USASF Gone Wild?

In an unexpected announcement, taking the all-star cheer world by storm, USASF decided to make an announcement last night, March 28th, with amendments to its rules for the 2012/2013 season. Before I comment on anything, here is a list of what those changes include, in case you’re not yet familiar with it (if you are, then scroll down past them for my blog post):

Tumbling:

  • Standing fulls and standing double fulls are not allowed Double fulls are only allowed in running tumbling and must be preceded by a back handspring
  • Consecutive bounding, twisting skills are not allowed

Age Grid:

  • All Open teams (5 and 6 [also Open 4 if it is added in the future]) must be 17yrs old and older
  • Eliminate the International age rule for U.S.A. teams
  • All athletes on USA teams must be of the legal age according to the age grid by August 31st of that season. This includes Worlds. The rule, an athlete may be younger than the allowed age as long as he/she becomes of the legal age by the calendar year of the competition, no longer stands
  • Eliminate Mini L3
  • Eliminate Youth 5 Restricted by placing the following limitations on Youth 5: No tumbling double fulls; No kick doubles in baskets; Braced flips may not twist
  • Youth top age is raised to 12
  • No longer separate Junior Coed 3 and 4 from their counterpart All Girl teams
  • Bottom age on Senior teams, Levels 1-4 and Senior 5R, will be 10 years old – Senior 5 teams will remain at 12

In addition, the USASF has developed a new “Image and Etiquette Policy”:

IMAGE POLICY

Judges reserve the right to assess warnings and/or deductions when a team’s choreography, uniform, make up, bows etc. do not meet the standards of ‘appropriate’ as described in this policy.

APPROPRIATE CHOREOGRAPHY – in effect 2012/2013 season

All facets of a performance/routine, including both choreography and music selection, should be appropriate and suitable for family viewing and listening.

Examples of inappropriate choreography may include, but are not limited to, movements such as hip thrusting and inappropriate touching, gestures, hand/arm movements and signals, slapping, positioning of body parts and positioning to one another. Music or words unsuitable for family listening, which includes, but is not limited, to swearwords and connotations of any type of sexual act or behavior, drugs, explicit mention of specific parts of the body torso, and/or violent acts or behavior are other examples of inappropriate choreography. Removing improper language or words from a song and replacing with sound effects or other words may still constitute ‘inappropriate.’

Music or movement in which the appropriateness is questionable or with which uncertainty exists should be assumed by the coach to be inappropriate and removed as to not put their team in an unfortunate situation.

APPROPRIATE UNIFORM – in effect 2015/2016 season

General Uniform Guidelines

No risqué, sexually provocative or lingerie looking or inspired uniform or garments allowed. All uniform pieces should adequately cover an athlete and must be secured to eliminate any possible wardrobe malfunction. Appropriate undergarments must be worn. In addition to the below specific guidelines, athletes must also consider that a combination of uniform pieces may also deem a uniform appropriate or inappropriate.

Uniform Skirts/Shorts Guidelines

When a skirt is worn as part of the uniform, briefs under the skirt are required. The skirt must fully cover the hips. The skirt must completely cover the briefs and must fall at least 1 inch below briefs (regular and boy cut briefs). When shorts are worn as part of the uniform, there must be a minimum of a 2” inseam.

Uniform Top Guidelines

Uniform tops may not include an exposed midriff except for Seniors which may have a maximum of 10” between the skirt/short top and the uniform top bottom. Uniform tops must be secured by straps or material over at least one shoulder or around the neck (tube tops are not allowed).

COVER UP GUIDELINES – in effect 2012/2013 season

Athletes with non-full top uniforms must wear a t-shirt or other suitable cover up over their uniforms unless they are in the warm-up area, traveling as a group directly to or from the warm up area, or on the performance stage.

MAKEUP AND OTHER – goes into effect with the 2012-2013 season, but will not be enforceable by deduction until the 2013-2014 season.

Makeup – Makeup should be uniform and appropriate for both the performance and the age of the athletes. Face/Eyelid Rhinestones are not allowed. False eyelashes are allowed but may not be decorated in rhinestones or additional jewelry.

Bows – Bows should not be excessive in size (acceptable bows are generally no more than 3” in width) and shouldn’t be a distraction to the performance. Bows should be worn in a manner to minimize risk for the participants, should be adequately secured and should not fall over the forehead into the participants’ eyes or block the view of the participant while performing.

