National Championship Standard

Could and should events labeled as a “National Championships” be held to a higher standard? Ideally each Event Producer would have only 1 National Championship, but since it seems a little late for that should other standards be set. Something that comes to mind is requiring a multi-year history of 100+ teams attending the event, similar to what is required to be eligible to offer Worlds bids. The number of years and number of teams can be discussed, but should there be a standard is the question of the moment.

Another thought is changing the division split standards for National Championships. Currently, for the most part splits require 2 teams to remain on each side of the split, but for National Championships should that number be raised to 4, 8, or even 10? My final thought is to have an enhanced standard for warmups at National Championship.

What are your thoughts on raising the standard at “National Championship” events?

Editorials News

Switch It, Change It

Another experimental thing I’d like to see some event try is switching panels after day 1. I don’t know that this is a great idea, but I believe it would be worth trying at some events. The apparent downside would be getting inconsistent scores across days when performing the same routine. I believe this is possible and even likely.

I also believe if it would happen when switching panels by day it would happen if switching panels by event and getting the quicker feedback of seeing it happen by day would make it easier to address. Right now it’s rare for a judge to see another judge’s scores for a routine. Would seeing another judge’s scores lead to more consistency across judges and panels? I don’t know, but it would give an opportunity for a judge to see if they are high or low compared to someone else, which would make it easier for the judges that want to be great to look into why.

It would also give the coaches more feedback which I believe would be greatly appreciated at early season events, although I admit it may not be what they are looking for at major events. It would make judges watch day 2 routines with “fresh eyes” because they wouldn’t have their notes from the day before and it would incorporate more opinions into the final results, both of which I believe are good things.

Like I said at the beginning, I don’t know if this is a great idea that would lead to significant positive adjustments, but I don’t see it causing problems so I’d like to see some events try it.


Chance & Me – Part 1

When I sat down my plan was to write an article about how to get into judging, but I don’t have an attention span so my mind started wandering. As I thought about what to write I drifted from how to get into judging, to how I got into judging, to the journey to judging major events, and somehow that looped around to how I got into cheerleading to begin with. This trip down memory lane reminded me of the role chance played during the journey.

For example, would have thought my ride leaving Doug and I at UCA work week in 1995 would turn into good luck and play a role in me judging Worlds in the 2010s.

The role chance played became more intriguing to me so I started outlining that article and realized that’s going to take a long time to write. Even if I break it into parts the first alone will take a long time to write. I’m going to write and publish that story, especially now that I’ve said I’m going to, just not today.

I want to leave you with a thought a friend left me with when I spoke to him about writing the article about the role of chance.

“It sounds like you had good luck because you built good relationships.”

To be continued…

Editorials News

Jury of Their Peers

Another experiment I would like see is programs judging their own divisions, specifically at an event like Majors with a few teams in high level divisions. I’d prefer to pay to hear the coaches of F5, Orange, Panthers, Senior Elite, and Shooting Star discuss and rank each team in the division in each category of the score sheet more than paying to watch teams perform. Same with Cheetahs, Steel, and TGLC (and might as well bring back Cali Coed and Warriors while I’m wishing).

I used the Senior Large divisions as the example, but would like to see this for several divisions. Since I know this idea lives in a galaxy far, far away, my idea that is in a galaxy just far away is to have a different division judge the division, like Large Senior judging Large Coed and vice versa or Medium Senior judging Large Senior and vice versus.

When it comes down to it I just want to get inside of the heads of the coaches of the top teams by listening to them discuss where teams should rank in comparison to each other and most importantly why.

Does this sound like entertainment to anyone else?


Building Blocks

In recent days I listened to a podcast that led me to the idea of treating each thing I learned as a building block, like a Lego. Each is a piece that isn’t that impressive on its own but can be combined with other blocks to make something impressive.

I imagine the most blocks came from my past coaches. Coaches are there to teach skills and lessons through sport and I’ve had several great ones that I appreciate. I’ve also had some experiences in which coaches showed me what not to do, but those were still lesson that could be used in the future. If blocks came in different sizes the blocks from coaches would probably be the largest ones and used as the foundation of whatever is built on top of them.

