US National Team athletic trainer Anda Udris shares her tips for how she helps USA Cheer athletes optimize their performance as they prepare to compete at the 2019 Pan American Championships in Costa Rica.
The US National Coed Team is Costa Rica bound as they get set to represent the Red, White, and Blue once again with the hopes of claiming a championship title.
This week USA Cheer had a short training session in Plano, Texas, to prepare for the Pan American Cheerleading Championship, but as soon as the athletes joined the team, they started preparing.
The US National Team coaches developed weekly challenges that the athletes performed at home to mentally and physically prepare three months prior to meeting each other. These challenges incorporate skill elements and/or portions of the routine that prepare the athletes in strength, proprioception, power, and endurance.
Due to the distance between teammates and the different levels of access to fitness professionals, the athletic trainers of USA Cheer and the strength coaches of USA Weightlifting work together to provide adequate and advanced information to these athletes. USA athletes have access to athlete readiness programs and videos to help their bodies physically. From the fundamental movements to more advanced Olympic lifts.
This allows all team members to have the same opportunity to improve themselves at the most elite level despite them all not being in one location and having access to the same fitness professionals. The provided information allows them to target problem areas and improve overall, while on their own at their universities or homes.
Prior to their arrival, all athletes also fill out physical packets to notify the USA team physician and athletic trainers of current and prior medical conditions. At ICU training sessions, the team physician is on-site to perform formal physicals, but with international events, athletes are required to come with pre-performed and reviewed physicals. This review is done by both the athletic trainer working with the team and the USA team physician. Prior review allows time to be as efficient as possible in requesting additional documentation if needed. This also allows time for athletic trainers to suggest certain portions of the athlete readiness program months in advance to training.
Hydration & Nutrition Is Key
These elite-level athletes are usually already well educated on what is needed to fuel their bodies, but they are still provided material to help them. Their nutritional needs are also taken into consideration when providing meals from various locations during training.
Inflammation is a battle usually fought with so many practice sessions in such a short amount of time; therefore athletes are provided information via webinars such as Managing Post-Exercise Inflammation: From Ibuprofen to Cherries by Roberta Anding, nutritional books, and article suggestions on requested topics.
Knowing the athletes prior to arrival develops a nutritional edge on what to provide them individually.
The medical staff is familiar with which athletes are prone to cramping or have pre-existing conditions and accommodate accordingly. Medi-Lyte, Gatorade, and other electrolyte products are on-hand to help the athletes continue to participate at their highest levels. Cramping during exercise is a very painful experience and it is the last sensation an athlete wants after a long practice session. Therefore, USA Cheer utilizes hydration and nutrition (pickle juice, mustard, hydrating beverages, etc.) to keep the athletes pain-free and on the mat, but education is key. Many times, athletes bring their own snacks and beverages and their prior knowledge shows through their choices.
Injury Prevention Through Warm-Up & Warm-Down Techniques
While at training, a team warm-up and warm-down are performed before and after each practice. With the minimal amount of time there is to train, these dynamic movements help prepare the athletes for the physical demands of each session while also helping them recover. Injury prevention and injury care are the top priorities of USA Cheer and their medical staff.
USA Athletes Are Mentally Tough
Mental preparation is the final element USA Cheer uses to prepare the athletes, especially if they have never competed outside of the U.S.
Coaches and medical staff ensure that the athletes are aware of the demands of the rigorous days and expectations that come with competing on the USA team. Psychological coping techniques are demonstrated and reinforced during practices and at competition. The athletes understand that this may be the hardest training experience they have ever had, but also understand it is a process.
They acknowledge that the medical staff will ensure their safety while doing their best to care for their bodies, and the coaching staff will adjust practices and routines to give the athletes the ability to perform at their highest levels with the greatest chance for success.
USA Cheer emphasizes a positive environment where teammates uplift each other and focus on positives rather than negatives to keep up morale and push through difficult skills. They understand frustration is a choice and they can choose to accept it or acknowledge and adjust. This skill develops athletes and individuals who are extremely mentally strong on and off the mat.
USA Cheer goes to great lengths to prepare their athletes for all aspects of athleticism from physical demands to mental readiness. Theses athletes represent not only themselves and USA Cheer, but also the United States of America, and that responsibility is not taken lightly.
They pride themselves in the ability to perform an exceptional routine in a short amount of time, but that does not come without taking full advantage of every element to be the best athletes they can be.
Written by Anda Udris