Two Sides: Universal Scoresheet

The buzz around adopting a universal scoresheet has reached an all-time high—will one finally be adopted next year? CheerProfessional explores the pros and cons of going forward with this initiative. 

One of the hottest topics at this year’s NACCC conference in Doral? The idea of a universal scoresheet. Cheer professionals Kristen Rosario and John Metz are among the industry’s outspoken advocates for this development, and the 22 member companies of IEP announced their collective endorsement of having a universal scoresheet back in 2010. However, respondents to a CheerProfessional survey in June were evenly split, with half for and half against (and one stipulating that she would support a universal rubric rather than scoresheet).

Many believe a universal scoresheet will help introduce more consistency among competitions, improve consistency and eliminate headaches for event producers. However, others think that a universal scoresheet will create less event choices/competitive advantages for cheer programs and make choreography more homogenous.

So who’s right? To dig deeper into what’s behind the universal scoresheet debate, we talked with Shea Crawford of Brandon All-Stars and Mikey Hobson of Top Notch All-Stars to get their take on this hot-button issue.

Editor’s Note: Please note that the views expressed in this article are expressly those of our sources and not those of CheerProfessional.

Shea Crawford, Tumbling Director & Coach at Brandon All-Stars

Shea’s take on the universal scoresheet: This is something that’s been discussed for at least five years, and the time has finally arrived to make it happen. I first realized the need for a universal scoresheet several years ago when we got the lowest score the first day at a Cheersport competition, then made a very minor change to the routine and got the highest score on day two. We also finished first at a different event two weeks later with the same routine.

So many teams throw amazing routines, but when you have no idea how it will be rewarded, it’s very frustrating. My job should be to read one scoresheet, not five of them. I feel like it’s asking a lot of kids to work on these skills and train and synchronize—something as simple as changing one count is difficult for a lot of these kids. I just want to be able to prepare the same routine for wherever we go—if it was up to me, it’d be the same routine day 1 through day 365.

On how it will affect judging: I think the universal scoresheet will push for [the formation of] a judges’ association. A universal scoresheet will force judges to be better, and when that happens, it will produce more consistency. The importance of deductions will increase and it will serve to clean up routines. It will also allow event producers to focus on the event a lot more and have a lot less scoring discrepancies.  Everywhere you go, you’ll be accountable for the same stuff.

On how it would impact choreography:  One of the biggest arguments against a universal scoresheet is that people don’t want to see cookie-cutter routines. My argument against that is that every single team who goes to any one competition is competing on the same scoresheet [that day]. There are 900 teams that go to Dallas [for NCA], and I have yet to see one cookie-cutter routine there. For me, that nullifies that argument.

On how it will produce more consistency: Gone are the days where you can go to a competition and really predict who won. I have been to so many competitions that I watch as a knowledgeable coach—but when I think I’ve pinpointed first through fourth place I’ve never been more wrong in my life. Right now, our industry sorely lacks consistency, and a universal scoresheet will provide that.

On how it will affect event producers: My opinion is that not having a universal scoresheet works against the event producers. There are a lot more Varsity events than other brands, and I personally would rather go on a similar scoresheet more often than not. It hurts [other EPs] more than it helps by having a different scoresheet.

What’s every EP’s biggest headache? Judging and scores. 99 percent of the problem at any competition stems from judging—wouldn’t they rather concentrate on maintaining the schedule and setting up warm-ups? I don’t understand why event producers don’t embrace it so that all they have to do is worry about hosting the event.

A universal scoresheet wouldn’t be that hard to implement—when I look at Jam Brands and Varsity, the scoresheets are different, but not so different that it’s game-changing. With a universal scoresheet, coaches will no longer say things like, ‘Last week, when I was at another competition, it was legal,’ or ‘I’m going to go to Jam Brands because I can score well there.’”

The bottom line: I think a universal scoresheet will help the industry and that is what is important to me. It doesn’t matter so much which scoresheet it is—good coaches will adapt. The industry needs something; I know entire programs that have folded because they lost competitions they shouldn’t have and the gym down the street beat them. A universal scoresheet will help grow the industry through more consistency and a way for coaches to train better.

Kyle Gadke, Owner/Choreographer at Spirit FX and Coach at Platinum Athletics

Kyle’s take on the universal scoresheet: I come at this topic from both a choreographer and coach perspective, and as I see it, the biggest negative against a universal scoresheet would be the elimination of options for playing different scoresheets.

When working with various gyms as a choreographer, we talk at length about ways to hit the scoresheet. Based on my experience, I feel personally that more people are against a universal scoresheet than for it. I believe that it has become a hot topic because more people are doing research on ways to hit the scoresheets and understand the difference between rubrics.

On how it would affect small gyms: My question is: what’s the ratio of small gym owners that want a universal scoresheet versus medium or large gyms? Most smaller gyms want and need more options, so I’m curious if that plays a role in the discussion. It’s no secret that the Midwest isn’t a game-changer yet—we’re holding our own, but we’re not North Carolina or Texas or Kentucky. We’re always trying to stay ahead, and we like to have choices.

Also, on a broader level, it could take people a long time to get used to a new universal scoresheet, and teams may not win as much—which could directly affect new people coming to our gyms.

On why consistency across the board isn’t necessarily a good thing: We’ve gone back and forth between Varsity and JAMfest—our gym is very stunt-oriented, and we don’t typically score as well at Varsity as we do with JAM Brands. Having various scoresheets gives you options if your style doesn’t hit [at one specific event producer]. Competition wins help you be recognized in your area—having options where we feel confident that we’ll score well helps our success in the long run.

On how it will affect judging:  I can actually see how a universal scoresheet could have a pretty positive impact from the judges’ standpoint. It would make everyone more knowledgeable and efficient knowing one scoresheet instead of five.

On how it would impact choreography: I feel like choreography has already become somewhat cookie-cutter. As for how a universal scoresheet would further that issue, it depends. If it does happen, I would like to see it mirror the Worlds scoresheet approach, where there isn’t really a rubric and they’re just judging the routine you put out on the floor. There aren’t all of these numbers to hit—it’s more about the performance element.

On how it will affect event producers:  From a coaching standpoint, I love the option of picking what style suits us best. Each event producer also has their own niche they like to go for: for example, JAM Brands is fun and game-oriented, while Varsity is more competitive and awards-oriented. It also translates to each EP’s focus: the JAM scoresheet is more about counting skills while Varsity awards creativity. If you take our options away and put everyone on the same scoresheet, you might have more people going to competitions they don’t enjoy. The more options in the market, the better.

The bottom line: If this is going to move forward, then we need more clarity on what exactly the universal scoresheet will be. Will people still be able to add more style? Have choices from an event producer standpoint? All the talk is great, but what specifically will it be? There needs to be more specifics before we can form opinions and move the conversation forward.