The Evolution of Cheerleading Series
Many coaches, athletes, teams, and programs are responsible for the growth of competitive cheerleading as we know it today. This new series celebrates the programs and teams that the entire industry looks forward to every year for both entertainment and inspiration. While these teams have no problem building hype, we wanted to take a deeper look at what makes these teams so special year after year. Every team and program that we will feature in this series have made a dent in the competitive cheerleading universe.
First Up: Top Gun Large Coed
Top Gun Large Coed is undoubtedly one of the most popular cheerleading teams on the planet. They have a distinct style and routine flow that is unmatched by almost any other team or program. For years, they’ve taken the mat and competed routines that feel completely unique, but somehow nostalgically familiar. Today, athletes move across the country to experience a season with the iconic large coed team that has been a fan favorite for more than 10 years. Every time you see a new TGLC routine, you notice something new, exciting and different. But, you’ll also notice something familiar that reminds you of the past.
We took a look at all one routine from each year from 2005 – 2017. We took note of what was the same, what was different, and how they’ve evolved over the years.
Here’s what we found:
- A routine style that is all their own. Every move, flip and trick is deliberate.
- Non-stop, eye-catching – notice how the middle panels are almost never empty
- Ridiculously well-timed jump sections that have a flare of their own
- Seamless transitions and movements are key
- Year after year, they turn out mind boggling routines. 2005 and 2007 are just as exciting as 2017, but the later years have been sped up and, generally, have more skills packed in.
- 5 World Championship titles
- 3 Silver
- 3 Bronze
2005 – Bronze
This routine screams “Bring It On” to me, back in the day when all cheer moves and choreography were pointed, sharp, and nothing in between. Please also note that there was a full cheer section, their dance was nearly 30 seconds long, and their pyramid was barely three eight counts. Also, their dance only changes formations twice, which would be totally unheard of today. Many of Top Gun’s choreography still looks similar with lots of level changes and “swinging” choreography. A lot has changed since 2005, but this routine is nothing but entertaining and a good old time.
In 2006, we saw tight formations and high energy that was fresh and new. The bounce back pass with the stunts rippling in the background was iconic and the crowd was living. Compared to the year before, their pyramid was much longer and their dance included 6 or 7 different formations. The variety we saw in this routine would set up the next generation of Top Gun routines.
2007 – World Champions
2007 is responsible for some of Top Gun’s most iconic moments including the catch and release running tumbling passes, and the bowling pin dance to name a few.
From start to finish, this routine is action-packed. They put up 11 stunts without a single fake, had perfectly timed standing tumbling, and showmanship that left them untouchable. There isn’t much more to say other than this routine will always be a fan favorite.
2008 – World Champions
The “wow” factor in this routine was nearly unmatched back then and even still today. Few routines reach this level of showmanship and even today videos of this routine surface as fan favorites. Every element of a routine that Top Gun does well, like their standing tumbling sequences/timing, jump formations, catch and release tumbling, choreography, transitions, was all taken to the next level.
They put up 12 stunts completing the full sequence and had 8 punch front specialty passes with some choreo thrown in the middle. The catch and release tumbling, which was introduced in 2008, had an extra flip added and was elevated. Their pyramid, while not crazy by today’s standards, was so different and new that even nine years later we’re still watching it “over and over again.” Everything felt next level and like something you’d see in a music video or the movies.
2009 – Silver
As we mention above, you see a natural progression of many of the same elements – like more complicated formations, small additions that make a for an even bigger “wow” effect. Instead of doing things the same way year after year, they really figure out how to add that one extra piece that makes the crowd lose their mind.
For example, if you go to 1:23, you’ll see they’ve upgraded from 4 to 8 to 15 (I think) punch fronts in running tumbling. Like who does that? Who thinks to do that?
Also, they did four catch and release tumbling passes and flew over one another in the catch because why not?
This was also the first year that they whipped out the props in the dance, a trick that they still use today.
2010 – World Champions
Welcome to 2010 and the start of the epic California All Stars – Top Gun rivalry. If you take a listen to their music you’ll hear one of the shadiest voiceovers of all time.
You’ve got your finger on the trigger but you just ran out of bullets. Our guns are fully loaded and this is how we pull it.
2010 was a year of firsts: shady voice overs, Pitbull songs, and white uniforms. Their high energy routine features some of the most eye-catching choreography that’s ever been done. This team could do standing tumble like nobody’s business – including two, two to double-doubles.
2011 – Silver
2011 was a weird year for cheerleading. USASF split semi-limited coed and unlimited coed and Top Gun went semi. The divisions were all wacky and normal rivalries weren’t competing against one another – i.e. California All Stars and Top Gun were in separate divisions – and there were very few teams in large coed at all.
2011 was no doubt impressive, but it felt more of a latter move rather than adding that one extra element.
2012 – Bronze
I love 2012 because they showed off so many of their female athletes’ tumbling skills in the opening and throughout the routine. They gave us more California All Stars shade, catch and release tumbling made a comeback, and, of course, Pitbull. It’s all about the Pitbull. Please let the record state that their jump sequence was a work of art.
2013 – World Champions
2013 felt like the year Top Gun really got their mojo back, and their voice overs knew it too. We saw more insane standing tumbling including the two to double toe-touch standing fulls. The timing and coordination in that section are really something to admire.
The visuals in this routine were stepped up, particularly after the tumbling section and the first few skills in the pyramid. This was also the first time we saw them with a traveling pyramid, which is an element we still see today.
Their dance music also told us they were better and richer than us and we believed it. Still do.
2014 – World Champions
In 2014 we saw even more complicated formations and formation changes. For example, they added movement in their elite stunt sequence and a double tick tock. This routine flows so well and just feels so Top Gun. It’s a natural continuation of what they’ve also done well and mastered. For the second time, we see the traveling pyramid structures.
2015 – Silver
Again we see another crowd-loving routine and they step up their props game and tumble through them. We see more tick-tocks in the elite stunt sequence, a traveling pyramid, and of course ridiculously well coordinated tumbling.
2016 – Fourth Place
I’m getting some flashback moments in this routine like the ripple effect coordinated with the tumbling pass from 2006. Or in the toe-full section, Top Gun loves to have the girls drop to center split to create levels in many of their jump sequences. For the second year in a row, they had a prop that was tumbled through.
However, you may recall that they didn’t compete with it in Finals, so something tells me they got a warning for it. However, they didn’t compete with the banner on day 2 because it was too windy.
2017 – Bronze
And here we are in 2017 with another action-packed routine. We see more creative formations that highlight the number of people and talent on the mat. For example, the standing full section after the opening was in a U-shape that took up the entire floor making it as dramatic as possible. They also timed in cartwheel fulls to make it even more intense.
This year I felt like they added more stunt choreography elements to set themselves apart. In the large coed division, there are only so many stunt skills you can do to make it look unique. Adding choreography is the best way to make it pop.
And now we wait for whatever craziness Top Gun Large Coed will throw at us this year.