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GrowCheer.org Survey Results: Where The Industry Stands

GrowCheer.org Survey Results: Where The Industry Stands

In March, Cheer Industry Insights founder Jeff Watkins conducted a study of more than 500 cheer professionals and parents to see where they stand on the issues raised by the GrowCheer.org proposal. We conducted a Q&A with him to find out more about the collective response:

Looking at your research on the whole, what were some of the things that stood out most in your findings?

First of all, it became very clear how much most of the industry is craving a change right now. They’re seeking changes in the way USASF is currently being run, particularly with its reliance on Varsity and the perceived imbalance in the decision-making process. Most of the survey respondents are excited that there are people out there starting to take action to try to affect that change. I don’t know that they see the GrowCheer.org proposal as the immediate answer, but they are hopeful it will get the ball rolling. It has provided good grounds for conversation.

What were the most commonly perceived strengths and weaknesses of USASF?

Clearly people recognize USASF for what it has done in getting all-star cheer organized and under the same set of rules, and they acknowledge Varsity’s help along the way. They appreciate the efforts toward increasing the safety of the sport, and people also commented on how successful the Worlds competition has become. The weaknesses that clearly rose to the top were the financial reliance on Varsity and its unbalanced influence (as far as the number of people sitting on the board and stronghold they have on decisions). Those concerns accounted for 30 percent of all things noted as weaknesses, mostly by gym owners and coaches. Another weakness often mentioned was that USASF has outgrown the Worlds competition and has lost flexibility in terms of venue. The other main thing believed to be hindering the growth is that staffing at USASF is insufficient for the growth they’d like to see it take.

How would you describe the overall response to the GrowCheer.org proposal among your respondents?

Roughly 30 percent of survey-takers had some hesitation or maybe a bit of distrust that the seven companies are doing this without any financial motivation. Although it wasn’t the majority [of respondents], it’s enough that the GrowCheer.org companies should pay attention. They’ll have to convince the industry that their motives are the best interest of sport and not for their bottom line. The keyword is transparency and gaining their trust. It also needs to be noted that there was a clear group of respondents (about 15 percent) that had nothing good to say about the proposal—I’d call them Varsity loyalists. They were filled with doubt about the intentions and saw it as a desperation move by these companies to stir up an angry mob.

As far as the number of respondents who said they would be more likely to support the seven companies backing the proposal, this was polarizing. 42 percent of these people said 8 or higher, but the Varsity loyalists really brought that number down. If I’m [affiliated with] Varsity and I see that number, I’m freaking out because these companies are all in direct competition with Varsity. If 42 percent of gym owners are identifying as highly likely to go ahead and buy from these other companies, I better listen to what these guys have to say. That’s a considerable amount of potential loss.

Your research found that different criteria were important to different groups. Can you expand on that a bit?

Responses across the board were quite similar, but there were differentiators. The gym owners are the ones who want this change, who are demanding this independence. They want to be assured that all their hard work and investment and risk won’t be swept out from under them because of a dysfunctional governing body. There is a sense of betrayal from when they originally signed on to the USASF idea.

The feeling among parents is that they’re forking over all of this money for their kids to cheer and they’re not 100 percent convinced it’s going to an organization that is supporting it being a sport or anything more than a rec activity. As for the athletes, they were quite verbal and vocal. I think they’re pretty upset and pretty frustrated with last year’s rules changes. They felt like no one really cared what they thought and they’re mad at USASF.

Download the full survey results here: Reaction to GrowCheer proposal2.

 

Update from GrowCheer.org

Update from GrowCheer.org

Many cheer professionals have been asking for an update about the GrowCheer.org proposal and whether the USASF has responded. The companies affiliated with GrowCheer.org have sent us the following update to share with the community:

GrowCheer.org would like to thank all of those in our industry that have voiced their support for our efforts, both publicly and privately. We would also like to thank Jim Chadwick and the USASF BOD for recognizing GrowCheer.org and agreeing to an initial dialogue after receiving our formal proposal. It is out of respect for the USASF, and an earnest desire to make all of the changes that we have proposed, that we will not be commenting publicly while discussions are ongoing.

