As the all-star cheerleading industry has blossomed, an array of organizations has also sprung onto the cheer scene—resulting in a virtual alphabet soup of acronyms from ASGA to NCSSE to USASF. Learn more about each group and how to decipher your options as a cheer professional with this handy-dandy slide show!
American Association of Cheerleading Coaches and Administrators (AACCA)
First founded in 1988, this non-profit educational association is dedicated to safety education. Its more than 70,000 member cheerleading coaches represent areas ranging from youth to high school to all-star to collegiate cheer and more. AACCA also provides ongoing certification opportunities for coaches and administrators, as well as secondary liability insurance coverage.
The national governing body for the all-star cheer industry, the USASF was founded in 2003 by the collective group of National Cheerleaders Association (NCA), Universal Cheerleaders Association (UCA), Cheersport and America’s Best. Today the org has more than 500 member gyms and 130 competition sponsors, all of which agree to follow a standard set of rules set forth by the USASF. USASF also offers coach and athlete credentialing, scholarship programs, and other special programs. In conjunction with International All-Star Federation (IASF), USASF hosts the annual Cheerleading Worlds competition in Orlando, FL.
- National Advisory Board
A subset of the USASF, the National Advisory Board is comprised of 25 members, all of whom serve two-year terms and are elected by the overall membership. Its purpose is to “set the agenda for the USASF as it addresses the future in a manner that will democratically represent the entire membership of the USASF.” The majority of the NAB are coaches and event producers (10 each), while the remaining five advisory board members represent affiliates.
National Small Gyms Association
The NSGA is dedicated to recognizing and meeting the unique needs of small gyms with less than 75 members. (Once a gym grows to more than 150 athletes, it is no longer eligible to be part of NSGA.) In recent years, the NSGA merged its organization with the USASF, and annual fees are now included in overall USASF membership. The association meets annually at the NACCC to further the interests of small gyms across the nation.
Also a subset of the USASF (since 2005), the NACCC is held every January in Atlanta, GA, and is designed to give USASF members from across the country “a voice in the government.” At this industry meeting of the minds, rules changes and other policies of note are discussed and voted on by the membership at large. It now also encompasses the annual NSGA meeting since the group has joined forces with USASF.
Headed by Liz Rossetti of Americheer, the NCSSE features an international council of industry leaders whose aims are to provide comprehensive safety training and certification for spirit coaches and advisors. Nine countries are represented in its membership, and its board members include Americheer, British Cheerleading Association, Southwestern Cheerleading Association, Cheer Ltd. and UPA Cheer and Dance.
Founded in September 2009 by a core group of eight companies (Mardi Gras, UPA Cheer & Dance, Cheer America, Pac West, WSA, Spirit Celebration, Champion Cheer and Cheer Ltd.), IEP serves as an independently functioning group of event producers who come together for the greater good. (Eligible members are independent companies with revenues of $5 million+ that are not owned or controlled by any spirit industry entity.) Since its inception, IEP has grown to more than 20 member companies and held its first all-member conference in Las Vegas in 2010.
The largest spirit trade association in the world, ASIP features more than 100 participating countries internationally. Among its members are educational organizations, suppliers, publications, competition organizers, safety organizations and gym owner groups. This large-scale organization represents an August 2011 merger between Organization of Spirit Industry Providers (OSIP) and the Spirit Industry Trade Association (SITA).
The ASGA was founded in 2012 to give new voice to gym owners and coaches through “democracy, transparency and free market.” A major part of its mission is to lower overall cost for athletes and increase economic viability for gym owners. It takes an active stance on industry issues, and in spring 2012, published the results of its membership survey on the new USASF rules changes. The organization’s first “Town Hall Meeting” was held in April 2012 in Lake Buena Vista, FL.
Between Tate Chalk’s take-no-prisoners talk and the organization’s open letter to the USASF, the All-Star Gym Association (ASGA) is making its voice heard—and many cheer professionals are listening. In its open letter, the ASGA put USASF on the hot seat on a number of its concerns, specifically:
· Tax structure: ASGA inquires as to the current tax structure of the USASF, citing the prospect of mandated athlete membership as the main area of concern. Reads the letter: “Gym owners would like a transparent view of spending and expenses so as to be the best stewards of our customers’ fees.”
· STUNT: The ASGA also asks for more information about the STUNT movement, where it stands in the bigger picture and its potential ramifications on all-star cheerleading. Reads the letter: “Who from within our leadership is in charge of safeguarding the interests of our businesses and will be responsible for prioritizing all-star cheerleading within the umbrella of other cheer-related activities?”
