An Overview Of Cheerleading Rules
Cheerleading can be a very complex activity and cheerleading rules and guidelines are often required, primarily for reasons of safety, but also to ensure a level playing field in the area of competitive cheerleading. There are several national cheerleading organizations, some focus on cheerleading rules for safety at all levels, others focusing specifically on high school cheerleading, college cheerleading, or competitive cheerleading.
Cheerleading has come a long ways since the megaphone and the pom pom. Members of a cheer team often have to be nearly as athletic as are the players of the field. Cheerleading competitions between high schools and universities have become big time in some places and the competitions can be cut throat. In an effort to win, cheer teams will attempt stunts that are increasingly difficult, spectacular, and often downright dangerous. Tumbling, diving, and pyramids have become staples in cheerleading routines to the point where cheerleading rules for safety have been implemented to regulate some routines and prohibit others.
Some Cheerleaders Just Have Fun - The most basic cheerleading rules will usually be found in the high school, especially in those schools which have not become preoccupied with winning cheerleading competitions, but are more concerned with instilling school and team spirit during an athletic event. The rules here are most often rules of simple protocol and good manners. Stay in your assigned position, smile and at least look like you're having fun, and if you make a mistake, keep going as if nothing had happened. Good cheerleading protocol is to visit the other team’s cheerleaders before the game or at half time. The high school cheerleading coach or advisor would be responsible for seeing that those cheerleading rules pertaining to safety of the participants are adhered to.
Many Rules Apply In Competitions - In formal competitions, cheerleading is often tightly choreographed and certain routines must be included, much like in figure skating competition. There are usually rather strict time limits, and routines which are considered to be in questionable taste are usually prohibited. There are often very specific rules regarding the major routines. For example, a cheerleader doing a front flip from a pyramid usually must have two catchers, and back flip dismounts are generally prohibited for safety reasons. A maximum allowable pyramid height is often specified. In individual and partner stunts, flips and tosses are usually strictly regulated with many variations prohibited.
In competitions, routines done to the accompaniment of music are preferable, but music is not an absolute necessity. Like the routines themselves, any music accompanying the routines must be acceptable for "family listening". Typically the routines being judged are held to a specific maximum time, often 45 seconds at the collegiate level. As is the case with athletes on the playing field, the members of a recognized cheerleading squad must be academically qualified and must not have used up their eligibility. This of course applies to competition cheerleading only. At the game anyone can lead a cheer.
Rules Preceding Actual Cheerleading - Some schools will have in placed specific cheerleading rules that need to be followed if one is to make the cheer team or stay on the team. Besides maintaining an acceptable academic standing, a prospective cheer team member may have to undergo a physical or even enroll in gymnastics or weight training programs to ensure he or she can safely participate in the cheer team's routines.
Summary - To a beginning cheerleader, the number of cheerleading rules that must be followed may seem a bit overwhelming. It is hard enough to master the routines, much less follow any rules associated with performing those routines. As strict and numerous as they may seem however, cheerleading rules at any level are there primarily for safety, with fairness and consistency in competitive judging the other concern. The rules that are there are based on common sense, as they should be.