David Hanbery really missed the opportunity!

This email was sent to Andre in response to Cheerleading, Gymnastics, or Emerging Sport:

NCATA is not 100% Cheer & not 100% Gymnastics, … it’s a NEW SPORT!

NCATA (National Collegiate Acrobatics and Tumbling Association) is now the correct name for a NEW SPORT which offers more Collegiate Educational Scholarships for former Cheer & Gymnast. NCATA also offers recognition through a real competition based Season leading to an identifiable serious National Championship. So everyone has a choice, either be positive and provide assistance to the people getting the job done, or GET OUT OF THEIR WAY! Currently all of your arguments including you’re interview recently on GotSpiritNetwork.com Spirit Roundtable #1 are focused on the strengths of Varsity Brands as the 800 pound gorilla in the room and as the leader of the “Free Nation of Cheer”. It appears you believe in continuing the monarchy empire created at the inception of UCA recognizing Jeff Webb as King. It probably isn’t a bad idea to name him as King or maybe Emperor, … since Memphis is accustomed to handling the eccentricities of Kings such as the King of Rock & Roll, Elvis. Don’t get me wrong I admit that Jeff and Varsity Brands have created a machine which appears capable of printing as much money as desired from selling uniforms and accessories which are desired by everyone attending Varsity Brands training and competition programs. Varsity Brands is hugely successful in promoting the sale of all things in Cheer, congratulations to Jeff & the rest of Varsity, however this is about NCATA which is not about 100% Cheer or 100% Gymnastics.

Apparently only the press and a few non-Cheer people still don’t understand the ruling by Judge Stephan Underhill, the question was “does Quinnipiac University’s (QU) NCATA Team qualify as a Women’s Sport under the Title IX rules & regulations?” His answer throughout the 95 page document has been in the press a lot recently, “not yet”. So the QU Team was Judged to not meet the definition of a Women’s Sport under Title IX, .. at least not yet! Everyone on this web site probably agrees with the point that Cheer is a “SPORT” requiring physical skills, mental focus and one more which doesn’t appear frequently in other Sports, … “CREATIVITY”. A group of Coaches have now independently created a format “outside of the box representing the Varsity Cheer Nation leveraging the experience of Cheerleading and Gymnastics into a truly “NEW SPORT”, … yet you are whining about “why didn’t they ask my opinion!” Here’s a quarter go call someone that cares”, and just for your benefit Varsity probably has established a “hotline” for your call to be cataloged and counted. One question for you, are you currently Coaching any “All Girl” Squads, and would they be excited to hear about new opportunities for Female Collegiate Athletes? NCATA knows the answer is yes!

NCATA did change their name to align better with USA Gymnastics (USAG); however their creation or initial focus is providing “MORE COLLEGIATE SCHOLARSHIP OPPORTUNITIES FOR FEMALE ATHLETES whether they have a Cheer or Gymnastic background!” So although your issue appears on the surface to be a response to your complaint of “they did this without me”, maybe you believe that USAG doesn’t have the best interest of the Cheer Athletes as a focus in this new SPORT, so maybe USAG will focus more upon Gymnasts who are losing opportunities at the Collegiate level due to either personal burn out or public lack of interest in their sport. So how are NCATA & the USAG responding to this criticism, they are combining their resources to achieve “NCAA Emerging Sport” status which includes Title IX recognition and providing more Collegiate Scholarships! What’s wrong with that goal from any angle? NOTHING!

As an illustration of sports crossing over I’ve never heard any High School, Collegiate or Professional Soccer Coach complain about raiding of their athletes when recruited to handle the Kick off or Extra Point attempts for Football teams at any level. Although Soccer is a very popular sport in the US and Internationally, at least for the moment in this country where we live, Football is the dominant sport not Soccer. To verify this statement just turn on a TV and scroll through the TV Guide. In fact until today I didn’t realize anyone was upset about the number of New Collegiate Scholarships that have been provided by Cheer Squads. In the 1970’s most Collegiate Cheer programs didn’t offer Scholarships, today the number of Schools not offering some form of financial aid to Cheer is dwarfed and almost non-existent in comparison to the number of schools supporting their Cheer program. It took a long time, the sweat of Cheerleaders, leadership of their Coaches, Sponsors & Advisors and many Athletic & Academic personnel to create the current level of financial support.

