Wednesday, August 4, 2010

"Cheerleading is not a Sport" - Looking at the U.S. Ruling

Those that keep an ear to the ground for any cheer gossip have certainly been following the U.S. debate regarding Quinnipac University's decision to adopt cheer as a varsity sport, dropping the female volleyball team. All over social media young cheerleaders were up in arms regarding this ruling, adamant that what they participate in is a sport.

But, if delving deeper, this debate is not about the athleticism, dedication, drive or heart of cheer athletes. The physical prowress and athletic ability are what we believe to be on par with more traditional sports, but the Quinnipac ruling is completely unrelated to either of these characteristics.

The debate involves Title IX and whether Quinnipac satisfied the Title's rules for equal athletic opportunity for female athletes. By dropping volleyball it's likely that Quinnipac stood to save some money by replacing it with the competitive cheer team. This was less a decision over one sport versus another, and more a case of bean counting and budget balancing.

The judges ruling that cheerleading is not a sport stems from the qualifications Title IX places on the category of "sport". A defined season, public governing body, systemic competition schedule at regional, state and national levels, and additional levels of organization. Many Canadian universities also require these elements to be considered a "varsity sport."

If we are honest with ourselves, cheer offers none of this. We train nearly year-round, have private companies operating varied competitions with limited qualifications for entry, and multiple governing bodies that individual gyms can pick and choose with which to associate. There is nothing wrong with this system, it works well for us, but it precludes cheer from being considered a "sport" under Title IX

Industry leaders are working hard to solidfy our activity, organizing and creating unity across Canada and the U.S. Whether being a true "sport" by Title IX is in our best interest is an entirely different debate. We would sacrifice training time during off-season, potentially be more limited in our competition choices, etc. However, an improvement in the uniformity of experience and training required to coach cheerleading would be a likely benefit.

The Quinnipac ruling serves to point out the lack of definition in competitive cheer, and should serve to drive us all to improve the organization and uniformity associated with non-sideline teams. The United States All Star Federation has made significant head-way in recent years in solidifying All Star cheer standards across the U.S., improving both safety and consistency. Cheer Alliance has followed suit, creating school coaches training, a consist scoring system and adopting the U.S.A.S.F. safety rules for both school and all star teams so that they can compete across North America.

So, is cheerleading a sport? Well I guess that depends on your defintion.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Important Scoring Changes at CA events

Hey everyone! Now that we're just around the corner from Nationals, we thought it would be a great idea to ensure EVERYONE has read up on the new scoring process at Cheer Alliance. Please be sure to visit our website at under "Scoring" for links to our Score Grid, Sample Score Sheets, Competition Guidelines & Deductions Policy.

Key changes:
Three different score sheets - Building Skills, Jumps/Tumbling, Choreography

Two judges for each skill set, 6 adjudicators total per panel plus a Safety and Legalities Judge. (Please note that for Spring Classic, there will be a total of 4 judges, one in each category).

The weighting for each skill set varies between All Star and School, with All Star's jumps/tumbling weighted slightly heavier.

Another key change this year is that we are not deducting for early dismounted stunts which are safetly caught in a controlled cradle. Instead, you will notice that Execution/Technique is now weighted higher than past years, allowing the panel judge to adjudicate overall technique and execution instead of counting the number of falls. Teams who have early dismounts will have these errors reflected in their technique/execution scores for that skill set. For example, Stunt difficulty is out of 10, where as execution is out of 15. This leaves the adjudicators more room to score both technique and execution of stunt skills.

Why the change? We shifted our focus this year to safety. Deductions are meant to keep teams SAFE, ensuring there is minimal pay off for skills that they cannot execute safely each and every time. Violations of Legalities Rules are considered be unsafe, as the athletes in the level may not have the experience, technique or training to complete the skill safely. Several major companies in the US are adopting similar policies, be sure to read up on every company that you plan to compete with!

Further along this safety theme, our score grid attempts to educate coaches on all the available options and room for growth within each level. The idea of maxing out a level encourages teams to stay in a level until they have mastered all the necessary skills.....ensuring that they can safely move up to the next difficulty level. For years the trend has been to do the minimal skills and then charge forward to the next level.....often leaving athletes bereft of the skills, technique and experience they need to be safe and successful.

We also strongly believe that the new scoring system will allow teams to adjust to the highly competitive level of cheerleading in the United States. Why not push ourselves to keep up instead of accepting a second-class standing? Set the bar high, and teams will strive to reach it!

Their will certainly be growing pains along the way, fine-tuning and finesse will need to be added to this new system. But the end goal is worth the work.....we promise. Certainly welcome thoughts, and constructive ideas as we move forward

Happy cheering!