Happy Olympic Day!

June 23rd is the day we celebrate the Olympic ideals of move, learn and discover. Globally, National Olympic Committees are hosting events for sports, culture, and education which include everybody, regardless of age, gender, social background or sporting ability. It’s all about getting out, having fun and participating in the joy of movement!

For cheerleading, we are a provisionally recognized Olympic sport—one step away from full recognition! With full recognition, we will be able to fully govern our sport through the International Cheerleading Union worldwide, meaning other competing sports federations will no longer have any stake in our sport.

So celebrate all this week using the social hashtags #OlympicDay #cheerleading #ICUCheer and #YourCheerFederation !!

Summer Social Sharing… Is It Ok?

New teams, new bonds, summer sunshine… it’s social media heaven! You literally cannot take a bad pic in summer and you’re guaranteed at least 1.5x the likes than any other time of the year… but, should you be sharing that?

For athletes under 18, there’s a lot to think about when sharing on social media, and it’s not all about you. For parents, when you share photos of kids (both yours and other peoples!) you are wading into the weird territory of digital consent. And for everyone, it’s ultimately about safety; it’s about the friends you tagged in the pic, the location tags, and all your posts combined which help outsiders build out a full profile of who you are, where you live, work and cheer, what your schedule is like and your favorite places to hang out.

It’s not about being a buzzkill, it’s about being smart social media participants and navigating new norms together!

Tips for Athletes

If you’re old enough to have an IG, Twitter, SnapChat, TikTok (even if it’s private, or monitored by mom/dad) there are a few easy precautions to take to keep you—and your friends—safe online.

  • If you’re not on private, consider locking down your profile. Follower counts won’t determine your popularity, even though it might feel like it right now.
  • What you post now WILL affect your adult life. Consider college applications, scholarships, jobs… it feels like all of that is far away but underage drinking, drugs, smoking, even the comments people post can all affect how you are seen. When it comes to social media, perception IS reality.
  • Following on from that, don’t say the n-word, make slant-eyes or anything else you think is harmless but is actually very hurtful to many people. There are lots of ways to be cool and funny, casual racism is not one of them.
  • Unless it’s so obvious there is no point in hiding it, don’t geotag your pics. It gives creepers way too much information about you and the places you like to hang out.
  • Creepers are not your fault, ever. It’s never your fault if they target you, or if they make comments or try to send you direct messages. Lock down your profile, don’t ever communicate with anyone via DM unless you know who they are (you’re going to have to disappoint some fans, sorry kids) and never ever give out your phone number. If something feels off, it probably is, and always tell your parents.
  • If someone posts a pic of you and tags you and you’re not comfortable with it, you have every right to ask them to take it down. If they won’t, ask a parent to contact their parents, or ask a parent to contact their gym. You have a right to feel comfortable with your online presence.
  • Finstas. We all know they exist. And they’re nowhere near as secret or private as you think. Don’t do it. It’s seriously not worth it.

Tips for Parents

There is a fair amount of research going on right now about the effects of social media on young people, especially girls. The psychological effects of being asked to smile, pose and promote brands or products—or just to smile for grandma—values compliance and their physical self over how they feel about participating in an impromptu photo shoot. Kids learn quickly that mom/dad will be happy when I do this, when I pose like this I get more likes and they are even happier. Children thrive off approval!

  • Monitor social media, not just your kids’ accounts but make an account yourself and be actively lurking to watch trends, see what’s going on and what’s popular right now. It may help you save your kid from eating tide pods 😉
  • It’s awesome your 8yr old flyer prodigy can do a worlds’ team stunt on two grown men… we know you’re proud of them, heck we are probably in awe of their talent too! But considering the motions older athletes do, think about the impression that may give to someone else seeing your kid in a sports bra and shorts performing a globe winning stunt. Outside the bubble of cheerleading, is it normal? If in doubt, put a tee on them, it goes a long way to pulling focus to the athletic activity.
  • It’s not your identity to use. Your children are underage and don’t understand consent or what they’re consenting to. You wouldn’t use your child’s social security number to take out lines of credit, similarly, their online identity and digital footprint are theirs to craft when they’re old enough to do so—with your guidance. If they’re in their teens and want to branch out into making YouTube videos and being models for companies, have an honest, open conversation about why they want to do it and support them by monitoring the relationship with the company, the subscribers, comments, and private messages.
  • Be mindful of publicizing the full names and ages of your children, or others. It’s also a good general practice to check with other parents about sharing pics of their kids online.
  • It’s well-known that images of a single child can be more easily manipulated to look sexual and sell for more on the dark web. When celebrating accomplishments, milestones, or just a really great day out, pile everyone into the pics and try to avoid that single perfect kid shot.
  • Unless it’s so obvious there is no point in hiding it, don’t geotag your pics, or take pics outside their school, church or any place you feel safe leaving your children for extended periods of time. It doesn’t take much for a predator to plot your schedule.

