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

UMMMM ….. WHAT THE HECK??

So I heard all the commotion and saw the twitter feeds buzzing with cheer hating, but before jumping on the bandwagon I decided to see it all for myself. I started off reading the USASF introduction letter – which, let me tell you, is very sugar-coated and full of excuses as to the sudden changes – and here are the two basic points that came across to me:

1. Rules are being amended to accommodate for safety issues and

2. to help “enhance the legitimacy of the sport”.

Okay, sounds fair. Makes sense. But after reading the actual amendments I was left feeling very confused and disappointed – the changes seemed to under-deliver on both points but mainly the second one. It feels like they started off with the right idea – eliminating Mini L3 was probably a good call – 6 year olds twisting from extended level stunts and holding up extended level stunts themselves doesn’t really sound too safe. I could even swallow the elimination of standing doubles and fulls (although…why USASF, why???). I got a bit angry with the sudden age grid change for Open 5 and 6 from 14 to 17 – way to ruin gyms’ plans for their future teams – but still I kept my mouth shut and figured – if they’re doing this, it must be because they’ve had safety issues and it will be better for everyone involved. In other words, I had a certain amount of trust in the USASF. Key word in that sentence is ‘had’.

It seems like they suddenly spun out of control and  decided to restrict every other part of the sport too, whether it made sense or not. In particular, the etiquette and image policies have some more than questionable points. “Don’t overly emphasize the win, with overt displays of excitement.” – What the fuck, USASF? (pardon my language). We are not robots – you can’t tell us how to behave! Don’t tell me how happy to be! If my team wins it means we worked our asses for it and we are entitled to be as excited as we want to be, and we’re not going to go around all moody to ‘spare’ other teams’ feelings – what is this, kindergarten? People need to not only know how to win, but also know how to lose. This is a COMPETITIVE sport – or at least, was. You can’t go into a football game and tell the winning team’s fans to control their cheer and mind their manners because the losing team’s feelings will get hurt. Yes, there is a difference between being happy and being snobby but sportsmanship should not be something you put in a rule book and tell us to do – it’s something that good teams practice and is common sense in any athletic setting. You can’t tell me when to applaud and how happy or unhappy to be – we are cheerleaders, being happy all the time is kind of a defining trait of ours – sorry.

And speaking of defining traits, perhaps the most outrageous thing I read was “Males should minimize exaggerated or theatrical movements”. Uh, what? But females shouldn’t? Why, because that makes the men ‘gay’? It’s a sport of PERFORMANCE – you sell your routine, you give it energy, you act while stunting, dancing, jumping, and tumbling. So what gives you the right to exclude males from doing this?? They clearly enjoy it as it comes with the sport.

And don’t get me started on the uniform, bow, and makeup restrictions – unnecessary. We’re performing, so what is wrong with a lot of glitter? Cheerleaders are sparkly – that’s just the way it is. If a team has a super slutty uniform that barely covers their ass, that just says something about the team’s coaching and how their program is run – applying measuring tapes to skirts and inseams seems pretty darn juvenile. And specific measurements of bows? Puh-lease. Moreover, theywarn us that judges will be able to deduct points for these things on their own discretion – but that is highly subjective. How are we to know which judges would consider our makeup ‘inappropriate’ and which ones would find it ‘acceptable’? What the hell does ‘inappropriate makeup’ mean anyway??

Oh and while we’re at it, we should ‘place an emphasis on education’. Last time I checked, this wasn’t a school. And last time I checked, this was the United States ALL-STAR Federation, NOT High School or Collegiate. If we’re competing with an all-star program, education should not be brought into the matter. What do you want us to do, spell out the alphabet mid-air??

Many of these points are so common sense that putting them into a strict rule book like that just makes the whole thing into a catholic school-girl bible. It almost assumes that we’re dumb and can’t realize that a 5 inch wide bow will clearly create problems during a performance.

Here is the thing – I realize that many of these etiquette and image rules are put into place to ‘enhance the legitimacy’ of the sport, and to stop cheerleading stereotypes – BUT who are you trying to prove this to, USASF?? Everyone involved in the sport likes it the way it is – we don’t want to change it just because a bunch of uneducated losers think we’re ‘snobby bitches in slutty uniforms’. We all know we’re not, and we don’t want to change our sport for others. Ever heard of the expression – ‘be yourself’? Why are you forcing us to change everything we love about cheer to prove a stupid point to a bunch of idiots who don’t really care at the end of the day anyway??????

Well, that’s my rant for now. But there will probably be more. What are your thoughts? Please comment, let’s get loud for USASF to see OUR side of the world of cheer.

-M

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One Comment on “USASF Gone Wild?”

  1. Heather McCance says:

    Just found your blog, so reading old posts. I think I read subsequently that USASF changed some of these, but I honestly lost track of which ones (the image ones, mostly). Do you know?


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