Since the creation of GrowCheer.org, we’ve all noticed an increase in discussions about additional changes that should be made in the future with the USASF and our sport in general. While it is this kind of creativity and “what if?” thinking that will eventually make our industry better and growing again, we emphasize that the primary mission of GrowCheer.org is simply to create an independent and transparent USASF that can tackle these issues in the best interest of all of our members.  

We also reiterate that while we are prepared to financially help the USASF gain independence, our only expectation in return is a truly independent and transparent USASF. To repeat, NONE OF THE FOUNDING COMPANIES OF GROWCHEER.ORG HAVE A DESIRE TO REPLACE VARSITY AS THE CONTROLLING ENTITY OF THE USASF.  No sport or industry should ever be controlled by special interests within that organization if it truly wants to grow and get better.

 

 

Industry Reaction to GrowCheer.org

Industry Reaction to GrowCheer.org

Yesterday’s announcement about GrowCheer.org and the push for an independent USASF sparked a range of reactions throughout the industry. While USASF has declined to comment on the matter, we were able to speak with Varsity’s VP of Public Relations Sheila Noone to learn their company’s stance. “Everything Varsity does is with an eye towards what is best for the young athletes we serve,” says Noone. “No one has more of an interest in growing all disciplines of cheerleading than Varsity, and we feel we have been a strong partner to the USASF and its members.”

Read a sampling of what event producers and gym owners around the industry had to say:

Independent Event Producers (IEP): The Independent Event Producers, IEP, was not consulted, informed or involved in any formation of this proposal. The IEP fully supports a proposal for a fair and transparent governing body. It is our hope that all constituents of the USASF have equal representation. The mission of IEP remains our focus today. Our main objective is to “collectively influence the cheerleading and dance industry, to promote independence and work to ensure our long-term viability in the industry.”

Dave Sewell (Extreme Spirit): Xtreme Spirit has not renewed USASF membership for the 2012-2013 season due to its Varsity control. We feel the current system is in place to maintain control over the Industy’s growth. We will follow the USASF rules, but with exceptions designed to help struggling gyms retain their higher level athletes and also showcase the advanced tumblers out there that are beyond Level 5.

Jody Melton (Cheer Athletics): This is a very interesting proposal that could potentially lead to some needed reforms for our sport. I like the group’s willingness to at least try to work with the USASF/Varsity to iron out some of the issues, rather than starting by creating a competing organization.

The USASF has given us many positive changes for our industry, and it simply would not exist without the leadership of Varsity and its employees, money, guidance and support. They should be applauded for their tremendous work over the last decade. However, it is time to take another look at the USASF structure to ensure that the entire industry is fairly represented. It seems obvious that no single individual, gym, program, company or conglomerate should have significant & permanent influence over our governing body.

There are obvious details that would need to be filled in and some questions to be answered, but on its surface – this looks like a potentially great way to help transition the USASF into an even better & more transparent governing body.

Scott “Crasher” Braasch (Cheer Tyme): I am a staunch supporter and critic of the USASF. I believe our industry has been served well by those in leadership and applaud all their efforts. Our governing body for the sport/industry of All Star Cheer is not just important to our continued growth, safety and structure—it is a must. For this reason, I have always supported the USASF and its mission. I have also been a critic of the USASF and its origins from the cheerleading industry’s largest vendor. As a huge supporter of Varsity brands, I respect and appreciate their financial and intellectual contributions to the origins of the USASF; however, I believe we have come to a point where USASF should truly stand and govern our all star industry independently. This letter shows a divide in our industry that has been developing for years. A governing body that is so closely intertwined with the largest vendor in our industry does not insure that all decisions made on behalf of the governing body are in its best interest, but rather implies that they are in the best interest of the vendor. What other format in our world today has a for-profit entity that governs or is perceived to govern a non-profit entity whose decisions reflect and/or could reflect the profitability of the for-profit entity? This proposal sounds fair and seems to alleviate reasons why so many question the relationship of Varsity Brands to the USASF. I look forward to the outcome of this proposal and sense yet another defining moment in our sport/industry ahead.

Megan and Casey Marlow (Pacific Coast Magic): Awesome concept. Awesome news!!!! Been in this industry for 15 years. So happy to see something truly moving and changing happening!

Chad Mulkey (XPA All-Stars): This is the best news that has been introduced to this industry since its inception. The stronghold has held back a SPORT that has grown tremendously. While Varsity can be thanked for its contributions for the inception, it is clear that this step is crucial as it grows. Excited, excited, excited!

