For the third year in a row, CheerProfessional tapped three of the industry’s cheer “leaders” for a spirited panel discussion on our industry and its future.
Scoring is an incredibly hot topic right now in the industry. Where do you stand on the universal scoresheet?
Bergue: As the chairman of NACCC, I’m all for it. The unified scoresheet was sort of a band-aid [approach] for Varsity and JAM Brands, but they’ve committed to use the universal scoresheet next year. It’s really exciting for the industry—teams will be able to go to any competition in the U.S. and know the same criteria will be used. Being a choreographer, I’m all for creativity. The last five to seven years, we saw cookie-cutter routines, which would have been fine if they weren’t causing coaches to teach skills they couldn’t teach and kids to try skills they couldn’t do. When difficulty is the main [objective], kids are going to get hurt—bottom line. Now, it’s about doing less difficult skills and doing them better. This has been a hard year for a lot of coaches, but once everyone gets on board and we all work together, everyone will be very happy.
Sims: We’ve seen a lot of success with the Universal Scoresheet on the West Coast, where companies like GSSA, Jamz, Cheer Pros and All Things Cheer are using it for all levels. We attribute that success to the ability to interpret the scoresheet, fix issues and communicate—we don’t want coaches to leave and wonder why they received the score they received. What many people are forgetting in the scoresheet controversy is this: whether you’re on universal or unified, most of the teams will score within a small percentage of each other in most of the difficulty categories. The teams who are distinguishing themselves with creativity in stunts, pyramids and transitions are scoring higher and winning. Once everyone is doing a double up or high-to-high, the defining characteristic comes down to not only whether you can hit all those skills, but also what creative movements and methods you can do within them to catch the judge’s eye.
Roesel: Now, your job as an all-star coach is to investigate and study everyone you’re up against. You have to do everything everyone else is doing and do it more creatively than they are. It’s comparative scoring, which forces the coaches to use video and study other teams to make sure you not only hit the scoresheet, but that you’re doing what everyone else is doing plus one. I think it’s made us think a little more. Before, it felt like a checklist; now you have the checklist, but you also have a whole other novel of things you need to do. I literally send my coaches a list of whom we’re going against, like “Start stalking!” [laughs] The idea is to find out how you can do it better.
Mega-gym franchising is also a trend on the rise. What’s your take?
Roesel: I think we’re in the “Walmart phase” of all-star cheer, where we’re seeing lots of locations and mega-gyms. [The trend is] forcing smaller gyms to step back and learn to run more like a business. The reason Midwest Cheer Elite franchised is that we wanted to give our product to those who weren’t in our area. The next few years, I can see the trend continuing to grow, but at some point, mega-gyms may have to back down a bit because if the product can’t stay consistent it will be hard for that [franchise] gym to stay open. As long as they can continue to offer that product, they’ll be successful.
Bergue: Here’s the thing: we live in the United States. We are free to do whatever we want, and that includes gyms putting their brand on other gyms. However, I do feel sorry for smaller gyms—they want to have a nice family-feel gym, but often can’t compete against the big gym with all the finances. It forces them to work really hard on their product so their kids won’t leave. I’m not sure what we need to do as USASF/NACCC to look at it. I don’t want [the industry] to turn into 20 gyms in the whole country because everyone else closed their doors. I pray it doesn’t become an issue, but we’ll have to wait and see what happens.
Sims: I’m definitely for free enterprise and businesses learning new, different ways to strive and make money. My company started with small gyms who came and supported us consistently; some of those small gyms have ended up becoming mega-gyms through growth and/or franchising. Is it harder now for a gym to start up and then grow into a large gym than it was 10 years ago? Absolutely. The mega-gyms have taken away a little bit in a franchising aspect from the small gyms. [But] cheer is cyclical. I think you’ll have large growth in the big gyms for a while, and then maybe you’ll see some contracting.