Rules Questions: Help Me Help You

A little over a year ago Les asked a small group of safety judges to help him answer the increasing number of rules questions he was getting so he’d be free to work on more important things. I was included in that small group, since referred to as the USASF Core Safety Judges, and have replied to well over 1,000 rules questions since that time. Over the past year it’s become clear what makes an email easy to answer and what slows the process down and I’m going to share what I’ve learned.

Ninja Duck
The Ninja Ducks will be making guest appearances when there isn’t a more fitting image.

First, rules questions for all star cheer routines should be sent to [email protected] and rules questions for all star dance routines should be sent to [email protected] Sending questions via Twitter, Facebook, Kik, text, iMessage, Google Chat, Google Hangout, Fierce Board, or GroupMe, all ways which questions were sent to me in the past year, are likely to go unanswered. The best case, if they are answered at all, is a reply saying send it to the appropriate email addresses above.

Second, copying Les, one or all of my personal email accounts, a Regional Director, your favorite safety judge, and an event producer will slow things down because they should forward them to [email protected], leading to the same question being addressed multiple times. I’m not saying this to take anything away from anyone that isn’t in the Core group, as there are many great safety judges that work for an event producer and weren’t eligible for the group that will likely give you the correct answer. The problem is replies from people outside the Core group will not be as widely accepted as replies from the group, opening the door to issues. On a different not, Les may answer emails sent to him, but most sent to him are moved to the [email protected] account to be addressed by the group.

Next, before telling you a skill is legal in writing I want to be certain it’s legal. This means I want the video to conclusively show me the skill is legally performed. This is different than the standard I use on the judges stand. While on the stand I’m looking for evidence a skill is illegal before assessing a deduction. This leaves a gap in the middle in which there is a skill I won’t say is legal and wouldn’t deduct for at an event. When I get a skill in this middle area I usually tell you specifically what I’m looking at and what needs to be done for it to be legal.

Finally, every time I see an email without a question I curse you to sitting next to a screaming baby on your next flight. If I respond and say something like “It depends on if you’re doing X or Y, X is legal and Y is illegal” you don’t need to reply and tell me which you are doing, but feel free to reply with a video showing the correction. Replying with a statement, “We did X”, or any other statement won’t get a response because there isn’t a question to respond to. I don’t even want you to reply and say “Thank You” because that put another email in the inbox that needs to be addressed. I’ll assume you would have said it if you didn’t read this and I hope you’ll assume I said “You’re Welcome”.

Submitting Questions

The perfect email to me has the name of the gym and the level in the subject line , the video in the body of the email, and most importantly, nothing else. The perfect response from me would be one word, either legal or illegal. Since I don’t live in a perfect world I’ve learned to be alright with both sides adding “Thank you,” and a signature to the body of the email. What I really hate getting is a bunch of text with the video or a bunch of words without a video. I want to give you an answer, but I don’t want to read your email because it gives me a headache and makes me drink bourbon, making the headache worse. Plus, If I cannot see the skill in question I will not tell you it’s legal. I’m going to emphasize that for those of you actually reading this.

If I cannot see the skill being performed legally, I will not tell you the skill is legal.

Since I doubt many of you are writing in wanting me to reply with “ILLEGAL”, sending an email without a video is a questionable use of your time. This also applies to the follow up emails, such as “So if I change X to Z would it be legal?’. Since I can’t see it, I won’t tell you it’s legal. Please, please, please send a video.

Next is the text. The text is usually doing one of two things, describing what’s in the video or describing the difference between what’s in the video and what you plan on doing. If it’s describing what’s in the video it’s not necessary because I have the video. If it’s describing the difference between the video and what you really want to do, you are wasting time because I won’t tell you the skill is legal without seeing it. I can’t think of a good reason to have much text in the email, but I’m sure someone will one day since you guys have proven you are pretty creative.

Back to my perfect world. In this world videos would be sent keeping the following in mind:

  • Video would only contain a single skill or sequence and people with questions over multiple skills would send multiple emails. I’m alright with receiving multiple views of the same skill in a single email, but different skills would be separated.
  • Videos of stunts would be of one stunt group, tumbling would be of one person, and pyramids would be of one side. There’s no need for duplicates and this way I don’t have to put a disclaimer about the ruling only applying to the one group in the video I was watching.
  • Videos would be from a point of view similar to being on the judges stand. Since this is the view that matters it will help me give the best answer. An additional angle can be included, but the front would be the primary one.
  • Videos would be less than 30 seconds, the extra nonsense at the beginning and end would be trimmed off, and no full routines would be sent. Full routines won’t get a legal ruling, so there’s no reason to send them.
  • There wouldn’t be extra people in the video blocking the view or that could be confused as spotters. Extra people lead to problems that could change the ruling.
  • Videos would be steady. Running to the bathroom due to getting motion sickness from watching videos shake will not speed up the process.
  • Videos won’t suddenly have a blinding light that prevents us from actually seeing what the top person is doing.
  • Videos that aren’t attachments would be uploaded to YouTube. Other sites, including Vimeo, Dropbox, and Coaches Eye, don’t play as consistently on my devices as YouTube videos and I have no interest in clicking on a random link to download a video.
  • The video would be of your own team. Sending in videos is not the way to call out other teams.

Other Things I Would Like You to Know

Since I’m still in my perfect world there are other things I would like everyone to know, or remember if I’ve said this before:

  • Don’t resend the same video unless more than a week has passed. All of the people that can reply on behalf of the USASF judge most weekends during the season so our weekly cycle is fly out Friday, judge Saturday and Sunday, fly in Monday, then play catch up on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. Repeat.
  • Now that season is starting I’ll normally check the account Tuesday and Thursday mornings for about 2 hours each time. When things go well I can get through about 20 videos per hour, but realistically it’s about 12 per hour. When I’m not actively checking that account I stay away from it so I probably won’t see the reply you sent Thursday night until I’m in the account again on Tuesday morning, but others in the group may check it in between and reply.
  • The account will usually be cleared at some point on Thursday or Friday of every week, excluding questions that need to go to the group or Les. I believe this was the case last season for every week from New Years to Worlds.
  • Our goal is to let you know if the skill in the video is legal or illegal. We are not trying to do choreography for you so don’t be surprised if all the reply you get is says illegal with the rule violated being cited.
  • If the skill is performed a different way at an event our ruling does not apply.
  • We answer from a rules point of view, which shouldn’t be confused with what you would get from someone replying from a scoring point of view.
  • We don’t like or agree with all the rules either, but can’t rule based on what we think the rules should be or give you the answer you want just because the rule is “stupid”.
  • We’ll “Reply All” so copy anyone you feel needs the answer.
  • The [email protected] email address is not the catch-all for cheerleading questions. We don’t answer question about School or Rec cheerleading, AACCA rules, or scoring systems, nor do we let you know which level your team should be or how to register for an event. We answer question in which “legal” or “illegal” is appropriate response.
  • Despite what I said in the bullet above, we have the age grid down also.


Since this is already longer than I like my articles to be, I might as well keep going.

  • Why does it take so long to get a reply? There are 8 people that can reply and a couple thousand people that can send questions. The 8 people that can reply judge most weekends during the season so realistically there are only about 3 days a week we’re in a good position to reply. Plus sometimes we get additional opinions or talk to Les before replying.
  • Why does it take so long to get a reply to my follow up question? We address questions in order from oldest to newest, specifically from bottom to top in Gmail, and follow up questions get back in line just like a new question would. I’ve thought about giving follow ups higher priority, but haven’t decided which way is best yet. Plus, Gmail groups threads together and puts them in the slot of the most recent email. In English, this means if you resend your email Gmail moves you to the end of the line.
  • Why did I get a reply to my second question before my first? Emails get addressed in order, but sometimes addressing them means getting additional opinions or going directly to Les. When this happens that email is put on hold and we move to the next one. Sometimes a topic get put on hold, a recent example being pancakes in L4, as we make sure the entire group is on the same page regarding how things should be ruled.
  • Why don’t you answer questions on Facebook and Fierceboard? There are several reasons for this. We want to get all the questions in one queue so they can be addressed in order, I don’t want the accounts I created for personal reasons to be taken over by rules questions, and there are too many networks, and groups within those networks, to efficiently monitor all of them. Plus, I don’t want to. I’ve stopped opening Facebook messages because all I was getting was rules question. From now on I’ll probably go through them once a year, just after my birthday, in May.
  • Can I text questions and videos to you? No. I should say probably not because I’ll make exceptions for safety judges and event producers that have a question pertaining to an event they are at. Otherwise no.
  • Can I call you? Sure, but not to talk about rules. I can’t tell you anything is legal over the phone so it really doesn’t help you to call me about rules stuff. I also have ADD so I’ll probably stop paying attention to what you are saying about 30 seconds in which leads to awkward rules conversations.

My Question for You

Now that I’ve let you know how you can help me help you, it’s your turn to let me know how I can help you. What can I realistically do to help you? I’ll engage the comments on Spirit Post and Fierceboard that answer this question.