· Board of Directors: In the letter, the ASGA requests an “immediate, open election” of the Board of Directors and President, along with access to board meeting minutes and financial statements. The letter also poses questions about the USASF’s financial and professional ties to Varsity, with an emphasis on moving toward independence.
· Athlete Membership Fees: If and when mandatory athlete membership is introduced, the ASGA wants to know which USASF programs and expenses will be supported by the funds. Another potential concern is the privacy and confidentiality of athletes’ personal information captured in the USASF client database.
It’s only a matter of time until the USASF responds, and if ASGA has its way, they’ll get answers by October 12th (as requested in the letter). That’s just a few days away…and we’ll keep you posted as to what transpires.
All-star cheerleading is not a “mainstream” sport. Getting kids to walk into gyms is tougher than getting them to play in a basketball league. In light of this, our community needs to rally around each other now more than ever. But how do we show the kids and parents outside of our industry that All-Star cheerleading can and should be picked over soccer, basketball or any other “main stream” sport?
We need to remind ourselves of the many great aspects of our sport. The MAJORS is what got me thinking about this. Thousands of athletes, coaches and fans came together to celebrate the athletes competing. While promoting this event, I learned that all of these athletes have so many things in common. To hear athletes talk about their love for their teammates, coaches, and parents; their desire to be the best; the commitment they have to their team and sport; and their tremendous respect for their competitors is both amazing and inspiring. These athletes have learned so much about life by being an all-star cheerleader!
Cheerleading is about so much more than just winning. It’s about the journey, the friendships, the hard work, the education and being a part of a team. These are the things we must remember and continue to promote to those outside our sport to encourage growth. We need all gym owners and coaches to understand and live by this thought process. Coaches have the unique ability to be involved in a child’s life for a decade or more, to watch these children grow as people. If these values are instilled into our athletes, “success” will happen both on and off the floor.
We have to take to heart why these kids truly get involved in sports. They love making friends, feeling good when they accomplish goals, having fun in what they are doing, being part of a team. If we all promote these ideas, the participation in all-star cheerleading will grow. I truly believe it is that simple. We HAVE to remember that cheerleading is about so much more than the placements at events—just like Little League Baseball is about so much more than getting to the Little League World Series. I believe one of the main goals of youth competitive sports is to teach life lessons to children.
Coaches: are you giving adequate importance to values, ethics and life skills training? Or are these messages getting lost amid the pressure to win? We all know that it feels good to win and be rewarded for the effort and time put into practice. But we have to remember that not everyone can win every time and there are many more lessons learned from a loss than a win. Are we teaching our athletes these lessons?
Programs all across the United States and the entire world need to realize that to grow cheerleading; we need to be in this together! You may share a city with multiple gyms or there may be a gym just two miles away. All gyms have a responsibility to grow all-star cheerleading in their city. Remember, you are not competing against other gyms for athletes; you are competing against those other sports for athletes.
IF all of us can focus on the wonderful things all-star cheerleading provides for youth, IF we can embrace every child for what they contribute to their team, IF we all work together and support each other as an industry, our sport WILL grow to new heights. We know how great it is—now let’s show everyone else why all-star cheerleading is a great sport for kids. Please…Do Your Part!
The JAM Brands
The hang drill: Simple. Easy. Fundamental. At least that’s what many cheerleaders and coaches think and therefore quickly overlook it, when in fact, the hang drill is the single most important component to advancing into elite skills.
Taking time at the beginning of the season to focus on the hang drill and work at it until a group can perform it perfectly will pay off tenfold throughout the season. So let’s fix our hang drills!
One of the most common technique problems when it comes to hang drills has to do with the position of the top girl’s hips and knees. Too often, coaches will instruct top girls to load in with their knees up high. When the top girl’s knees are high, making the tops of her thighs parallel to the ground, her hips and center of gravity are positioned too far behind and below her legs to properly stand up quickly.
Instead, coaches should be constantly reminding their top girls to load into a hang drill with her hips higher than her knees. When a top girl’s hips are elevated above her knees and her chest is upright, she is in the best position possible to safely and quickly stand straight up without having to lean forward.
This one correction allows for the top person to transfer her weight out of her legs and into her upper body quickly, which in turn allows the bases to explode and drive the top girl to the top of the stunt.
