1. Be sure to check the credentials of the possible private coach. However, just because someone has a cheer background doesn’t mean he or she will make a good instructor. Ask to sit in on a lesson and observe the instructor’s teaching style, or talk to previous clients of the instructor.
2. Check prices and compare them with those of other private coaches in the area. Fifteen to 25 dollars per hour is a reasonable price; however, the charge will vary with the experience and expertise of the coach you select.
3. Make sure the lesson is being held at a cheer gym or gymnastics studio that carries insurance; if your child is hurt during a lesson held anywhere else, it will be up to you to foot the bill.
4. Be sure you’re getting the maximum amount of attention and are active throughout the duration of the lesson. You should not be warming up or stretching out once the hour begins; this should take place before the lesson.
5. Private means private. If you are paying for a full hour of one-on-one attention, make sure that is what you receive. The instructor should not be leaving the lesson due to outside disturbances or attempting to run two lessons at once.
6. You should be progressing with each lesson. You are paying for results, so you should be seeing results. The lessons should become increasingly more challenging and start to target the needs of your particular tryout.
7. Make sure you are comfortable with your instructor. Feeling uncomfortable in any way will keep you from asking questions, making suggestions and really getting the max out of your lesson. If you are dissatisfied, don’t be afraid to ask for a new instructor and sit in on one of his or her lessons before making your final decision.
8. Your classes should be well-rounded. You should be working in some way on every tryout requirement at each lesson. You should not be doing motions or jumping for an hour. If you are, your coach is not doing his or her job.
9. The coach should be flexible and the lessons should be tailored to fit your needs. If your tryout requires difficult tumbling and that is your weakest area, that’s what you should be concentrating on.
10. If your lesson includes partner stunting, this is the one time that "private" doesn’t mean one-on-one. Make sure your private coach comes equipped with his/her own spotter.
Cheer gyms—Probably the number one arena for locating private coaches; check the phone book or ask around for recommendations.
Gymnastic centers—Even if you’re not looking just for gymnastics training, many now offer "Cheernastics" classes, a blend of cheerleading skills and tumbling aimed specifically at cheerleaders.
Dance studios —Many dance studios now also reserve time for classes targeted at cheerleaders.
While many gyms do allow for payment plans, if the cost of a private coach is holding you back, try one of these options:
• The coach of the team you are trying out for. He or she can often suggest someone or may be willing to personally help out.
• An older cheerleader already on the squad. She is familiar with the way this particular tryout is run and what skills are looked upon most favorably; she’ll have the required knowledge and experience to pass on to you.
• College cheerleaders in the area. While some may still charge for the lesson, they often charge less than a cheer gym or gymnastics center and may be just as qualified.
• Cheer companies. National cheer organizations or your state cheerleading association can often put you in touch with instructors in your area willing to give private lessons either for free or for a small charge. (Check out this issue’s "Camp Guide" for a complete list of cheer companies.)
*Remember, while these sources will be easier on your checkbook, coaches not associated with gyms do not come with liability insurance.