ETIQUETTE POLICY: 

AT ARRIVAL:

  • arrive looking the way you expect to compete
  • wear only outer wear approved by your Program
  • Don’t arrive at the event without wearing full uniform and hair done
  • Don’t arrive wearing sweatpants, pajama bottoms, trendy boots or jewelry

AT VENUE:

  • demonstrate Good Sportsmanship in the stands, restroom, outer halls, and everywhere
  • keep your uniform on and fully zipped at all times, and change only in the restroom
  • Don’t speak negatively about other individuals, teams, or programs
  • Don’t swear or use vulgar language
  • Don’t use social media to brag, belittle or ridicule any person, team or program
  • Don’t change into uniform, practice wear or “street clothes” in the stands or halls

AT AWARDS CEREMONY:

  • applaud for all Participants
  • wait to cheer for your Team until your name is called
  • follow directions of the Announcer, stay on the floor until dismissed, and congratulate all Teams
  • Don’t jump up and down when the 2nd Place Team is called if it isn’t your Team
  • Don’t overly emphasize the win, with overt displays of excitement
  • Don’t demonstrate disrespect by not allowing others their moment of recognition

ALWAYS USE SOCIAL MEDIA TO PROMOTE POSITIVE THOUGHTS, IDEAS, AND IMAGES

IN ADDITION: [Supposedly to ‘minimize’ the negative stereotypes associated with our sport]

  • Uniforms and Makeup should be age and gender appropriate
  • Hair should look natural and styled in a manner that is not a distraction to the Judges or routine
  • Choreography is combined with an athletic routine and complemented by appropriate music for all audiences
  • Education is promoted and successes are rewarded
  • Positive attitudes are demonstrated through discipline, unity, sportsmanship, leadership, and respect
  • Don’t wear overly glitzy makeup, uniforms that don’t fit correctly, or uniforms or makeup that is not age or gender appropriate
  • Athleticism should be male and female appropriate
  • Avoid anything overtly sexual or flirtatious
  • Males should minimize exaggerated or theatrical movements
  • Don’t place a lack of emphasis on education
  • Attitude should not be unsportsmanlike, suggestive, sexual, or include flirtatious music, movements, or voice overs

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The Thrill of Being a “Cheerleader”

Okay, let’s face it – cheer is addictive. But why? What makes it so difficult to quit, or to even think about quitting, and how do so many people get sucked into this sport, only to emerge some 15 years later, (mind you, only because their broken-down and over-stretched bodies could no longer take it) with the final realizations that retirement time has probably come. Why do we continue suffering through countless hours of treachery, sweat, and fear of heights, when we could just be sitting at home relaxing, or doing a lower-intensity sport like aqua fitness? Surely, those must be better for our bodies?

I’m sure you’ve all got your clever answers ready – “I love the athleticism!” or “It keeps me in great shape”, or even “It gives me confidence and challenges me to attain new skills!”, you might say. “Perfecting a new stunt or a tumbling pass feels amazing!”, or “I love the teamwork and my teammates.” are also viable options. I hear you, and I feel you on those points too.

However, I think there’s a bit of an underlying thematic behind the sport that makes it particularly appealing and sticky. You may argue with me on this – but you can’t deny that it nevertheless does exist. What I am talking about is the thrill of ‘being a cheerleader’. There is still a lot of labels and perceptions about cheerleaders, many of which are unfortunately negative, but the main one having to do with sex appeal. There are few cheerleaders who don’t enjoy having an excuse to wear cure sparkly uniforms, massive amounts of glitter, and giant shiny bows on their heads. Just think about the number of people who dress up as cheerleaders for Halloween – clearly the uniform is a coveted item. In fact, from personal experience I can say that one of the main reasons that so many of the grade 9 girls tried out for my high school team was because they wanted that thrill of being able to say they’re cheerleaders. Since few (dare I say none) of them had ever actually stunted or tumbled before, the athleticism was definitely not the main reason for them trying out. I won’t lie, it was the same reason that I myself tried out. Surviving the rest of it was the true test of whether you were cut out or not. But for some, this ‘thrill’ and idea is what kept them going and motivated them to learn the difficult stunting combinations and push through 2 hour practices four times a week. After a few years of cheering, a bit of this novelty does wear off, but I don’t think it ever completely dies. It’s always fun to meet new people and boast about your stunting accomplishments and cheerleading highlights. After a while, all your non-cheer friends, relatives, and pretty much the world knows you as ‘a cheerleader’…and it becomes difficult to imagine what you would be if you quit. It literally becomes your identity. And frankly, I see nothing wrong with that. ❤

Cheers!

-M