Age Appropriate

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.

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5 Comments on “Age Appropriate”

  1. Katrina Says:

    Some of those make sense but still some are just stupid , for example the reason where they look for a new gym is stupid no will do that because the other gym will do the same thing and I don’t know anyone aty gym who would do that.

    • Hi Katrina. Thanks for checking out the blog and leaving a comment. I’m glad you see the main point of the article, even if you haven’t personally seen some of the other points in your experiences. Other than the gym hopping thing, what else, if anything, do you see differently? I’m always interested in other points of view. As for gym hopping, it might not happen much where you cheer, but it happens all the time at all star gyms in Kentucky. And it never seems to fail that the young fliers who are put on senior teams are ones always looking for greener grass.

  2. Courtney Says:

    I love this we have some small flyers but we have them coz they’re really good and don’t wana be held back but we also have flyers the same size as their bases. I’m a flyer and I’m 17 and I’m in a senior stunt group and my bases and back spot are 15 but I’m very petite and relatively small in my age group so I am the same size as them and we do just fine, I find my self using better technique and not relying on them and they have to rely on getting stronger which is very beneficial to all of us in the long run as well, I love your blog, I think you should write an article on trust among flyers, like catching them and team work and appreciating the whole stunt group especially the bases and back spot but also the mental and fear side of what flyers overcome. ❤

  3. Bay Stormer Says:

    OMG I so know what you mean for I don’t know whats come over my coach this season she has decided to put a load of 9 year old youths on juniors to fly maybe itsbecause some of the juniors have become seniors so the remaining bases are weak. I am not a coach but if it was me in this situation I would invest in some time to condition the team, do reputitions of basic skills and teach propper technique with the normal sized flyers even if it means moving down a level it is much betetr than having a team that is weak and will never use propper technique. Plus it will make our club look bad, people will know us as the club with tiny flyers, and I don’t want that. :/

  4. cheer Says:

    I was once in a junior stunt group, we were like 13 to 16 years old and our flyers were like 8 and it did not help me with my basing technique at all it was like lifting feathers and they did not have good technique at all and I found myself not using good technique and the baskets went no where probably because they weren’t holding any of their own weight on our shoulders.

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