President/CEO of The Spirit Consultants
Co-Owner of Skillz on Demand
When asked by CheerProfessional to define success, I had to evaluate what success meant to me. Success by definition is characterized by three points: 1) prosperous termination of attempts or endeavors; 2) attainment of wealth/position/honors; or 3) successful performance or achievement. There are many professional roles in our industry, and each of those roles can be weighed differently but all stay true to the definition.
But what defines a successful professional in the cheerleading industry? In reference to cheerleading gyms, individuals may see success as creating their own stand-alone program or having the largest gym or most athletes. For event producers, success might be measured by the quality of their event or by its size in numbers. And coaches and choreographers might measure their success by the overall score their teams are given during a performance.
But as for my personal view of success, it goes back to my focus and the reason I am passionate about this industry that we work in—and that is the kids. I view my own success by making the industry a better and safer place for the next generation of All-Star cheerleaders. I am a product of the All-Star World. I have been lucky enough to work year-round in a competitive and ever-changing sport that I love. I am able to teach proper technique and rules to teams all over the country as well as overseas. As a choreographer, I am able to bring confidence and creativity to teams and make them shine. And as an event producer, I am able to create quality events where teams are promised fair, affordable, and fun competition. To me, I would say that I am successful because I do what I love and love what I do.
Liz Gigante, event producer and gym owner of Vancouver All-Stars shares this focus with me and it was refreshing to hear how her gym measures their success. “Success at Vancouver All-Stars is not defined by the number of trophies or banners on our walls; that is what you see upon entering our gym. That is what the outside world thinks we view as ‘success.’ However, the ones living and breathing VAS’ success know that VAS is about helping our athletes reach their potential and to prepare them for the real world via the lessons taught in our amazing sport. When the gold fades, our love for our gym and each other stands strong and long. Watching our athletes grow up to do amazing things with their lives knowing they were each a force in contributing to the history of ‘VAS Excellence’ elicits pride and a true feeling of success. This was a part of the vision that the gym was founded on.”
Gigante has numerous national titles and has consistently been among the highest-placing international teams at the Cheerleading Worlds, but that is not how she measures her success. The team at Vancouver All-Stars has produced amazing coaches who have graduated from the program and are now giving back, athletes that have gone on to major universities (including the University of Louisville), and athletes with character, class, and respect which makes VAS a success in Gigante’s eyes.
But to ask “What defines being a successful professional in the cheer industry?” depends on the goals of that particular person. To some, success means the impact left in the industry and some may see it as the yearly salary they rake in. Others may view your success by the teams that you work, maybe by the number of rings on your fingers, or maybe by the way you made their child feel.
I feel that it’s healthy to compare yourself and your program to others when validating your success as long as you take all variables into consideration. If you’re a choreographer who has only been teaching for a few years, you cannot compare yourself to someone who has been well-established and around for a decade, unless the comparison is to when they were just starting out. As a gym owner, you cannot compare your small-town program to a program that exists in a major city much larger than that of your own. My suggestion would be to recognize all of your accomplishments—large or small—and weigh your success by your ability to set goals and achieve them.
With the ever-growing nature of our industry, some many strive for success or fame unethically or in an unhealthy manner. Some think that winning equates to success, but that is not always the case. When the focus of the program is only to win, many things can be lost. Unethical gym practices, recruiting from other gyms, and sacrificing athlete safety for advanced level skills are unfortunately all too common nowadays. And is there pride in creating championship athletes if you sacrifice championship character?
Success is not a milestone or a rite of passage, but instead it should be seen as a journey. In this industry, your experience as an athlete will make you a better coach or gym owner. Let your experiences and accomplishments along the way define your success and, like the many accomplished and successful professionals in this industry, always strive to achieve more and to be better!
I find my generation of industry professionals grateful to have so many positive role models to learn from. Les Stella of the USASF is a championship coach and successful industry leader who admits to always wanting to learn more to make himself better. Michael Burgess, President of the United Spirit Association, is a well-decorated industry professional whose value of fairness and equality makes this industry respectable and honorable. And Karen Wilson, coach and parent to an all-star cheerleader, is constantly reinventing ways to prolong the life of all-star cheerleading for the future and longevity of the sport. With these and so many other role models to look up to, there will be a long list of successful industry professionals to come.
Mahatma Ghandi said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” For those seeking success in the industry, keep your focus on what is truly important, follow the lead of those who came before you, and be the professional that athletes and younger professionals will admire. And again, success is not about the destination, but on the ongoing journey!