So let’s see where YOU stand on this topic, … your complaints are;

  1. They didn’t call me.They didn’t leverage my experience”; instead they approached an existing National Organization with Sport Safety as a focus for the athletes, with professional training available for Coaches and aligned to provide more Collegiate Scholarship opportunities for Women. Men aren’t included, well they didn’t say they couldn’t be included in the future, just that this is the focus for the beginning of the SPORT. Colleges & Universities really didn’t have as many Co-Ed Cheer programs as they do today in the early 1970’s; many have evolved due to the physical challenges of Stunts & Pyramids and the appropriate Male Athletic image developed by the men on these squads in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s. In the same way Acrobatics’ and Tumbling will provide new opportunities as the Sport grows and matures, however no one knows at the moment if it will include men. As an example of an all female Sport which has never included Men take a look at Rhythmic Gymnastics, they perform some pretty unbelievable physical skills however it is still all females since inception in the early 1900’s. Time is not the only element which determines gender participation, just look at Football or Baseball in which you do not see females in great numbers only as exceptions.
  2. NCATA and USAG will determine competitive formats currently & in the future, …with potential competition in the Olympics. But you respond, “they still haven’t called me or my peers for any input and “we are pretty smart”! Evidently Varsity thought they could accomplish this alignment at some point in the past however it didn’t occur even with the 800 pound gorilla in the room! Now the NCATA has created the bridge and everyone including Varsity can follow their lead, or they can still remain as CheerLeaders or Cheer Entertainers (All*Star: see #4 below for more of this difference). No decree requires everyone to participate in the NCATA regular season or their National Championship and no other sponsored competitions. Only Varsity Brands will not allow teams to compete in NCATA and then turn around and perform in the Varsity Brands “TBN” (To Be Named, … later) as decreed by Emperor Jeff Webb.
  3. The logo for NCSTA is appearing on the USAG website instead of NCATA. Since this alignment just occurred last week, did you really expect them to make the transition to the new name instantly, or dump the name and logo they have been working so diligently to create? As a successful business example you are familiar with ask yourself, why has Varsity retained the brands of USA & NCA instead of renaming them all UCA? Here are the cliff notes “there is value in maintaining various brands, however if they don’t provide value (read $$$$), connection or clarity then you change the name”.
  4. The Schools involved in NCATA have moved the activity of Cheer into a “NEW SPORT” status. But “they didn’t’ call you first!” One of the greatest fears of Varsity and other training and competition sponsors is the day “when Cheer becomes recognized Nationally as a Sport” at all School levels. One perspective and expectation is that immediately all competitions will be limited to State levels at High School ages and younger, however this change will not affect All*Star programs. Current National Competitions will mutate to reflect competition and participation costs similar to other competitive Sports which are much lower than Cheer. Their fear, and I mean FEAR, is not “if” but “when” this occurs they will lose a PROFIT CENTER ($$$$) that drives the sale of Uniforms and accessories which is where the real profit margin is located in this industry. The Cheer industry is no longer a small business enterprise focused on training for sideline cheers; today it is a multi-billion dollar industry reaching many International competitors and involves more “performers” than actual “Cheerleaders”. The difference is simple a “Cheerleader”, actually leads cheers/chants for a team. A “Cheer Entertainer” uses Cheer type movements, tumbling, stunts, pyramids etc. to COMPETE. Only a small portion of the Cheer Community are actually Cheer LEADERS and Sideline Cheerleaders are actually Cheer Entertainers when they perform at UCA/NCA Nationals! So does that help you define Cheer Entertainers versus Cheerleaders? Since you own an All*Star gym you probably call them all Cheerleaders, yet they aren’t really all the same.
  5. USAG has internal issues which appear in the press. Any National Organization is going to have internal issues due to the variety of attitudes and differences of thoughts about the focus and responsibilities of the organization. By the way your whining is appearing in print right now due to our “Freedom of Speech” protected by the US Armed Forces, as is my reaction to your remarks. This whole issue is a positive move for Cheer, whether Cheerleaders or Cheer Entertainers due to the efforts of NCATA! Just as we say thank you to the US Military for defending our “Liberty”, we should thank the leadership of both NCATA & USAG for making bold steps in the design & implementation of a NEW SPORT!