Social media is unavoidable and can be a great way for people to connect, share, like and celebrate our sport. There’s a downside to it too, and a dark side. Being aware, checking your profiles regularly, and be cautious of people and brands wanting to use you for their own gain!

Cheer DC Performs at DC Pride!

One of the things we love about cheerleading is that the unity and family a team provides goes far beyond the sport. Cheer DC is an organization in the capital that provides GLBT athletes and their straight allies who were former cheerleaders, gymnasts, dancers, acrobats, etc. ages 21 and up with an outlet to continue active participation in a team sport and utilize athletic skills that may otherwise go unused.

Their aim is:

• To provide an open and affirming environment for these athletes to foster their performance talents and athletic abilities, develop lasting friendships, and deliver support to local GLBT sports teams, events, and charitable activities;

• To volunteer for charitable organizations dedicated to helping the GLBT community in the Washington D.C. metropolitan area;

• To promote diversity, understanding, teamwork, and giving back to the GLBT community of Washington, D.C. metropolitan area and beyond.

 

Laney Madsen, Crossover Queen

Laney Madsen, everyone’s favorite cheerleader turned elite gymnast, not only won Worlds with Cali Rangers this year, but also made her debut in the international elite gymnastics scene representing Bulgaria at the Artistic Gymnastics European Championships.

Read more about Laney at Gymnovosti!

Love Calls Back

It’s Pride Month, and it’s a time to celebrate and show our love and appreciation to our LGBTQI friends and family. The cheer community has been a safe-haven for a long time for those who don’t fit into heteronormative sexualities or cis-gendered identification. But just because you may feel safe and accepted in one space, it doesn’t negate the feelings of loss and harm done when your family doesn’t accept you. This video from Verizon and PFLAG has us in all the feels today.

Find support for LGBTQ families at pflag.org

NCATA Beats Out Stunt for Consideration for NCAA Emerging Sport Recognition

Acro and Tumbling started around the same time as Stunt, with both trying to be an answer to the Title IX requirements that traditional gameday cheerleading didn’t address. While gameday cheerleaders are undoubtedly athletic, especially those at competitive NCA and UCA schools, the structure of traditional cheer programs didn’t meet the requirements to be accepted as a sport—and the coed component made them ineligible to satisfy Title IX. So enter Stunt and the National Collegiate Acro and Tumbling Association (NCATA), both vying to be the first to be recognized and both with strong financial backing.

Stunt began in 2011, funded by Varsity Brands. It attracted gameday cheerleaders, gymnasts, all-star cheerleaders and acro athletes with its concentration on athletic skills and presentation. Teams compete side-by-side on the same mat with the same skills simultaneously, being judged on their technique and execution through stunts, jumps and tumbling, pyramids and tosses, and finally a team performance. USA Cheer (the national governing body for all forms of cheerleading in the US) develops and distributes the plays to participating colleges.

NCATA attracts athletes with a similar background and is backed by USA Gymnastics (the national governing body for all forms of gymnastics, tumbling, trampolining, and acrobatics). Working with USA Gymnastics professionals, acrobatics and tumbling created a compulsory program with skills that include progressions. NCATA meets have 6 scoring elements that include stunts, pyramids, tosses, and tumbling (read more here). Unlike Stunt, athletes committed to Acro and Tumbling do not participate in sideline cheer and are not eligible to compete at NCA or UCA college national competitions; their only focus is on acro and tumbling.

