CBS Story Deceives the Public
CBS Story Deceives the Public
News' Early Show aired a short segment on cheerleading safety (www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=4511525n
They interviewed me for 15 to 20 minutes, but reduced my interview to a
five-second sound bite taken out of context. Let's ignore that for a
moment and deal with the issues addressed in the CBS
“There is no regulation”
As I told the reporter Ms. Cobiella, while improvements can be made,
cheerleading is regulated similarly to football, basketball, softball
and other sports. There is no national regulation of any of those
sports. In secondary schools they are governed by the state high
school association which governs athletics and activities following
standardized national rules. While this is the case for cheerleading
with most states but not all states, that is different than “no
regulation.” At the college level, they are governed by the NCAA
. For non-school teams, they are regulated by their associations such as Pop Warner
, Amateur Athletic Union
or in the case of cheerleading, the US All Star Federation.
“There is no one rule book”
is no “one rule book” for any sport. However, there is a consistent set
of rules for the different levels of cheerleading like with other
sports. Most state high school associations require that their cheer
teams follow NFHS
rules as they do with other sports. The NCAA
uses the college level rules from the American Association of Cheerleading Coaches and Administrators
The non-school teams known as “all star” use the US All Star Federation
Level Rules. This is akin to high school gymnastics following the NFHS
rules for gymnastics, non-school gymnastics following the rules from USA Gymnastics
, and college gymnastics following the rules set by the NCAA
“…with higher stunts at a younger age and a bigger risk.”
false. As I explained to Ms. Cobiella and even demonstrated with
vintage photographs, cheerleading over the last 20 years has seen
dramatic changes in the skills cheerleaders are allowed to perform and
the surfaces on which they are allowed to perform them. College teams
are no longer allowed to perform 3-high pyramids and do double flips
from them. High school teams and high school-age all star teams are no
longer allowed to perform flipping basket tosses. All star teams have
progressive levels that are also age-based. For example, the youngest
cheerleaders are not allowed to do any release moves or aerial
tumbling. As with gymnastics, they must demonstrate proficiency before
progressing to the next level.
high schools and colleges in most states, cheerleading is more like the
chess club -- it's considered an activity, not a sport. And often,
there's no referee to blow the whistle on dangerous stunts.”
quite a few states designate cheerleading as a sport. Several others
designate it as an “athletic activity” and have higher requirements
than their “sport” counterparts. Still others that don't give
cheerleading a separate designation still regulate cheerleading and
require regular rules meetings, coaches' education and conduct a state
championship. Many states have cheerleading coaches associations which
conduct safety education courses and annual conferences where national
experts conduct courses in safety, technique and program management.
Which brings us to the 22
words attributed to me out of a 15 to 20
First, my quote: "You
know what? As bad as this may sound, the parent really is ultimately
the person who has to blow that whistle," says Jim Lord, executive
director of the American Association of Cheerleading Coaches and
Now, the context. This quote was given
during the discussion of how all sports are regulated. As I explained
to Ms. Cobiella, the designation of “sport” doesn't change the
importance of the involvement at the local level of the administration,
coaches, athletes and parents. There are no “football police” that come
around to blow the whistle on football coaches that aren't following
the standard of care during practice. That job falls to the athletics
director who must know what is going on with athletics in their
school. The only time football or any other sport is regulated by the
state association directly is during athletic contests or when an
infraction has been brought to their attention – often due to the
involvement of a parent. I was speaking to the fact that in cases
where a coach is not following the rules and the administration is not
addressing problems, it is up to the parent to take action. It wasn't
an indictment of a system used by every sport or athletic activity; it
was part of a call for parents to help make sure safety procedures are
being followed. I have requested the entire unedited video interview
to be shown on the CBS
site. The last communication I received
was that they can put up part of it. I would like to see the entire
video because as I recall, the last part of my comment they used
included the phrase “just like in football or basketball.” I believe
that part was edited out but I will have to see the entire video to see
if there was this level of selective video or if I had just stated that
elsewhere in the discussion.
my quote was placed in a position to make it look like I agreed with
Ms. Cobiella's assertion that there are no regulations.
