Tag Archives: hit cheer and dance

“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.

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Twitter: cheer_ology

E-mail: cherita.cheerology@gmail.com

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Hit Cheer and Dance

I’m not the biggest complainer in the world, but when something is blatantly wrong and it has to do with something I’m passionate about, EVERYBODY will hear about it. I recently experienced the worst cheerleading competition in the entire world. It was a small and new organization, which one would expect things not be perfect, but nothing like what went down. So much happened in the two days I was there, I don’t even know where or how to begin. I guess I’ll just start from the beginning.

We were told the competition was going to be held on the beach at Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. When we arrived, the main floor was STILL being built in a parking lot across the street from the Boardwalk. Okay, so it’s in a parking lot, whatever, no big deal, that’s something we would have to personally get over. However, the fact that the floor was STILL BEING BUILT at 9:30 in the morning when the first team was scheduled to go on at 11:00, is an issue.

Fast forward to 11:00. The floor is finished, done poorly with a bunch of visible air pockets and bubbles sporadically throughout the floor and we still don’t have a warmup area. People are trying to understand what the holdup was and there was word floating around that the competition wasn’t going to start until 12:00. This hasn’t been announced to the audience by any person “working” the competition. I use the word working in quotations because everyone wearing an event t-shirt was supposedly a volunteer. You would ask anyone of them in a shirt ANY question and their answer was “I don’t know, I’m just a volunteer.” How is that acceptable? We didn’t know who was in charge of anything.

Fast forward to 12:00, the new competition start time. By this time, word was floating around that we were waiting for the judge(s) whose flight just landed in San Jose and it would be another hour before we would start. Mind you, none of this has been announced to anyone! So finally a young gal gets on the mic and says we’re going to have fun and do a jump off. Why? We don’t know why we’re stalling, but the kids were all for it, so let’s do it. The jump off was slightly entertaining and killed a little bit of time, so I guess it wasn’t a total bust. But then we went back to the waiting game.

Fast forward to 1:00, the new NEW competition start time. The same young gal gets on the mic and says “I have an announcement that will make you all VERY happy”. She said that team ABC and XYZ were going to warm up and perform and THEN we were going to take a 30 minute break to get organized. Ummm…WHY is that going to make us happy? We’re already 2 hours behind schedule, it’s hot, and the kids haven’t eaten since about 9 in the morning because we kept getting the runaround about when we were going to start. By this time everybody is done, but we don’t want to upset the kids, and we just want to compete. We still don’t know anything about the “judges” that are coming from San Jose. All I know is that when the first team finally went on, the judges were all people that had been there since the morning.
Fast forward to when the competition FINALLY started around 1:30; two and a half hours AFTER it was scheduled to begin. There was only one judging panel and the judges are scoring by pen and paper, so there was a lot of time in between teams performing. During the stalls, the same young gal on the mic, thought it would be a good idea to play games or interview the athletes during the stalls BEFORE they performed. At this point, nobody wants that, and I had to let her know. Before one of our teams went on I told her that nobody wanted to talk and nobody wanted to play games, they just wanted to compete. We had teams that had been at the competition for over 3 hours waiting to compete and were ready to go, so we started sticking our teams in randomly at any time. We told the people volunteering at the competition that we had warmed up and were ready to perform and they let us.

There are a few moments that I would like specifically talk about:

  • The owner of a gym asked one of the volunteers where the on deck location was and the answer she got was “umm you can just stand somewhere in that vicinity”.
  • Another coach asked where the athletes were to enter the stage and she said “umm wherever”.
  • The excess floor pieces were laying around the competition area, not covered up or anything.
  • There were no directions as to where to enter the competition floor, where to exit the competition floor, or ANYTHING.
  • There wasn’t anybody directing us through the “warmup” area.
  • A coach/owner had to fix the main floor before anyone went to compete because of all the visibly unsafe holes and bubbles in the floor.
  • The microphone etiquette was off the hook. “Up next we have team 123. Oh wait, they’re not next, they’re on deck deck deck.”
  • Another example of microphone etiquette: “Team 321 you should be in warmups. Go now!”


It’s a new, day, let’s start fresh. The night of day 1, all coaches received an e-mail with the schedule of day 2 and their score sheets. If you’ve read my NCA Judges ARE Fair blog, you know I’m all about defending judges, but when I got my results, I KNEW there was an issue. I will write a separate blog about the judging and my experience talking to the “head/rules” judge because it was THAT bad.

Anyways. Day 2, I’m due to show up at 10:30, the first team is scheduled to perform at 10. I get there are 10:30 and TEAMS ARE PERFORMING! Yes, they started 15 minutes late, but it sure is a hell of a lot better than 2.5 hours late! There’s no more stall talking on the microphone. They’re letting music play during the stalls. There’s someone on the microphone announcing which teams are on deck. There’s an actual on deck area that’s been sectioned off. It’s 1 MILLION times better than the day before. But because there is only one judging panel, and there wasn’t time in the schedule to accommodate this issue, they slowly got off schedule. Apparently there were changes in the schedule, but it wasn’t announced (shockingly) so there was still a bit of confusion as to who was supposed to be warming up and whatnot.
On top of everything, some teams brought their prep teams and they were only competing one day (which was full year teams day 2), and this was their first experience with the company. They knew that it wasn’t organized well, but luckily for the company, this is all they were experiencing. The same coach/owner that had to fix the mat the first day, had to fix the mats the second day. Their “USASF” approved judges were dressed in sweats and t-shirts. Yes, they improved from Day 1, but they were still sloppy.
Awards time:

For awards, a lady who you can tell knows nothing about cheer, says that they’re only announcing first place teams. They don’t even acknowledge the other teams in the divisions. Mind you, there are MAYBE 4 teams at MOST in each division. It’s not going to waste any more time that has already been wasted to just ACKNOWLEDGE the teams that performed. So rude. So all the teams who won got a banner, a spirit stick and a National Champion Jacket. I’m grateful for my win…buuuuuuut, I did NOT receive a jacket. I got a National Champion zip up hoodie sweatshirt. I’m afraid to wash it, because if I do, I’m sure the logo will fall off. There were so many promises that this company offered that weren’t met. A lot of false advertisement.
One of the parents of my program asked why we weren’t on the beach and a volunteer or staff member of this company said that it had been double booked (which isn’t our fault) and then the same parent asked a Boardwalk worker why the beach stage had been double booked and the worker proceeded to tell her that the stage is ONLY up during spring break and the summer time, which is neither for us right now. So why the lies? Why not just own up to what really happened?
Back to awards. So after the first awards and no other teams were announced, I know for a fact that they received an earful from parents. There were tiny and mini teams whose names were not called because they didn’t win. Such a heart breaker. So the second awards they called all the teams and the second place teams received ONE medal (not one per athlete) ONE single medal, and then the participants got headphones attached to a lanyard. This is supposed to be a NATIONALS.
I’ve never been so ashamed, embarrassed, and angry about my sport until now. I’ve never been to such a poorly organized event of any kind. I want this and my upcoming blog about their judging to get to the owner of this company and to USASF since this was an event sanctioned by USASF and they had board members representing this company.

I can only imagine the loads of e-mails and complaints this company is going to have about this competition. I sure do hope they’re ready to dish out tons of refunds. This is really just the short end of what happened, everything happened so fast it was hard to keep up with it all. If you have anything else to add, you can leave comments below. Thank you for reading and please please please share this post!