Over the last few years, Stunt and NCATA have been in a battle for recognition as an emerging sport and this week, the NCAA Committee on Women’s Athletics finally decided to recommend advancing NCATA. In their statement, the CWA cited acro and tumbling athletes being fully integrated within athletics departments, the potential growth of the sport, the enjoyment of participating athletes and meeting all the objective criteria for emerging sport consideration as reasons for supporting its advancement.

While Stunt will likely continue at various colleges and high schools around the country as a rigorous and challenging sport for its participants, we would like to congratulate the NCATA for their hard work in developing a strong, athletic and commanding sport for cheerleaders to continue through college.

For more info, see here.

4 Ways to Take A Mental Break Without Leaving the Gym

Cheer is a year-round sport, there really is no off-season! Even if you don’t physically need a break, your brain probably does. Taking a mental break can help you reset and actually make your skills better and easier to achieve because you’re not so focused on that singular outcome. But, if you’re anything like I was as a kid, the thought of being away from the gym in summer makes your heart hurt.

So how do you give yourself time off without having time off?

Continue Reading

Trust Your Choice

Waiting for team placements and having anxiety? It’s ok! It’s perfectly normal. Even if know which team you’re going to make, there’s always a little bit of worry in the back of your mind. Here are three things to think about while you wait for that email or phone call:

Trust Your Choice

If you’re trying out at a new gym or staying at your home gym, trust your choice. You made it for a reason, whether that’s because you wanted new experiences or you are ready to be a leader. The benefits of a new gym mean that you are being judged on solely on the tryout skills you showed in tumbling and/or stunt group workouts. The downside is they don’t know how you work on a team, whether you show leadership skills, or how well you handle the pressure. If you’re staying at your home gym, you have all the benefits of the coaches knowing you and how you developed over the last year! It might also mean they place you in a position that they think is best for the gym as a whole but might not feel right for you. Either way, when you find out your placement, remember why you chose that gym and trust the choice you made before the emotions kicked in. Continue Reading

Your Daughter Won’t Fly Forever

This post by Jason Larkins is a MUST READ for all cheer parents and athletes.

“My first year of coaching all-star cheerleading, on the first day of practice, we walked into our team of 20 girls ready to get things started. It was your typical first day of practice; we started off with introductions, eventually got into a little tumbling, and finally, it was time to stunt. Again, however, being our first day, we really didn’t know any of the athletes on the team; we didn’t know who the flyers were, who based, or anyone’s strengths, or weaknesses.

So we did the classic coach move, “Alright ladies, line up shortest to tallest.” That’s when we found out that most of our girls were the same height. Ok, plan b. “If you’re a flyer, step forward.” That’s when we found out that most of our girls were flyers as well. Hmmm… And this is not an exaggeration, every athlete who stepped forward as a flyer, who eventually didn’t fly on that team, resulted in a parent meeting, literally. Every. Single. One. And it’s been happening ever since, at every gym across America.”

Read more HERE.

 

 

What’s a level 7, anyway?

With every new season, the USASF seems to be bringing new changes. Last year was the introduction of the Non-Tumbling division and Senior Open allowing US teams to compete in what was known as the “international open” age division but without the three teams per country rule going into finals at worlds. Both were met with mixed reviews, and while Non-Tumbling divisions are growing hugely for the 2019-2020 season, we still miss seeing Wildcats vs Nfinity vs OO5 vs Gymtyme vs Anacondas fighting through US Trials.

For this upcoming season, the biggest change the USASF has made is to move Restricted 5 to 5, level 5 renamed to level 6, and level 6 up to 7. With it comes a few rules changes as well, introducing free-flipping inversion skills like rewinds into the level 6 division. Why the change? We can only imagine it’s to smooth out progressions and work in partnership with the IASF, USASF’s international counterpart. It makes sense to shift the divisions up to allow for clarity (hopefully many more gyms will use level 5 as a building level to a worlds level 6 team) and to allow certain skills progressions that make the transition through the levels easier for athletes. If it was up to us, we’d suggest levelling skills at 7 to allow flipping baskets and step up pyramids, and introduce a level 8 with flipping and twisting baskets, with flipping and twisting pyramids.

Worlds will still only be level 6 and 7 senior, senior open, and international open aged teams, with The Summit being the ultimate end of season championship for level 5.

We do salute the USASF in their aim to grow, progress and level our sport appropriately for all ages and athlete skill levels, although it might take us some time to get used to the newly named levels!