“USASF” Judges

This is part two of my experience at the Hit Cheer and Dance competition. If you haven’t read part one, I highly suggest you check it out.  I also suggest that you read my NCA Judges ARE Fair post, just so you know how passionate and positive I am about the USASF judging system. I’m one to never question a judge, contest a score, complain about “bad” judging, or anything of the sort. BUT this was an instance where I just had to voice my opinion and try to UNDERSTAND how the judging system worked at this particular competition.

After day 1 was over, we were promised our score sheets and a day 2 schedule by 8:30 that night. 11:00 rolls around and we finally receive our e-mails. The program that I was with brought three level 1 teams to this competition. So when our head coach was reading our scores and our youth team had a score significantly lower than our senior team AND had a score lower than our mini team, I knew there was an issue. I’m not saying that our seniors or minis have a bad team, but they’re all level 1 and I know that our youth and seniors have the same amount of difficulty in their routines and that the minis don’t have as much difficulty as our youth and senior teams. If the scoring is USASF, there must be a judges error somewhere, which is fine, but I would like to get that fixed. Any judge knows how important scores are and knows that their job is to make sure scores are as accurate as possible so that the correct team wins.

Here’s a quick break down of how scoring works. For each level in cheerleading there are different skills that you are allowed to do that gets you into a certain scoring range. Cheerleading has 6 different levels and what is considered difficult in level 1 is not the same difficulty in level 3. Because there are different skills, there is a scoring grid that will let you know what criteria to meet to score in the highest range. This goes for tumbling (running and standing), pyramids, jumps, and stunts. So for any given category in any level you have to do a certain skill in order to obtain a high score. Any USASF score sheet has a skills grid to help the head judge place teams in the correct range. The panel judge then uses their expertise to score the team in the RANGE the head judge gave them. So there is no way that a level 3 team can do a level 1 skill and get scored in a 9-10 (out of 10) range. Or another example, a level 1 squad that does all cartwheels will not be in the same range as a level 1 squad that does back walkovers; same level, different levels of difficulty.

ANYWHO…I go up to one of the workers/volunteers of the competition and ask her if there was a process to contest scores. She said I could let her know my issue, she would talk to the head judge and then she would let me know the outcome. I told her my situation of how our youth team has 4 difficult level appropriate structures in their pyramid and our mini team has 1 average level appropriate structure in their pyramid and yet they were both scored the EXACT same in difficulty. Just as I explained earlier, there is a grid to put certain skills in a range, and 4 structures vs. 1 structure already puts the two pyramids in different ranges. I explained the situation to her, she went to talk to the head judge and he looked at my score sheet, told her “I remember that routine and I stand firm in what my judges scored” and left it at that. When the girl came back she informed me of what the head judge said and I told her I wanted to speak with him.  I wasn’t upset, I just wanted a better understanding and because the worker/volunteer didn’t know much or anything about cheer I wanted to talk to the judge one on one to get a better explanation.

So on to our conversation. About an hour and some change after my initial interaction with the worker/volunteer about my scores, I was finally able to talk to the head judge. I’m going to try to just recreate the entire conversation verbatim.

Me: Hi! My name is Cherita. *In a very chipper voice*

Judge: Hi, I’m Luis.

Me: I just had a few questions about my score sheet. I noticed that on my pyramid difficulty I received a 4 and my minis…

Judge: We’re not comparing.

Me: Ooohkay. *deep breath* Well in this instance I need to compare because it has to do with difficulty.

Judge: What is the issue?

Me: Well in my pyramid I start with show and goes…

Judge: Those are transitional skills.

Me: And they end in preps and on the outsides I have tic-tocs…

Judge: Which are also transitional skills.

Me: Not when they end in a heel stretch.

Judge: So how many structures do you have in your pyramid?

Me: I’m the coach, not the choreographer.

Judge: It doesn’t matter, you should know these things.

Me: Four, I have four structures in my pyramid, which should put me in a high range. Speaking of ranges, are you using a grid?

Judge: We’re using the varsity score sheet, you can look it

Me: I’m also a judge, so I know the score sheet, I don’t need to look it up. That’s not my question, I’m wondering if you’re using any kind of grid or range.

Judge: Look online.

Me: You’re not listening to what I have to say, and I don’t appreciate how you’re talking to me right now.

Judge: What’s the issue?

Me: My concern is how I’m in the same range as my mini team? I’m not comparing my team to another program, this is program to program comparing because it’s not consistent.

Judge: What is their pyramid?

Me: I know they have a lib to lib tic toc and that’s it.