over four million cheerleaders participating annually, there are likely
to be situations where they are asked to perform skills they aren't
ready to perform. Indeed, there may be injuries that could have been
avoided or at least mitigated by following the established safety rules
and procedures that have been in place since 1987 and are updated
annually. This is precisely why AACCA
developed the Cheerleading Safety Course
; to help educate coaches and minimize the risk of injury in cheerleading. Our goal, along with our partners at the National Federation of High Schools
, the US All Star Federation
and the National Collegiate Athletic Association
is to reduce the rate of injury to cheerleaders.
every cheerleading “safety” article in recent years has used studies
that go back over 20 years. That doesn't paint an accurate picture of
the current state of cheerleading safety. Over the last few years,
injury statistics for cheerleading have not gone up at the same rate as
participation. In fact, from 2001
emergency room visits went down3
% for the high school and college age group (14 – 21). The NCAA
has not had a catastrophic injury claim for a cheerleading injury since
it required that all teams were supervised by a safety certified coach.
has a role to play in safety, including the administrators and gym
owners, coaches, athletes and parents. Together, we can continue the
recent trends in cheerleading safety even as cheerleading participation
increases across the country.
What role do coaches
play in safety? As the person directly supervising, the coach has the primary responsibility for safety
. They must
know the rules for their level and follow them diligently. They must
know the standards in place for performer readiness, requiring
proficiency before progression, and how to best handle emergencies.
They must be able to recognize their own limitations as well as those
of the individual athletes. Finally, coaches must establish an
understanding that safety is important and that if anyone feels there
is a cause for concern that they are allowed to voice it.
What role do administrators
play? Whether they are athletics directors or principals in a school
setting or whether they are the gym owners in a non-school program,
administrators must provide support and oversight of the cheerleading
program. They must be familiar with the basic rules and safety
procedures in order to evaluate their coaches and their cheer programs.
They must hire qualified coaches and have them properly trained not
only in risk management techniques like those taught in the AACCA
course, but also in instructional techniques of specific skills like partner stunts, pyramids and gymnastics where appropriate.
What role do athletes
play? As the person who is directly at risk, cheerleaders must be able
to voice their concerns about safety if they feel they are being pushed
too hard to do a skill they are not prepared to perform or if there is
any other safety concern. They also bear a responsibility to follow the
safety rules and progressions and to be attentive when performing
skills or spotting them. If the cheerleader feels that they cannot
voice a safety concern to the coach or administration, they should
voice it to their parents.
What role do parents
play? A vital one. In any sport there is only so much that a state
association or even a national organization can do. Parents should make
sure that their coaches are following established standards,
established rules and have the proper training in safety techniques. If
a certified athletic trainer is not present, as is the case in many
sports, someone on site should be trained in CPR
and first aid
techniques as a first responder. There should be an emergency plan in
place and everyone should know and have practiced it. If a coach is
not following the rules and is jeopardizing the safety of the
participants, parents are often the only ones that can speak up – and
they should. If the safety concerns are not addressed by the coach or
administration, they should be escalated to the school board. If in the
end appropriate changes aren't made, it is the parent's duty to find
another place for their child to cheer or find another athletic outlet.
This isn't an easy decision to make, but the parent holds the final
card in making sure their child is in a safe environment.
These roles aren't only true of cheerleading. They are true for any sport or activity.
Cheerleading safety is too important to be the victim of careless reporting by CBS
News or anyone else. Can it be safer, of course. However, there have
been tremendous strides made in the past 5 years in all areas of
cheerleading to make it safer. To ignore this good work, that has
literally touched hundreds of thousands of cheerleaders and
coaches,completely misses the point of making safety an important goal
and recognizing advancements toward that end.
The US All Star Federation
) and the International All Star Federation
) govern club based cheerleading worldwide. In the past 5 years, the USASF-IASF
have offered the following through our over 20,000
members in 30
1. Conducted knowledge and skills testing for over 8,000
all star coaches promoting the latest, safest, techniques for teaching cheerleading.
2. Credentialed over 15,000 all star athletes to promote their ability
to safely perform at the skill level in which they were competing.
3. Annually sanctioned over 600
competitions worldwide to standardize safety procedures and processes.
4. Developed and promulgated one set of rules accepted for all star cheerleading worldwide.
5. Certified all star gyms that meet the highest standards of educational safety.
6. Published All Star Cheer Magazine
sent to 5,000
all star gyms quarterly to promote safety and legitimacy.
