Justin Carrier of NCA gave one of the presentations that made me open my eyes the most. The topic was the image and appearance of All*Star cheerleaders. The presentation started with a segment that aired on HBO’s Real Sports. The piece was pretty typical of a segment you would see on cheerleading, and if anything the segment was a little more positive than usual. The video was used to spur discussion from the group. During the discussion there were a few things that stood out.
First, the combination of the uniforms, makeup, and movements is the cause of our problems. Other sports and activities have some of these elements, but nothing else combines them the way we do. When trying to defend our image people often defend 1 element, but not the combination. Statements like “Pageant girls wear more makeup than us” or “Volleyball players’ shorts are just as short” don’t do enough because neither of these groups are shaking their backside on stage while wearing the makeup and shorts. Because of the combination of these things the average person looks at us like they look at the people on Toddlers and Tiaras. I want Gym Owners to think about how many dads have shot down the idea of their daughters becoming cheerleaders because of the image before mom could bring her to a gym. I want coaches to think about how many kids they haven’t had the opportunity to coach because the movements put or left in a routine were too much for Susie’s best friend’s mom. Let’s not drive people away before they walk through the door to find out what All*Star Cheer is really about.
Next up is the movements. A lot of people, including myself, give Senior Coed L5 and International Coed teams a pass on what the do on the floor because they are “old enough” to do whatever. I was missing the problem with this. Our performances need to be appropriate for the people watching, not just the athletes performing. The Youth kids in the crowd watching and wanting to be the older kids don’t need to see them performing like strippers. They need to see things Mom, Dad, Grandma, and Gramps want Susie doing in a few years, and I doubt that is stripping.
Justin said NCA adopted a policy against inappropriateness years ago. At that time he was worried about what it would cause to be taken away from the performances. Since then, an older and wiser Justin looks back at those older routines and wonders what he and the industry was thinking in accepting that stuff as normal. Now Justin says the rule of thumb is to not allow anything that can be used in a story against cheerleading. I think that’s a rules the industry needs to get behind.