A trend in cheerleading that I hate is when teams pull up the youngest kids in their gym and make them flyers just because they are tiny. In the short run, doing this might give the older teams a little easier time hitting more advanced stunting skills. However, there are a ton of problems with this practice and it winds up hurting everyone involved.
Let’s start at the top. The senior team that now has middle school flyers is only benefiting in the short run. The overall team experience is going to be strained by having a majority of cheerleaders who are 15 to 18 years old, and a couple who are 12 to 14. It is hard for a team to bond effectively with such a large age gap. Also, judges aren’t stupid. I assure you that when I judge a team of seniors putting a 70 pound 7th grader in the air, I am scoring down the difficulty as much as I can within the rules. To me, that is like having 5 or 6 bases all holding a normal sized high school girl in the air. It is too easy and your score should reflect that.
This also hurts the junior team because now you have pulled a girl off of it for seniors who is probably a flyer and a higher level tumbler for juniors. Unless you are competing her on both teams, and that causes all kinds of issues with scheduling practices, costs for multiple event fees, and just stress on the poor girl who has to remember 2 different routines.
For the program, this creates something of a race to get to the next age level. Kids start feeling insulted if they are not moved up from Youth to Juniors as soon as they hit the 5th grade. Also, if you put your best 6th and 7th graders on Seniors, they are going to get bored by the time they are 9th and 10th graders, and they will start looking for another gym.
I already talked about how unfair this is to the girl who is being pulled up. Now, some kids really thrive among older girls and can handle multiple routines and the pressures of elite flying so young. They are the vast minority. What frequently happens is these kids never learn good flying technique because they rely on being small and having bases muscle them around. They eventually hit a growth spurt. Now they aren’t tiny anymore, and don’t have good technique which would keep them in the air. They can no longer fly or base so they wind up front spotting or just tumbling the whole time. This would have been avoided by keeping them on teams with girls their own age so they would learn who to properly support themselves in the air.
Even the older bases to not benefit from having the tiny flyers. Again, in the short run, it is easier for them. However, like the flyers, they tend to never learn the right way to base. They arch their backs and fail to lock out their arms. It’s all fun while they are stunting with a tiny rag doll, but when they have a normal sized flyer, they struggle and start having injuries. Also, they have a heck of a time trying to base the girls on their high school team because there you HAVE to be age/grade appropriate.
Pulling up young flyers is a short cut and a bad one at that. It is also lazy coaching. It takes time and effort to instruct your team in proper stunt technique. It is much easier just to give your high school bases a little bitty flyer. But is that really what your clients are paying $100 or more a month in all star fees for? Coaches should be teaching technique and not looking for the easy way out.
And for the record, you don’t NEED flyers under 100 pounds to perform elite skills. There is no reason why 2 120 pound girls can not hold another 120 pound girl in the air. If they can’t hold each other up, maybe they need better conditioning. Maybe they need lots more repetitions of basic skills. Maybe they need better coaching.
When coaches take the time to teach correct technique, maybe it means you have to compete level 3 this year instead of level 4. But you can keep moving up over time and you will eventually get to the level you want to be the right way. Simply pulling up tiny girls to fly on older bases lacks coaching integrity, it fails to enforce good technique, and it looks really terrible on the stage, which you SHOULD see reflected in your scores.