Some topics you omitted:

  1. Varsity Spirit is currently the only organization sponsoring a Collegiate Cheer Competition. Varsity Brands is a For-Profit Company which means their focus, as for any business, is profit on all business activities. They offer Collegiate Championships which are judged by Varsity Brands trained judges with finalist selected by the same group of Varsity Brands trained judging Staff, so do you believe any School who did NOT attend a Varsity Brand Cheer Clinic (UCA, NCA, USA) has an equal chance based upon skills judged OBJECTIVELY to actually win? In High School and younger competitions many more organizations exist for sponsoring State, Regional & National competitions. So aren’t you a little concerned that a single for-profit corporation controls all of the National Competitions at the Collegiate level for Cheer Entertainment? If you aren’t you should be, in fact in corporate America this may be very close to the perfect illustration of the definition for a monopoly!
  2. Currently there is no Governing Body for Collegiate Cheer Competitions. Varsity or one of their subsidiaries can’t really provide the same leadership as a Not-For-Profit Governing Board. USA Cheer, which just appeared recently, is one more subsidiary & creation of Varsity just like AACCA. So as a person on the outside of the “Varsity World View of Cheer, … or Jeff Webb’s Empire”, which is where most parents live that is outside and unaffected by the Cheer Professionals, should the governing body be attached at the hip to a for-profit business? NO! Why would any of Varsity’s subsidiaries ever consider supporting any change which isn’t in the “best interest” of Varsity? It won’t and hasn’t happened! NCATA is a non-profit Governing Board with the “best interest of the Athletes and the Sport” as their central focus!
  3. Insufficient method of preliminary competition for True National Collegiate Cheer Championship. I Coached a few of these including 2 consecutive National Titles before UK & UL gained their current dominant status within UCA & NCA. So with years of experience behind me let me ask you, what is the lead up competition which determines eligibility for the either NCA’s or UCA’s Final Competition and shouldn’t we really call these performances? The last time I checked their process was submit a video tape and if selected you would compete in two rounds (preliminary & finals). An alternate selection method is attending one of the Varsity sponsored Collegiate Cheer training clinics with selection based upon Varsity Brands Staff. National Championship titles today are announced in one of approximately 27 Divisions at the Collegiate Level, when you multiply that number by 2 representing UCA & NCA then currently 54 National Champions are announced each year which really dilutes the recognition title of “National Champion.” Any other Collegiate Sport has a defined competitive calendar with minimum standards for achieving a National Championship Title. In Collegiate Football currently the BCS provides the National Title whereas in Basketball you have two paths through either the NCAA or the NIT. Any of these 3 options requires regular season games, post season games … and in the case of Football decisions by voting due to the limited length of a season.
  4. Faulty logic for Collegiate Cheer competitions. Today, 33 years after the first Collegiate Cheer Competitions sponsored by ICF (International Cheerleader Federation) in 1977 and televised on CBS as a “Variety Show” very little has changed in the competition format. So help me understand your position, you believe that the “really smart people like you” have advanced the Collegiate Cheer Competitions over the past 33 years by reducing the time of the performance to 2.5 minutes, adding a preliminary round of competition and adding spring floors? Where is the regular season competition leading to a post season National Championship? NCATA has developed those concepts into their format & the organization is only 18 months old, not 35+ years like Varsity Brands!
  5. The rules for Safety in Cheer Competitions were dictated by the Insurance Industry. The rules have changed reducing the height of pyramids to 2.5 high, but that was the Insurance Industry taking control following two accidents; a catastrophic (death) injury and one severe injury (quadriplegia). They DID NOT ask Varsity or anyone else who was “smart” about Cheer Techniques or the implications of Safety and the impact of reducing the overall height of pyramids before changing the rules! The Insurance Companies haven’t asked for new input since that change. The University of Memphis created 3 high pyramids, … that could run, and 4 high pyramids that didn’t, basket tosses that were two high, pyramids where the top was wider than the base and used mini-tramps with all skills practiced & performed safely on a variety of surfaces in 1977-1985! Yet the rules changed in spite of our Safety Record! This created new limits not based upon physical skills limitations, progressive learning strategies, or safety rules specifically developed from Nationally recognized research from sources like Dr. Fred Mueller or the National Athletic Trainers Association (NATA). How has Varsity responded to the changes and research, they created AACCA, … really, … is that the Best Varsity can offer in 33 years? Why do they insist the research is wrong? Some of the brightest, most extreme physically skilled athletes and Best Coaches/CheerLeaders currently exist and yet no one has captured their “Best Practices” for the benefit of the other members of this community to prevent injuries, … why not? Where is the regular season competition leading to a post season National Championship? Again, NCATA has developed those concepts into their format & the organization is only 18 months old, not 35+ years like Varsity Brands!
  6. Varsity is currently preparing a “NEW” Collegiate non-Cheer Competition format named “TBN (To Be Named, … later)”. Gee, well let’s see how the format Varsity is promoting might be different from the NCATA format, … basically it’s not! That’s right Varsity wants to take the format currently being used by NCATA & USAG as discovered in the QU Title IX lawsuit and use it for their own “TBN”. What a creative corporate move not requiring any energy, research or business capital to create! Varsity also desires taking credit for the creation of the current Collegiate Cheer Competition formats, … I guess we need to give them some credit they did purchase their only Collegiate Cheer Competitor … NCA. The current format of a preliminary and final round is still a performance, no compulsory rounds demonstrating specific physical skills, or optional rounds of specific skills, a Coach does not make adjustments for their competitor’s performance, just a perform a 2.5 minute routine demonstrating your best skills in dance, stunts, pyramids, basket tosses and tumbling. All a Great Coach needs to do currently in the Cheer Competition is make sure the athletes are ready for the two rounds, can focus on their skill sets ignoring all distractions and execute, SAFELY! NCATA’s competition is based upon specific skills, with scores posted immediately and requires the Coach to react through alterations in the Team’s performance to achieve the WIN. So here’s a question for you, “why is Varsity Brands offering “TBN” today when they didn’t offer it last year? Maybe because they fear losing control of any profit center based in Cheer.

