Is Cheer Losing its Transparency?

by Bill Presson

Imagine a football game where the crowd can’t see the score until it’s posted on a website later in the week.
Imagine a basketball game without any box score showing totals for baskets or free throws or fouls.
Imagine a baseball game without statistics on hits, runs or errors.
Imagine a gymnastics meet without announcing the score after each routine.

It’s ridiculous and none of us would accept any of the above situations under any circumstances. But that’s what parents and fans of all-star cheer face every single competition.

In the cartoon version of “How the Grinch Stole Christmas”, little Cindy Lou Who wandered into the room as the Grinch was stealing everything. When asked “why?” the Grinch smiled, gave a lame excuse and patted her head as he hustled her out and back to her sweet dreams. All-star cheer parents and fans can see themselves as little Cindy Lou Who’s every time they ask about scores.

There have been past instances of some event producers doing much better. The National Cheerleaders Association (NCA) used to announce scores within a few minutes after each routine. CHEERSPORT used to post scores on their website and on a rolling screen at the competition within a few hours after the end of each division. But those situations don’t still exist today.

After almost every competition, social media will be filled with complaints about the placements. If the complete scores were available as PART of the competition, much (obviously not all) of the drama would be averted. When there is a lack of information, conspiracy theories fill the vacuum. Even with complete scores being released, not everyone is going to understand them. Education across the sport can help with that. But no one can understand scores if they aren’t revealed.

In addition, the total score of a routine is only part of the story. What about all the deductions and component scores that make up the total? Why shouldn’t we see the score for basket tosses or pyramids or tumbling? Why shouldn’t we have details on when and where the deductions occurred? Obviously, the specific person can’t be identified (the athletes don’t wear numbers in this sport), but the time of the deduction and area of the mat can be marked.

Why should customers continue to pay the thousands of dollars each year only to be kept in the dark on scoring? The answer is that they shouldn’t.

Here are some of the excuses I’ve been given over the years for the current situation:

It would hurt the athletes’ feelings if the deductions and low scores were published.

Really? Athletes of all ages in all sports have errors and penalties and fouls printed all over. I didn’t like seeing “E6” when I played shortstop, but it was an incentive to do better.

Not publishing the scores until much later allows for correction of mistakes.

This is purely an event producer quality control issue and needs to be fixed. If it truly takes hours to score a routine, then the sport needs to be revised. We all want accuracy, but it cannot take that long.

It’s up to the coach/gym owner to distribute the scores.

We’re long past the time when all communication for parents and fans needed to flow through the gym. Over the past 15 years, the sport has created a large number of fans that are no longer affiliated with a gym. They should get information directly like fans of any sport.

Releasing the scores after each routine would eliminate the excitement of award ceremonies.

Every other sport with subjective judging does it and I’m pretty sure the winners are still pretty happy.

Some coaches have specifically requested that event producers not release the scores. Their concern is that parents/fans will see how poorly their team scored and blame the coach.

Frankly, I don’t care about the coaches’ feelings or how it will impact their career. The good ones will take the low score as good feedback and improve. The bad ones will be driven out of the business.

In defense of the event producers, all-star cheer is incredibly difficult to score because of the number of athletes on the floor and the speed of the activity. But that needs to be overcome by improving the judging. Either get better judges or get more judges with specific duties during the routines.

To have a single child in cheer can easily exceed $10-15 thousand per year counting gym fees, competition fees, music fees, practice clothes, uniforms, hotel costs (Stay to Play – ugh), airlines, etc. Parents are going to make value judgments and many are trying to redirect their child’s interest away from all-star cheer. I’ve seen a number of conversations recently about the decline in participation across the country. There are a number of reasons for that decline and this is one of them.

Let’s cut out some of the wasted cost on glitz, glamour, participation trophies and uniforms and spend that money on more and better judging.

Until then, let’s at least shine some light on the entire situation and release ALL of the scores and do it as soon as they are available. The athletes, parents and fans of all-star cheer deserve it.

CheerDaily Staff

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