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not a sportHow many times have you heard the phrase, “Cheerleading isn’t a sport.” ?

I bet you even read it in that snarky tone that usually accompanies such a statement. I know I wrote it with one!

And honestly, they’re right … technically. But they’re certainly not right in spirit. (Which is why I won’t admit the technicality to them. :) )

The truth is that only parts of cheerleading are considered a “sport” by the complete definition even though it is certainly a highly demanding physical athletic activity. These parts are all star cheerleading and the new STUNT sport.

Those are considered sports because they are meant strictly for competition, and they have very specific governing rules. But high school cheerleading or youth cheerleading does not exist in that same category.

In fact, it’s because cheerleading isn’t technically a sport that we’ve enjoyed such freedom and creativity for many years. Without strict regulation, the sport was allow to grow and evolve in ways that other sports didn’t. And that’s awesome.

However, with the rise of perceived danger in high school cheerleading, there has been a big push on creating standards for safety that get everyone on the same page in high schools across the nation.

AACCA is one of those organizations and they work closely with NFHS Spirit, which also creates standards for cheerleading. Each year they put out their rules which will tell you what you can and can’t do at competition–and what you should and shouldn’t do on the sideline.

Holding to these standards not only helps you keep your team safe but it can also show that you are doing all you can to do so–helping with claims of liability since these are the widely accepted standards.

Cheerleading evolves quickly, so it’s vital that you stay on top of the rule changes which is why I’m really writing this post–to help you get a grip on the new rules for the 2014-2015 season.


The first thing AACCA did was add two definitions: foldover stunts and tumbling.

Tumbling just to clarify that technically tumbling starts and ends on the performing surface. So all of you in non-tumbling divisions can do a skill into a load-in or stunt sequence and not have it count as tumbling (score!).

Foldover stunts was added so that slightly different rules could apply. Since this is a type of inversion, it used to mean that your bases had to be in constant contact with the upper body. However, foldover stunts are safe, but the base must let go at some point so the flyer can pass through. So they broke it out into a different category to give more flexibility and clarity.


Cheerleaders with certain supports, braces, and soft casts would be allowed perform stunts, pyramids, and tosses if they were padded properly, and that is still the case. However, participants in plaster casts can’t, and this year they added that those in walking boots can’t either–but they can still tumble if cleared by a physician.

Transitioning Stunt Groups

It’s becoming more and more popular to transition a flyer from one set of bases to another in some fashion. In fact, it’s a great way to add some visual interest and incorporate more people into your stunt sequences.

This year they added a restriction for those who maybe got a little overzealous last year. Now you can still transition a flyer from one group to another group provided the new group did not just release another flyer.

Basically, the group that’s catching can’t be popping a girl to a different group at the same time they are preparing to catch another girl.


Okay, this is where the real meat of the changes took place. Inversions is a pretty new category for safety standards. It’s been evolving dramatically over the last few years as they take notes from what all-star cheerleading is doing with success.

Let’s start with new allowances. Now an inverted flyer must remain in contact with one or more bases on her upper body unless it is a folder over stunt which we talked about above. Inversions can also now pass through an extended position as long as they start and end at the shoulder level or below.

Now you can also start your flyer in an inverted position on the ground and released to a load position without maintaining constant upper body contact. So she can start in a pushup position and flip over to a load the long way more easily, because all those hands may have even made the stunt less safe before.

Also, single base suspended rolls are allowed to go forward and backward as long as the base is connected with both hands and there is an extra spotter. You can also have an inversion land in a cradle or on the performing surface as long as you keep in mind the typical cradling and landing rules and that you don’t put a twist, toe touch, or other skill in it.

Lastly, let’s look at the restrictions. Good news! There’s only one. It’s that a flyer doing an inversion cannot have anything in her hands. No signs, poms, or anything else.

Regulations often seem stifling, but what I love about cheerleading regulations is that they seem to incorporate more difficulty and allow for more creativity each year. It’s such a unique environment for a sport to grow in.

So people may still say that cheerleading’s not a sport, but now you know that it’s kinda okay that way. And if not now, then someday soon it might be and that’ll be okay too.


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