Judge: So they only have one structure?

Me: I’m not their coach.

Judge: You should still know these things.

Me: No, I shouldn’t it’s not my team, it’s not my routine.

Judge: I don’t have time to ask my panel judge why they scored the way they did. Here. (handing me my score sheets back).

Me: *looks*

Judge: Do you want these or not?

Me: I’ll take them back, but I don’t understand why you’re acting the way you are. How can you call yourself a judge if you can’t justify anything you’re telling me.


Me: And on that note, this conversation is over. *Drops mic, walks away*

As I’m walking away I can hear him yelling and screaming trying to figure out what program I’m from. Why? I feel threatened. Why does he need to know what program I’m from? I’ll give you my name, e-mail address, phone number, twitter handle, but you don’t need to take your immature actions out on my program. Mind you not once did I raise my voice or use a condescending tone with him. He was interrupting every sentence, he assumed I didn’t know what I was talking about. I was very professional and I don’t know if he felt threatened because I was questioning his judging, but the only thing I can think of is he thought I was some young dumb cheerleader volunteer who knew nothing. He had no legitimate answers for my valid questions.

So now my blood is BOILING, just reliving this moment makes my stomach hurt. I call my owner and let her know the situation and she plus another coach from my same program and one of my best friends from a DIFFERENT program come over because he saw that I was frustrated (to say the least). I’m telling them what just happened and I can see Luis talking to another lady who I guess is in charge of the competition. She comes over and I calmly tell her what happened and my situation about the judging. I also let her know that I didn’t appreciate the way he started talking to me and how he was rude from jump. She goes back to him, I see them talking, they come back together and all of a sudden “he understand where I’m coming from.” Is it because the other lady explained to him what I meant or was it because I had 3 extra people with me? Either way, I still was not happy with this man who claimed to be on the USASF board.

So now I’m asking him the same questions as before and I have my friends and owner also asking the same questions, because like I said before, I was just trying to get answers. I wasn’t debating numbers, I was trying to figure out the consistency. So finally my friend asked if the scoring was comparative at all. Meaning, are we comparing to a grid? Are we comparing to what we think a perfect routin is? And the answer we got was “no, this score sheet is all discretionary”. Soooo…then this isn’t judging, this is picking and choosing. Cool. Well, I got my answer. My answer was that this was not a competition that was being judged fairly or by any standards.

I know I’ve rambled and rambled on, but this is really something that had to be experienced first hand to get the entire feeling. Hopefully I’ve explained well enough for YOU to understand how awful the judging was in this competition. There are some other points about their judging I want to highlight.

  • The company didn’t provide spotters, and one team used their own spotters for their TINY team, and was deducted 10 points.
  • On their HIP-HOP dance score sheet, there was an area for leaps and turns, and one judge wrote “add leaps and turns”. Ummm…there is never a criteria for leaps and turns in a hip-hop routine.
  • My minis scored a 5/5 in MOTION TECHNIQUE. I don’t care if you are Mini Cheer Athletics Wildcats, Mini Cali Coed, Mini Brandon Senior Black…there is not one mini team in the history of life that earns a 5/5 in motion technique.
  • I was also told that they were not allowed to tell their panel judges to change their scores because there wasn’t a head judge setting ranges.

I’m pretty sure that’s most of nonsense I remember. This blog is to enlighten coaches, gym owners and USASF about what is being put out in the cheer world.

Share and comment! Thanks for reading!

Twitter: cheer_ology

E-mail: cherita.cheerology@gmail.com

Facebook: facebook.com/cheerology

One thought on ““USASF” Judges”

  1. I have read BOTH your blogs regarding Hit Cheer and Dance Comp….

    1. I have forwarded the blog to actual USASF Officials that deal with event producers and sanctioning…
    2. Regarding anyone that claims to be USASF… GO online to USASF.net Every committee, board, etc has pics and names listed… I have no idea who this Luis person is….
    3. A bit of clarification NOT every scoring method uses a GRID… Yes those who are judging, coaching, and doing choreo should know what is more difficult, what is level appropriate, and what is technically correct for each level… However they dont….Thus the need for a standardized judges training….which is being worked on now!
    4. point of reference for the future… at NO TIME should you ever say ” I am a USASF certified judge” when at an event with your team… I know LES specifically goes over this at every training…

    I would suggest that your Gym Owner file a Sanctioning Complaint for the various violations that happened. There is a special committee that deals with this type of thing where they can hand out fines, put on probation, or pull sanctioning all together… Contact Karen Wilson the West Coast USASF DIrector



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