So “let’s review, … your answer to the newest opportunity in providing former CheerLeaders, former All*Star performers (Cheer Entertainers) and former competitive gymnast is that you weren’t consulted, you are “smart”, maybe even “really smart”. It’s so amazing how did the World turn round & round before you arrived? At least this time you got the name straight unlike during your informed Spirit Roundtable # 1, … congratulations! Really, … that’s all you can contribute? Are you familiar with the saying, “YOU are a legend in your own mind?”

So the National Collegiate Acrobatics and Tumbling Association (NCATA) has created a New “Sport” … it’s not 100% Cheer … but it’s not 100% Gymnastics either, and is now a partner with USA Gymnastics (USAG) to make sure the same Safety Risk Management requirements based upon recognized research, bio-mechanics, science and other proven Safety measures are addressed properly to protect the women involved at the Collegiate level. They are moving rapidly toward the goal of Title IX approval and NCAA approval as an “Emerging Sport” with the next step being “NCAA Sport” status. Varsity has been in business since 1974, what have they done before today to move the Cheer Activity toward Sport status? Nothing, because it threatens their current profit model in the School based Cheer Competitive programs. One more time, none of this affects All*Star, which really should be known as Cheer Entertainers but that is a topic for another day. Today more collegiate scholarship opportunities for Women are available due to the efforts of the Founders of NCATA! It’s very simple, … a “New Sport” with more scholarship’s for Collegiate Women that is Safe, … need anyone say more?

Rusty McKinley

David Hanbery really missed the opportunity!