The Job of the 'Competition Parent'

"As bigger & more prestigious comps are coming, as cheer parents we need to remember something, this is THEIR sport. This is about THEM. Yes, it's amazing when they come home with a jacket, a backpack, a sweatshirt, a medal. But it's more amazing when they come home with a smile, a sense of belonging & a sense of accomplishment, with or without the win. 

This past weekend I got so upset with my daughter, but SHE never knew (yes yes, she will now after she reads this but she's understanding that even Mama has flaws, so she will forgive me). I quietly ranted & raved to a select few of my close cheer moms that I could not believe she dropped her stunt. I was mad, thinking if they had just hit, if she had just kept that tiny little flyer up in the air, they would have hit, & probably would have come home with a bid to the Summit. By the time I reconnected with her after awards, I was calm, thank goodness, because the only thing my daughter needed to hear from me, as her mom, was that I was proud of her & that she did amazing. Anything else that needed to be said would be said by her coaches. It is not my job to criticize her skills, not my job to coach her, not my job to point out any flaws she had on the stage (okay, I did tell her to smile, no matter what!), that's her coaches job. My job is to hug her, smile, & tell her I love her.

Next time your kid "fails" or doesn't perform perfectly, remember this, too many times I have seen a parent screaming at their kid, shoving their kid, yanking their arm, or walk away from them while their kid is crying running after them. PLEASE don't be that parent. Nothing, no trophy, no bid, no banner, no jacket, no backpack, nothing is worth diminishing your child's self-esteem over."

Courtesy of:

Understanding the Leveling System

By: Craig Tatum (All Star Director, Coach, Choreographer)

This week we are focusing on the reasoning behind the Level System. To understand why our athlete should progress through the levels correctly, we first must grasp the underlying concepts behind the rules that create the levels.

The Two Most Feared Words in All-Star Cheer

Team placements. Those two words strike fear into the hearts of gym owners, coaches, cheer parents, and athletes alike. So much time, energy, and emotion is spent worrying about, questioning, and arguing over which team an athlete should be placed on.

Often, a team’s level, over everything else, determines whether or not they accept their team placement or go looking for another gym that will place them on the level they desire.

Rules Create Levels

To understand the Level System, we must first realize the USASF Rules create the underlying structure. The USASF website gives a great overview of the thought process and concepts used to create the Rules and, therefore, the Levels:

The USASF Rules are set in place to create a safe, consistent and fair platform for cheer athletes at all-star events. Safety is always the first priority when setting or adjusting any rule or guideline. Skill progression and fair play are then considered.

3 Key Underlying Concepts

Three underlying concepts stand out from this overview: safety, progression, and fair play. Let’s look at each of these concepts individually and how they shape our sport.

  1. Safety – The top priority of the USASF is the safety of our athletes. It follows then, that the first priority of the Rules is safety as well. The structure of the Rules creates a safe framework for our sport to operate within.

    The USASF Rules split skills into 6 specific Levels. Allowing athletes to be placed at a Level where they are comfortable with the skills they will perform leads to a safer environment for the athlete.

    Consistency also leads to a safer environment. Before the USASF, each individual event company created their own set of rules. This meant potentially changing your routine and skills from event to event. Now, with one set of Rules adopted by most major event companies, athletes are not being asked to learn multiple routines throughout the season.

  2. Progression – Once safety is addressed, the next priority of the USASF Rules is ensuring proper progression. The Rules are built so the skills allowed in each Level build off the skills from the previous Level.

    This means, at each Level, a whole range of new skills opens up for the athlete to master. Many parents and athletes equate their tumbling level with their overall Level. The Rules dictate not just what tumbling skills are allowed at each Level but also stunts, baskets, and pyramids.

    To master a specific Level, an athlete must not only master the tumbling skills, they must also master the building skill set for a Level. This applies to all building positions. There are specific skills a base, back spot, or flyer must master at each Level.

    Because mastery of both tumbling and building skill sets is essential to proper progression, in most situations, it is detrimental for an athlete to skip Levels. For an athlete who progresses quickly in tumbling, it is important to remember tumbling is not the only skill set required for cheerleading.

