Cheer vs. Gymnastics

I grew up as a gymnast and then transitioned into a cheerleader. It was easy for me to jump into the cheer world because I had 10+ years experience in tumbling. In the cheer world it’s factually known that “you can teach anyone to stunt, but you can’t teach anyone to tumble”. While this is true, tumbling is now a significant skill in cheerleading and whatever level you stunt, should be the same level you tumble. 

In women’s gymnastics there are four apparatuses, vault, uneven bars, balance beam, and floor exercise. I’m not sure if most are aware, but no matter how talented and skilled you are in one event, you are not allowed to move up to the next level until you score out at a competition, showing that you are ready for the next level. Just because you can do a cartwheel on the beam, but you can’t do a back handspring on the floor, doesn’t make you ready for level 6. Gymnastics is an all around sport (until college) and cheerleading should be treated the same. How do I think this should be regulated? I’ll tell you. 

Just like in gymnastics, when a new athlete enters into a cheer gym, they need to be assessed. Not just on tumbling, but strength, stunts, and jumps. I understand that there may not be a “perfect” level for everybody at the gym that they feel most at home, but an athlete needs to be placed on a level in accordance with their tumbling (for the most part) and age. If you have a child who is 7 and can be held in a stunt by a bunch of strong 11 year olds but can’t do a tuck does not mean she needs to be on a youth 4. She needs to be on a mini or youth 1 or 2 depending on her tumbling. I’m sorry to break it to you, but stunting is not all cheerleading is about. 

Sorry, I got off track. But the main point that I’m getting to, is there needs to be a skill sheet that all athletes need to pass in order to move up to the next level. Especially with the younger athletes. I believe that if you are a level 3 athlete you should be able to stunt AND tumble level 3. Gymnasts don’t get to go to a competition and tell the judges “hey, I’m going to compete level 9 on floor, level 7 on beam, and level 6 on vault and bars”. It doesn’t work like that. Yes, individuals will have their weaker events, but they just work that much harder to make sure they can compete at the level they are meant to compete at. I understand that cheerleading is a team sport, but these athletes are pushing to get to a level 5 team, and then what? They’re 11 and a level 5 cheerleader…now they have 7 years to perfect a level they should have perfected already. If they slow down and learn the basics to every element in cheer, once they get to the level 5 division, injuries will dwindle and the athletes who don’t want to take the time and effort to become excellent will be eliminated. 

It’s okay to be 10 years old and on a youth 2 team for 2 years. The goal isn’t to move up a level each year. The goal is to learn and progress. It’s also okay to stay in a level for an extra year because there isn’t a level at your gym that fits your needs. Have you ever competed on a team where there was no stress or pressure? It’s kind of fun. Oh and another random thought; I’ve never had a mental block, so I could be wrong, but I think progression would take away majority of the “mental blocks” that are very common in cheerleading.

A skill sheet, along with a universal scoring system will not only help with keeping cheerleading more conformable, but it will also better the chances of cheerleading becoming a sport.  

Thanks for reading! 

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