Guest Post: Are We Taking The Cheer Out of Cheerleading?

If you’ve been listening to the buzz around the parent viewing rooms at your gym, you’re sure to know that USASF recently released its Worlds packet for 2013. I was surprised to see the addition of “Section V – Athlete Behavior” to the rules and regulations. When I was reading part A, subsection c of this new rule, it made me a little bit sad for the athletes competing this year. No more high fives, team rituals, running out and hugging coaches. No more collapsing on the mat at the end of the performance. No “displays of public affection.” There is some bite behind this rule: any violation can be a 2-, 4- or 6-point deduction.

So why? I asked quite a few people that went last year and I read a bit of the buzz on the Internet about their thoughts. Everyone agreed that time is an issue at Worlds. Teams need to get on and off the performance area in a timely manner to keep things running on schedule. But wouldn’t any delay caused by excessive celebration already be penalized under Section V, part A, subsection a where teams get 30 seconds to enter and 30 seconds to leave the floor? If a team can get off of the performance floor within 30 seconds, should they be penalized if they do so while hugging or holding hands? I started wondering—are we taking the cheer out of cheerleading? It’s the marriage of elite tumbling, gravity-defying stunts and beautifully choreographed dance held by the glue of energy and exuberance that draws so many to this sport. Are the rule changes slowly chipping away at what we love about cheer, or are they necessary steps in the growth of the sport?

First came last spring’s rules change bombshell: Difficulty restrictions, uniform regulations and the unfortunate singling out of the “flamboyant ” male cheerleader (which, thankfully, was removed). And now—no excessive celebrations. It reminds me of the rules put into place by the NFL starting in the 1990s into the 2000s. Coaches, fans and players agreed that some celebrations were out of hand (does anyone remember Chad Johnson performing CPR on the football?), lots of fans complained and said the player celebrations helped to make the players more energized and the game more entertaining. The league eventually found a compromise and today Gronkowski of the Patriots gets his big spike, New York’s Victor Cruz gets to salsa and everyone in Green Bay loves the Lambeau leap. Hopefully the USASF will come to the same conclusion and allow a bit of celebration.

For many athletes, Worlds is the culmination of years of hardwork and dedication. If it all comes together for you and you’re flawless for two minutes and thirty seconds—shouldn’t you be allowed a fist-bump, a hug or a couple of high fives?

This post originally appeared on our partner website Cheer Parents Central.