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?