What Do You Really Want?

All Star Cheerleading has come a long way over the past few years. An activity that started out as an after school social platform has evolved into an 8 billion dollar a year industry. The pioneers who set the stage for what you now know and enjoy have worked endlessly to see that activity become a respectable sport. If you ever have a few minutes to spare, look up some of the very first all star competitions from 1997 or before, and you’ll see just how far this sport has come. The competitive cheer community has grown from a few hundred participants into roughly 400,000 or so athletes. One way that cheer has been able to grow is that the USASF with the help of the NACCC have been writing competition rules since 2004. This has shaped the way that cheer programs form teams, practice, and compete. This article is not to discredit the great work of the USASF or the NACCC, but to spark discussion as to what you, the cheer community, ultimately want to see our sport grow in to. I write this because there are pivotal decisions lurking for event producers in January of 2012 as they’ll either renew or not renew their membership with the USASF; rumors are stirring as to what the 2012 season will bring.

Next season is a very important season for competitive cheerleading. It is the first time that the USASF is requiring that all athletes become members, if they want to compete at USASF sanctioned events. Up until now, only athletes who are participating in World’s are required to become members of the USASF. This decision to mandate athlete membership by the USASF has been met with great opposition from many people around the country. The opposition is stemmed from, in my opinion, the questions that people are asking, but not getting answers. I could elaborate on this topic, but you and I know that you do not have enough time in your busy day to read a super long article about my thoughts so I will leave it alone. However, I will try to get your wheels turning about the current situation, as it may affect what the future holds for your beloved sport.

Currently, we have the USASF which is made up of the board of directors and a few other committees. (All of the following information can be found on the USASF website so you can check me for accuracy, if you’d like.) The board of directors is heavily weighted by current or former Varsity Brand workers including the President, Jim Chadwick, who spent 10 years as VP of marketing for NCA (written on Jim’s Linkedin page). Five of the six event producers that formed the USASF are now Varsity Brand companies and each of these companies have a permanent voting seat on the board of directors. Also, as many of you already know, the USASF was formed from the monies of a one million dollar loan from Varsity Brands, and the USASF office is currently in the Varsity Brands building in Memphis, TN. All the given information is not meant to sound incriminating, or to question the motives of the USASF, but combine all this information (along with other rumors not stated) with the mandatory athlete membership, and you can see why coaches and event producers might want a few questions answered before they jump completely on board.

I’ve heard many people, from gym owners to event producers, who are seeking for another option to the USASF. They want a way to keep Varsity from “monopolizing” the cheer industry. The thought is to have a governing body that is not closely associated with any event producer. To have a transparent 501(c)3 organization that only governs the way they programs compete, and uphold the integrity of our sport. I understand their point of view and frustrations; however, I’m not completely sold that starting a new governing body is quite what we need to strengthen our cheerleaders and competition. So I ask you “What do you really want?” Do you think that having some event producers branch away from the USASF and follow another set of rules, guidelines, etc. would solve the many issues that are looming over the competition side of the cheer industry? Would it give the coaches and event producers a stronger voice in the rules process, if the new board was voted on by the membership? Or would it set the industry back from the progress that you’ve seen the past 8 years? Is it smart to reinvent the wheel? What would the cheer world look like in 5 years with two governing bodies?

I’ll keep my opinions out of this article because I am really intrigued by what you think. I will end with this question. What if the USASF would answer some of the questions being asked? If they published the votes and minutes from the board of directors meetings, would that be good enough for people to stop speculating about how close it is to Varsity. What if the board of directors were voted upon by the member event producers and gym owners? Would that make people stop assuming that the USASF has closed door deals that specifically benefit Varsity? What if the USASF gave more control to the NACCC? Would coaches feel like they had more of a voice? Although, I do not know what the best case scenario is, I do know one thing. The one company that gave the USASF its chance to gain power to govern, might be the same company that causes it to lose its power to a significant amount of the cheer community.