7. Offered college scholarships for deserving all star athletes.
, when the first football rules book was published, the NFHS
has been focused on providing rules books for 17 high school sports
that are comprehensive, complete, and excellent guides for coaches. The
has continued to have as its first priority the minimizing
of risk for our student athletes and increasing safety for the sport.
Spirit teams have had the NFHS
rules book since the 1988-89
school year and the current rules book is the 21st
one published for spirit teams that include cheer, dance, drill and
pom. As a result, spirit teams from all over the country have minimized
risk by following the NFHS
rules book. Over the years we have
seen spirit coaches understand the tremendous benefit of this rules
book and have developed a greater understanding of the rules and issues
required to be a successful, safe coach.
today requires skills and knowledge that can be learned and practice by
coaches to ensure that young athletes learn the valuable life lessons
that can be acquired in this setting. The NFHS
comprehensive professional development program for all coaches
including coaches of spirit programs that delivers the skills and
knowledge necessary to be an effective coach at the interscholastic
high school level. The NFHS
Coach Education Program can be
delivered in face-to-face clinics as well as online. Today’s coaches
are entrusted with teaching young people not only sport techniques, but
also the skills and principles they need to be successful in life.
Coaches need knowledge about their legal duties as a coach, care and
prevention of injuries to athletes, drug and alcohol abuse recognition
and response, how to communicate with athletes and parents effectively,
and how to teach and plan sport skills properly. The NFHS
Coach Education Program teaches, through effective courses, all these responsibilities.
in the state of Georgia is an athletic sport. Along with the title of
sport has come responsibilities for both coaches and officials. Every
coach and community (lay) coach in the state must attend a yearly
training session where safety, liability, sportsmanship, NFHS
rules, and competition are covered.
The Georgia Cheerleading Coaches' Association
, along with the Georgia High School Association
, worked hard to make this a mandatory requirement for every cheerleading coach in the state. Each coach is provided with a GHSA
Cheer Manual with the material in the manual. Each school is able to order the NFHS
rules book through the GHSA
. Coaches and officials are offered the NFHS
test to further their training.
with this mandatory course, coaches may select to take one or both of
the nationally recognized safety courses at the Georgia Cheerleading
Coaches' spring conference in March. These courses not only address
safety, liability, and program management but also address stunting
safety, training, progressions, and choreography. Another conference is
held in June where courses may be offered.
To further educate
our coaches and to make sure they remain up-to-date we maintain a
web-site with interpretations, videos/rules, announcements, and other
information pertaining to both officials and coaches. When interpreting
stunts we are able to ask members of the NFHS
to review and to provide us with appropriate rulings. This way we are
able to confirm that we are on the right track and understand the rules
while conveying that message to all of our officials and coaches.
The Florida High School Athletic Association
believes that safety is at the top of the priority list when it comes
to Competitive and Sideline Cheerleading in the State of Florida. This
is demonstrated by the requirement for all Competitive Cheerleading
head coaches to be Safety Certified by the American Association of Cheerleading Coaches and Administrators
). Additionally, all Competitive Cheerleading Teams and Sideline Cheerleading Squads of FHSAA
Member Schools are required to follow National Federation of State High School Associations
) Spirit Rules as noted in S. 1006.18, FLORIDA STATUTES – Safety Standards for Cheerleaders.
In addition to the aforementioned requirements, FHSAA
Competitive Cheerleading is held to the same standard as any other FHSAA
sport. Annual Rules Presentations must be viewed by the coaches and/or
administrator at each member school and specific policies and bylaws
set forth by the FHSAA
must be met. Furthermore, there are also numerous workshops, courses and conferences hosted in conjunction with the Florida Athletic Coaches Association
to provide the most up-to-date safety instruction and certification to
Competitive and Sideline Cheerleading coaches and administrators across
the state. This instruction and certification is provided by AACCA
takes great pride in its efforts to keep the student-athletes safety at
the forefront when it comes to Competitive and Sideline Cheerleading.
As we continue to move forward with Competitive and Sideline
Cheerleading, we closely monitor the safety standards set forth by our
Association as well as the NFHS
. It is our
hope that with this concerted effort, the safety of our
student-athletes will continue to be held at the highest degree.
