This article is about the sweeping rule changes that were recently implemented affecting both high school and all star competitive cheerleading. I’m going to address the situation in general terms, understanding that there might be exceptions, but if I went into great detail to every specific aspect of the changes, this article would be way too long. So, with the disclaimer out of the way, here we go…
What we’re really talking about are limitations that have been placed on what skills cheerleaders are going to be allowed to perform. That, and some age restrictions and I think a uniform restriction down the road. If you want to know my opinion about the uniform restriction, look up my article called Dress For Success. As for my opinion on the age limitations, check out the article called Age Appropriate. THIS article is going to focus on skill restrictions, in general, that have been put in place.
People are understandably upset about the changes. A lot of coaches and athletes have worked their butts off to master difficult tricks that they want to perform. They want to stand out. They want to shine. What’s more, they want the competitive advantage that they have earned with the blood sweat and tears that they invested in training to progress to the point that they can execute the toughest cheerleading skills around. After all of that hard work, the rule changes have taken that away from them, and they don’t think that is fair.
They are right. IT IS NOT FAIR.
However, it is still the right thing to do.
Yes, I know I just said it wasn’t fair. But it is still right. It is the only solution to a serious problem. The ends justify the means in this case. And even though you might not be the cause of the problem (or at least you might not THINK you are), you have to pay the price for the greater good. We need a safer environment in cheerleading. The status quo was not an option. And the coaches, the parents, and the event providers were not getting it done. This is the result, and once again, it was absolutely the right thing to do.
Before you tune me out completely, let me explain with an example. 10 years ago, people who earned $40,000 a year were allowed to borrow $400,000 to buy a house that was only worth $250,000. Whether or not you’re a financial expert, you can probably figure out this is an example of a “high risk” loan. Banks were allowed to make as many of these loans as they wanted. They were very profitable. The problem is if the borrower couldn’t pay back the loan, the banks would lose money and the borrower would lose their house. A lot of bank took a responsible approach to high risk loans. They used honest appraisers to determine the value of the house. They looked at the borrower’s future income, credit history, etc. They limited themselves to only making so many of these loans so that if some of them went bad, the bank wouldn’t get hurt too much by it. The problem is, most of the bank were not responsible. They gave out billions of dollars to people who could never repay it, figuring they’d just take the houses back and still make a profit when they sell them. But then housing priced crashed. The banks couldn’t sell the houses. The people couldn’t make the payments. Before you know it, we have a global financial crisis. Folks who worked their whole, honest lives saving to retire saw their home and investments lose all of their value overnight. Folks started getting laid off. People’s dreams and futures were crushed. Let’s face it. Life as we know it changes and may never be the same.
Now, banks aren’t allowed to loan money like that anymore. Not just the banks that screwed it up. None of the banks. The rules had to change because too many people were taking advantage of the lack of rules. Is it fair that the banks that did the right thing lose the chance to make a good profit on the occasional high risk loan? No. It is not fair. But the chance that someone else might is just too great. We can’t afford another financial melt down, so before it happens, the rules had to change for everyone. To the “good” banks, thanks for being responsible, but you’re going to have to make your money another way. By the way, the big banks that messed everything up got bailed out by the tax payers for the greater good. That also wasn’t fair, but it looked like the only way out of that mess.
The rule changes in cheerleading are kind of like that. Hey, there are lots of good coaches out there doing things the right way and teaching their kids the hardest skills around properly and safely. Those programs should not be punished with the programs that have failed to be responsible. But just like with the banks, you can’t make that distinction. The rules had to change for everyone before cheerleading had a meltdown of injuries. And if that happened, the changes that would have been made could have been much more drastic.
By they way, before you assume your program is one of the innocent ones, maybe you should think again. Do cheerleaders in your program start working on standing tucks before they have perfect standing back handspring series? Do bases base with arched backs but no one says anything because at least the stunts are still hitting? Are there 10 or 20 kids in the gym that cross compete of multiple teams because it is easier and quicker to have a few kids doing all the flying than taking the time to instruct every flier on the team? Are kids that should be on youth (by age and size) getting pulled up to juniors and even seniors so the team can do harder stunts? Believe it or not, high school girls CAN base other high school girls. It just means they have to be taught good technique instead of being given a flyer the size of a Barbie doll.
You might have double downs in your gym, and do them safely, but if your program does those things (listed above) and other similar things, your program is cutting corners. That makes you part of the problem too. Cutting corners contributes to the environment where we have teams believing they have to attempt crazy hard tricks to be remotely competitive, and if they aren’t competitive, their kids will go to another gym, and then what are they going to do?
We have an environment where cheating is accepted. Hate to say it, but it is true. There will be teams at Worlds with 20-something year old guys on the mat competing in the senior divisions. You and I know this is going to happen. In fact, some of the programs complaining about the rule changes have every intention of cheating in this way. Cutting corners. Instead of teaching young kids, they hang onto the ones who should be moving on. The programs that do this and the event providers who look the other way, you’re responsible for forcing these changes just as much as the coaches who push kids past progressions and put dangerous stunts on the mat.
So now that I’ve made everyone made, please just take a deep breath. Now exhale.
It isn’t fair. It is not. But it was right. It had to happen. Cheerleading is going to go on. And now, maybe, cheer programs will have to find more creative ways to stand out. Maybe programs will have to focus on teaching the less experienced kids how to keep up instead of mostly focusing on teaching elite kids a standing double full. Seriously, where are all of the complaints about that discrepancy?
This is the new environment, cheerleaders. The rules have changed. You are challenged in a new way. And that is pretty exciting. The real competitors inside you will see that. You have to stop feeling like a victim and move forward. This is going to make a better cheerleading for all of us in the future. Find new ways to stand out. To shine. Move forward. You can do it.