2012 High School Rules Changes

Dear AACCA Certified Coaches,

AACCA LogoI hope this email finds you well and ready to wrap up your cheer seasons as we wind down the school year. I want to update you on the new rules changes for high schools that are about to be released. As I told the Georgia Cheer Coaches Association this past week, some of you are going to have to forget most of what you know about the high school rules! Please let me know if you have any questions, or join our new discussion forum listed at the bottom of this email.

Rules Consistency

The new high school rules have been approved and will be announced today by the NFHS and AACCA. We had a joint conference committee in January that was designed to have the two sets of rules get back to the consistency we had many years ago. This involved both organizations looking at the reasons for having longstanding rules as well as what rules could be combined into a simpler “class” of rules. These classes of rules will help eliminate some of the uncertainty by coaches and nitpicking by rules interpreters when the skill is considered to be safe. The end result is that the NFHS and AACCA rules are closer than ever, and there are very few and minor differences. We are working to outline those differences so they can be addressed in the next rules cycle.

Yes, No Double Downs

The rumor is true. Both rules committees banned double twisting dismounts. The new rules replace the “2 1/4 twists” language with “1 1/4 twists”. We have all seen the decline in performance of these skills even as we have seen an increase in the number of attempts. While there are pockets where teams have improved through coaches education and judging criteria, the nation overall has not responded well to the years of warnings we’ve been giving. The final decision was easy once we were presented with two years of data showing that while the overall injury rate for cheer is low, head injuries – especially at practice – are high. Add to that the fact that the majority of those head injuries are from body to body contact and we knew it was the right decision.

We also required a spotter for single base shoulder stands where the base is holding the top’s feet. We were seeing more and more of this type of skill, which leaves the top person with no protection should she buckle and fall off the back.

Give and Take

That should really be “take and give”. In addition to the new restrictions, both rules committees are allowing two new classes of inverted stunts that add creativity without increasing risk.

The first is that all inversions below shoulder level are allowed. There are specific requirements in place, such as constant contact with a base or spotter and contact with two bases/spotters in a low inversion that is descending. An example of these would be a yoyo, a cradle to a back walkover, or a handstand on a double based thighstand. You can even now do a cartwheel over the thighs of someone else. All of these will allow for more creativity in choreography without additional risk of injury.

The second major addition is that we are now allowing braced suspended rolls/flips. This is a skill that is allowed for Level 3 and 4 all stars and is done with relatively little risk of injury. It must be braced on both sides by elevator preps with spotters and must have at least three people catching for a total of 12 people involved in this skill. It is not allowed to twist, so it is basically a front or back braced flip to a cradle, stunt or loading position. I get videos of these every month from someone asking if it is legal and I have had to tell them it is not. In each case, even the mediocre teams, I was given no reason for concern about the safety of the skill itself.

There are many other changes that tweak the rules in order to make it easier to follow as well as to align with the NFHS rules. One example is that we removed the rule that allowed a release transition as long as it made no more than 12 inches of separation between the top and bases. The NFHS now allows teams in braced pyramids to make up to a 1/4 turn around the bracer like our rules have allowed.

I am very pleased with the developments of this year’s AACCA and NFHS rules committees. They looked at the athletes and the available data and determined that they could help minimize the head injuries in cheer while also allowing more freedom to perform skills that are safe to perform. The new rules are now posted at http://www.aacca.org/hsrules. There is a link there for a complete summary of the changes as well.

As always, thank you for everything you do for cheerleading safety!

AACCA Rules Link (Link updated at Jim Lord’s request. Original Link)

NFHS Press Release

Jim Lord

Executive Director