All spirit programs in Illinois must comply with the NFHS
Spirit Rules Book and spirit coaches are required to attend an annual Illinois High School Association
) Spirit Rules Meeting
sponsored and conducted by the Association. Illinois has an active
coaches association which also provides leadership in areas of safety,
technique and coaching management. Competitive cheer coaches are
required to comply with the IHSA
coaching By-law which is the same for all IHSA
has both sideline and competitive cheerleading which falls under both
the activity and sport by-laws of the Association. Illinois has offered
a state championship for cheerleading for the past four years.
is important for our association to provide the leadership for safe
participation of all of our spirit participants from competition to
sideline experiences. It requires a collaborative effort of student
athletes, parents, school coaches, school administrators, state offices
and national association to work in tandem to continue to be advocated
for the safety of all student athletes.Kansas' #1 goal in cheerleading is "Safety."
It is mandatory for new head cheer coaches to attend a Spirit Safety Rules Meeting
during their first year. Thereafter, all head coaches must attend
required safety rules meetings at least every other year and complete a
safety rules test. Rules meetings are offered annually at all KSHSAA
summer cheer camps and fall spirit clinics. The NFHSSpirit Coaches Education Program
, including AACCA
certification, is encouraged and annual courses are offered as an option for all cheer coaches. KSHSAA
requires member schools to strictly follow all NFHS
Spirit Rules with one exception basket tosses have been prohibited for
many years to minimize the possibility of a serious accident and/or
In addition to the above, head cheer coaches of
competitive cheer squads are required to hold a current teaching
certificate or complete the American Sports Education First Aid course
and Coaches Principles
course. Cheerleaders are covered under the mandatory KSHSAA
catastrophic insurance plan like all sport athletes.
In the state of NH
, Spirit is considered a sport and is held to the same standard as all of our recognized sports. Our Spirit programs follow NFHS
rules, and our coaches are held to the same eligibility standard as all
others. In addition they are required to attend an annual safety clinic
as safety of our student athletes is always at the forefront.
believes that the safety of cheerleaders is first and foremost the most
important area that we must focus on. All cheer coaches in Mississippi MUST
certified as well as being CPR
certified. All cheer coaches must attend a mandatory rules clinic each
year. This meeting is held to inform all coaches of the latest rules
that have been approved by the National Federation of High School
). All the MHSAA
members schools follow the rules of the NFHS
The MHSAA takes tremendous strides in promoting the safety of all cheerleaders in Mississippi.
safety of Missouri cheerleaders if our highest priority and something
we stress each year. All cheer coaches must satisfy the coaching and
first aid requirements established by the member schools prior to
approval to serve as a cheer coach. Missouri follows all National Federation of High School
) Spirit Rules and requires the head cheer coach to attend a required MSHSAA
rules meeting each year. The purpose of the meeting is to explain any rule changes put in place by the NFHS
as well as MSHSAA
.Since 1987 Cheer has been a recognized sport in the state of West Virginia.
All member schools must follow all NFHS
Spirit rules as well as all West Virginia rules and regulations. All
head coaches are required to attend a yearly cheer rules clinic. All
competitions must be sanctioned by the WVSSAC
ensuring that all safety rules and regulations are followed and that
registered officials are used to oversee the safety of the competition
and participants. All officials are required to complete training and
must pass the NFHS/WV
spirit test every year.
educational opportunities are offered to coaches and officials to
enhance their knowledge of the sport through out the year. Various
courses are offered including AACCASafety Certification
. Coaches who do not
have a valid WV teaching certificate must complete a 14 hour course including ASEPCoaching Principals
, First Aid
and WV Rules and Regulations-passing 3 written tests
Since 1987 WVSSAC
has had a state tournament for the sport of cheer as it has in all of
the other sports. West Virginia has always strongly advocated that
cheerleaders are to be treated as athletes. Safety has always been a
concerted effort of this office, administrators, coaches and officials
to protect the student athlete in all of the sports which includes
cheer, sponsored by this office.
content is the property of The American Association of Cheerleading
Coaches and Administrators unless otherwise noted. Reproduction without
consent is expressly prohibited with the exception of personal use for
cheerleading and dance teams.
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