In its first year, only gyms with one Worlds team were eligible for the XS All-Girl and XS Coed divisions. This included satellite and franchise locations of “mega-gyms” although often the subsidiaries were smaller and less-established than the original gym.
For the 2018-19 season, these two divisions have opened up to everyone, regardless of size or Worlds teams, which has been met with mixed reactions from the cheer community.
When initially introduced, there was some reticence that the winners could be true “World Champions” without facing the best of the best. After closely watching the division all season, including an absolutely stunning display of skill and technique at Worlds, there were few who would say these gyms could not hang with the big dogs. Miss Silver from Cheer Express had an undefeated season taking home the first ever gold globe in XS All-Girl, and University Cheer Force Firestorm taking the honors in XS Coed.
The divisions were stacked all season, with many gyms embracing the XS divisions and taking their first teams to Worlds where they believed they would actually have a chance to make it to finals with their extra small teams, instead of battling it out in deep Small Coed and Small All-Girl divisions. It wasn’t so much that they lacked the skills of established gyms, but the numbers on the floor to max out in every category and create the same visuals. On the comparative scoring of the Worlds’ scoresheet, every extra athlete you could put on the floor counts. With the cut-off at 15 athletes in XS, you only needed three stunt groups max, and would be competing against other teams with the same. Against other gyms with similar numbers and resources, XS was meant to be the answer for small gyms across the country— and even a small gym from Australia came into the Senior division for the first time!
With the opening up of the division to ALL, concerns are that the progress made by small gyms in retaining Worlds-eligible athletes— and building a name for themselves on the biggest stages in cheer— will be lost. For medium-sized gyms though, it’s giving them the opportunity to have more than one Worlds team as their gyms grow, and also allows less-established satellite and franchise locations of mega-gyms to enter a division with fewer Worlds-level athletes needed for a team.
Our take? Seeing the strength of the XS teams through the 2017-18 season, opening up the division is not going to affect the already considerable gains made by these gyms, or stop other similar small locations from entering the field. Most flagship locations of mega-gyms will stay out of the division, while their smaller satellite and franchise locations will have a chance to field stronger, or even their first Worlds team. It also gives the opportunity for bigger international gyms who already field strong International Open age teams to bring smaller teams of their younger, yet equally skilled athletes, to compete at Worlds.