In 2019 my partner Kollin and I won both the UCA and NCA Partner stunt competitions. This was something that had only been done by 3 other couples previously in the competitions' history. Long story short, it was a pretty big deal. This success did not come easily, though. It came from spending hours outside of our scheduled practice time working on stunts. It came from sacrificing our free time, lots of bumps and bruises, a couple of fights, and a lot of hard work. Kollin and I decided that we wanted to win, and we weren't going to let anything get in our way of doing so.
We had competed at the 2018 UCA and NCA partner stunt competitions the year before. At UCA, we placed 6th and were just extremely happy to have hit our routine and placed at all. During NCA, we had a pretty rough routine and didn't end up placing at all. This was alright in our minds because for me, it was my first year doing partner stunts, and although we wanted to do our best, it was more about the experience of competing.
In 2019 however, we decided to set some bigger goals for ourselves. It was our second year being partners together and we had each other's timing down perfectly. We had also been building up our skills and techniques over the year and throughout the summer. We decided that we needed to create routines that were hard enough to win the competitions. In our wildest dreams, we never imagined that we would win both, however we wanted to at least win one.
Our preparations for both partner stunt routines began the same way; it started off with us deciding which stunts we could put together and how to transition in between them. This initial routine aims to put hard enough stunts together to qualify for the competition, and if you do qualify, you can either change/rearrange your routine or make the stunts harder. (or you don't have to change it at all, but this is the approach that we used) Once we had our initial routine planned out, we practiced in a couple of times, then made our video. After the video was submitted, the judges narrowed it down to the top 15 couples, and as soon as we knew we qualified, we started working hard.
Each training session that Kollin and I had would be anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours depending on the day and how much time we had free. Listed below is a breakdown of the different ways that we trained for both competitions.
Training Stunts Individually
We would break down each stunt in our routine, and after doing stunt progressions to build up to the skill, we would rep the skill multiple times. At first, we would try to hit the skill a certain number of times. For example, we had a double-up in our routine and we would try to hit 10 double-ups before moving onto the next skill. As we got more consistent at the skill, we would try to hit 10 double-ups in a row before moving onto the next skill. If we dropped one, we had to start over at zero. This not only helped us become very familiar with the skill and technique, but it tested our consistency as well.
We did this a lot in our training sessions. If there was 6 stunts in our routine, we would work 2 or 3 of them at a time, including transitions. Just like the individual stunt work, we would try to hit a certain number of that section, and later in our training, we would try to hit a certain number in a row.
We did this the least out of all the training sessions. For us it would be a check-in to see how we were doing with the routine. We would either do the full routine to start off a session and then work the parts we missed or struggled with, or we would try to hit one at the end of a session when we were tired. We would also try to condition before we went full out, because if we could hit it when we were tired, we could hit it when we were fresh.
Fun Stunt Days
These were the most important to our training. We would still train together, but we wouldn't do any of the stunts in our routine, instead we would just stunt for fun. We learned that you will struggle more and more with them if you train too hard or overwork certain skills. So, to reset our bodies and our minds, we would just have fun instead. It kept our passion and motivation alive.
Another key thing that we tried to do was to perform our routine as many times as possible in front of an audience. Whether that audience was random people in the school gym, or at halftime of a basketball game, we wanted to perform as much as possible. This was because when you perform in front of a crowd, your body produces adrenaline (which is great sometimes) but can be detrimental to a stunt. If the guy throws harder than normal, or if the girl is more aggressive on a spin, it can throw off the entire stunt and the stunt may fall or bobble. Learning how to deal with that adrenaline and putting it towards the stunt's right areas is helpful.
All in all, after all of that training, our hard work paid off. The morning of the UCA competition, Kollin woke up feeling very sick. He could barely see straight and he was nauseous all day. We didn't know how it would go, but he said he still wanted to try and compete. I was racked with nerves the whole day. I don't think I've ever been more nervous in my life. We went out there, and despite the setback, we hit our routine. Was it our most perfect routine? Not at all. We had a few rough points, but we managed to hit. When they called our name at first, I really couldn't believe it. I knew we had put a good routine on the floor, but I for sure thought we would be seen in my head. I can't even describe the happiness I felt.
On the day of the NCA competition, we were so calm. I can't describe it, but we just knew we could do it. We had complete trust in each other. We had trained the routine so much that it was like second nature to us. We knew that if we hit, we would have a really good chance at getting top three. I just remember walking out onto the bandshell and seeing all of my family and teammates and thinking "Yup, we got this." Once again, our performance wasn't the best we had ever done, but it was exactly what we needed to do and we couldn't have been happier.
Hearing our names called in first place once again was a dream come true. Never in my cheer career could I ever have dreamed of winning first not only once but twice. Two years previous, I couldn't even imagine myself in a partner stunt competition at all. It just goes to show that if you work hard, train hard, and really want it, you can accomplish your goals.
If you are training for partner stunt, or in any competition, integrate some of these techniques into your training.