    Parents, your understanding and support of proper progression, in both tumbling and building skill sets, is key to your athlete understanding and committing to proper progression.

  3. Fair Play – The third priority of the USASF Rules is ensuring fair play. Safe, consistent rules with proper progression built in should lead to a fair competition environment. The concept of like versus like, discussed in my Understanding the Age Grid post, again applies here.

    Athletes at the same Level should be athletically similar plus they will be performing the same skill sets dictated by the Rules for the specific Level. When you compete like against like you assume a fairly level playing field.

One of the greatest step forwards in our sport was birthed from the Level System. Before the USASF Rules created progressive Levels with defined skill sets, in most cases, the most successful teams were comprised of elite level tumblers. With the implementation of the Rules and Levels, athletes of all experience and skill levels can enjoy the sport of competitive cheer.

Understanding these 3 key concepts of the USASF Rules is the first step to understanding which level your athlete should be competing at. Next week, we will answer the question, “What Level is my athlete?”

Question – What questions do you have regarding the USASF Rules and Leveling System?

Help! I'm A Cheer Parent!

By: Debbie Love (Coach at Gymtyme AllStars, Louisville, Ky) 

Cheerleader Parent Handbook

"Have you ever thought to yourself “Help! I’m a Cheer Parent!”? I am sure every parent of a child in cheerleading has thought these words. To find the best solutions, we probably should run as quickly as possible to a psychologist. In any sport, athletes deal with many psychological issues. All we want as parents, is for our child to be the best in the gym. That is a very natural desire, and it is okay for us to feel this way. It is only when we try to take over our child’s sport for ourselves that we are in the wrong. I know because I have been there.

Let me give you an example. I have six children, all of whom have cheered and competed in gymnastics. When one of my children, Christi, was six, she had a mental block on her round-off back handspring. It was the day before our family vacation. Well, I just went crazy. I thought, “Oh my gosh, she’s never going to tumble again!” And so I did what every parent does or wants to do for her child—I helped her. I made her do ten standing back handsprings and ten round-off back handsprings every day, on any surface, the entire vacation. She cried, but I still stuck to my plan. I told myself that I was making sure I helped her, just like a good mother should. I had it all wrong. Christi needed to relax, and build confidence. Repetitions (at a higher level of stress) wasn’t helping at all. She was only six years old. She eventually got her back handspring back, but I will never forgive myself for being so psychotic at the time.

Children always realize they are in competition with other athletes. We do not have to constantly remind them of this and compare them to the other children they are competing against. I feel that many of us live vicariously through our children. I know I have. I did not have the opportunities that my children have and I want them to compare favorably to everyone else. I am sure others feel the same way. But, that is a foolish thing for a parent to do. Remember, we are supposed to love and accept our children with no strings attached. This means that they do not have to be as good in the gym as we think they should be in order to gain our love and acceptance.

We all want our children to be in the front so that everyone can see them. I can remember getting so angry because one of my children was behind someone else and I could not see her.

Parents, this sport is not about us. It is about teaching children the nine core values of athletics. No one is in front all of the time or is the best at everything. Even if someone was, cheer does not revolve around your child—be a team player. Your desire should be to want to see improvements in every athlete and, therefore, a better performance by your team.

I can remember a time that my youngest, who was ten at the time, cried because she wanted to base instead of fly. Another time, ,however, she told her coach to take her down so that another little girl could fly. It was really sweet and I was so proud of her because it showed that she cared more about others than about herself (a good character quality for a team athlete to possess).

I believe that the best thing we can do for our children is to let them lead in what they want and to own their own skills. If they do not love what they are doing, their experience will not be valuable to them as humans. I love every minute of my job, and the athlete’s job is his or her sport. My parents were not very involved in my cheerleading. It was me who wanted it, not my parents. I would practice it any time I had the opportunity because it was my love, my passion, and it still is to this day."

For more information on Debbie, visit her website!
Make sure to show her some "love!"