or four. It helps develop social skills, gross movement, skill foundation, coordination and body awareness." 

Sandra Morgan | Coach, mom, former competitive gymnast and cheerleader
"It depends on the kid. If they are shy, sooner is better. I lean toward having a strong gymnastics and dance background first. All the great cheerleaders I was with in college were gymnasts first. Maybe times have changed, though."

Kevin Tonner | Head coach of a world-title team
"As soon as the kid is able to spend time away from mom. Show Team isn’t competitive, so I would say five. As long as the kids are put through the sport correctly and not pushed too far, too fast, then you will see them go all the way through. I have a General that started on Show Team, so it is possible." 

Erin Wells | University of Houston cheerleader and former competitive cheerleader

"I would start with classes at a competitive gym at age four. If I could see that they have potential in the sport, I would put them in competitive cheer as soon as they told me that it was something they wanted to do."

Emily Neuschaefer | Show team coach and former competitive cheerleader
"I would say six years old. At that age, they are old enough to take direction, but young enough to have fun and truly enjoy the sport." 

Brittany Guajardo | University of Houston cheerleader and competitive cheer coach
"I feel like five is a good age to start. Being a part of a team teaches children how to become more social, handle constructive criticism, and build teamwork skills. I've always felt that starting cheer at a young age is better because that’s the time when development is crucial. I wish I would have started cheering sooner than I did. At five, it’s not always easy to get them to focus and listen, but it’s a good time to get them into the feel of things and let them explore their coordination."

Vicki Dill | Head coach for 20 years, all levels and age groups
"I think taking gymnastics at age four is excellent for motor skills and confidence. I think age five is a good time to sign up for a show team and personally I prefer kids to have finished Kinder before starting actual competitive cheerleading. Years ago, we had a Tiny team (competitive, age six and under) and although they were cute, stunting was very scary at such a young age. At one competition, one of the girls got confused on her formation, which threw off the rest of the team. They ended up performing their entire routine to the back of the floor! We will NEVER forget that performance!"

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