Pam Swope (Storm Elite All-Stars): I totally agree!!! There should be NO company that controls the USASF – no more than the International Olympic Committee (IOC) is! There can’t be a company profiting from the use of a governing body for a sport to grow and thrive. MLB and the NFL are not owned by NIKE – so Varsity should not have control over the governing body of USASF.

 

BREAKING NEWS: Seven Industry Companies Unite to Urge and Facilitate USASF Independence

BREAKING NEWS: Seven Industry Companies Unite to Urge and Facilitate USASF Independence

CheerProfessional has learned that seven industry companies (Cheer Zone, GK Elite, GTM Sportswear, Motionwear, Nfinity, Rebel Athletic and Team Cheer) have united in an effort to facilitate the USASF’s independence from Varsity Brands. Their plan includes assuming the USASF’s loan from Varsity, revising the Board of Directors and moving the USASF office and employees to a neutral location. Read their full proposal and react in the comments section:

GrowCheer.ORG 

Proposal to the United States All Star Federation

GrowCheer.ORG is a group of unrelated industry companies with a singular purpose to grow the sport of cheerleading.

As such, we believe that the first (and most important) step in fostering future growth in our sport is a FREE and INDEPENDENT United States All Star Federation (“USASF”).

How are we going to accomplish this?

Central to our plan is to replace the current loan(s) that the USASF has with Varsity Spirit Corporation and/or affiliated companies (“Varsity”).

It is understood that the reason Varsity controls a majority of the seats on the USASF board and why Varsity owns the trademark of the USASF is to secure repayment of these loans.   We firmly believe that in order to have a unified industry, no single organization should be unduly influenced by and/or controlled by another.

We propose to assume the loan with essentially the same financial terms that Varsity has given to the USASF.  We are prepared to do this immediately after the 2013 USASF Worlds competition.

Other key provisions relating to our plan are as follows:

1)   Require an immediate external audit of the USASF financials by an independent accounting firm that we mutually agree on.  We will bear the cost of this audit.

  1. This firm would determine the amount that remains outstanding to Varsity.
  2. The firm would examine the relationship between the USASF and the IASF and confirm that all monies paid to the USASF by American gyms would be used for the support of American programming, not international programming.
  3. The firm would examine the relationship between the USASF and the host site to make sure only the USASF received benefit from the relationship.

2)   All USASF property held in lien as security for outstanding loans with Varsity, including but not exclusively intellectual property (i.e., trademarks), would be released to the USASF.

3)   Immediate rewriting of the Articles of Incorporation, By Laws, and Operating Agreement to abolish all permanent Board of Directors seats and create a provision for an organized election to be conducted as soon as practical.  The new Board of Directors would be composed of equal representation among all segments of our industry – gym owners/coaches, event producers and industry vendors.

4)   Future production of USASF World competitions would be granted to a qualified event producer after an open bidding process administered by the Board of Directors.

5)   The office and employees of the USASF would be moved to a neutral location in Memphis.  If necessary, we would subsidize payment for the office space until it could be supported by the cash flow of the USASF.

6)   After the first year, or as soon as practical, the Board of Directors would interview and select a professional management company to assume the day-to-day operations of the USASF.

7)   The USASF would be reorganized as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that is recognized by the IRS as such.

We believe very much in this industry and recognize Varsity for its past foresight and support, but we have come to a point where we can no longer afford to see our governing body indebted to and controlled by a profit motivated company with a clear conflict of interest.  In a time when so many are calling for the industry to break apart into separate factions, we feel that the best solution is to step in and provide a practical way for there to be just one, FREE and INDEPENDENT governing body.  And we believe that we have proposed a workable solution to this matter.

Your acceptance of the above terms is expected by March 1, 2013 to GrowCheer@gmail.com so that we can make provisions for a seamless transition.

Respectfully,

 

Cheer Zone ™

GK Elite Sportswear, L.P.

GTM Sportswear, Inc.

Motionwear, LLC

Nfinity Athletic LLC

Rebel Athletic ™

Team Cheer™

 

United States All-Star Federation, USASF, ISAF, USASF Worlds, Varsity are all Registered trademarks of the Varsity Spirit Corporation, Memphis, TN.