Several blocks also came from teammates. I cannot count the number of times a teammate gave me a tip, many of which I later shared with someone.

Teaching summer camps gave me a different perspective of the blocks. I was now switching from getting tips on how to do things to how to get others to do things. I don’t think I could over value the things learned during my staff years. First, learning every part of so many stunts instead of only learning my part. Next, being taught how to teach instead of just do. Doing and teaching are not the same skillset and learning both has been very useful. Third is actually talking skills. In watching coaches work and when I’ve given the USASF credentialing test in the past I’ve seen many coaches struggle with articulating how to perform skills. They can mark is exceptionally well, but using their words to say what’s being done wasn’t easy for them and I feel like this is a key part of coaching.

Now most of the blocks I add come from random interactions with coaches, judges, and athletes. They are harder to come by now that I have so much industry experience, aka being old, but I think I appreciate each block as I get it now more than even.


Perfection Before Progression?

When I started cheering, at least once I moved to the summer camp instructor and coaching side, “Perfection before progression” was a phrase I consistently heard. Although I heard it I don’t remember seeing it consistently on the competition floor.

Fast forward about 20 years and I still hear coaches preaching it. I also feel like I see more teams exhibiting it, but most of the teams actually practicing it had a negative reputation and are called “Sandbaggers”. How did we get from adamantly preaching something to criticizing those doing what was preached?


Hit or Miss

It’s time for another random idea. I’d like to see an event that already eliminates teams each round, like college nationals, which advances about half the teams, or Worlds, which advances 10 teams, give priority to teams that don’t drop.

First guarantee advancement to any team without a fall. This means you and your fans could know that you are moving on as soon as you walk off the floor. If you drop you’d have to wait and see if all the advancing spots get filled by teams that hit or if not and you have a high enough score to take one of the remaining advancing slots.

Second, only make teams without a drop eligible for 1st place. Some details would need to be worked out to ensure teams still performed something that resembled a legitimate routine, like set a minimum score requirement, but the general thought behind this is you must hit to win.

This puts an emphasis on execution over difficulty and competitions would become an execution contest with difficulty as a tie breaker. This method won’t be everyone’s favorite, but is smartest in the long run. Pushing execution means more skills should hit and athletes generally don’t get hurt as often when skills hit. Trying the opposite and pushing difficulty over execution, would have a higher rate of drops, increasing the risk of injury.


Why Winning Doesn’t Always Equal Success by Valorie Kondos Field

Valorie Kondos Field presented Why Winning Doesn’t Always Equal Success as a TED Talk.


Happy New Year

Happy New Year! As one year ends and another begins many of us think of the changes we’re going to make to our lives. Sometimes it’s adding something and other times it’s removing something. For those of you in the cheer and dance community I’d like to suggest changing points of view. For the next year as you watch teams try to identify something they do extremely well. This could range from the things directly reflected on the score sheet to intangibles like lots of positive floor talk. I think this change of perspective, to looking for the good, will make us more positive as a whole.


Know Your Role

As a coach do you realize how significant your role can be in a child’s life? If you name the adults a child spends the most time with in a year the list will probably start with Mom & Dad, then move to their teacher. The person after that may very well be a coach. I figure Mom & Dad get a couple hours with a child per week day and a little more on the weekend.  A teacher probably gets a little over an hour a day, maybe 7.5 hours per week. A coach gets a couple hours per practice a couple days a week, maybe 4 hours. School doesn’t go year round while our sports typically do so that pulls the teacher and coach closer over the span of a year. Once you factor in children rarely having the same teacher for multiple years, but often having the same coach for multiple years it becomes very possible the coach could be a clear third.

Do you appreciate your role as one of the most consistent adults in a child’s life and do you use that role and time to help shape the child into a better person. I hope you answer with a resounding Yes!


Long Live Loyalty

I spoke with some parents that were disappointed their daughter was removed from a team mid season. The team was the type of marquee team that could win any event they attended, including Worlds. Their daughter had been a member of the program for several years, finally making her dream team and deservedly so.

The mom admitted the daughter was no longer tumbling as well or sharp as she when was placed on the team and early in the season. The mom also said she thought the stress of tumbling not remaining as easy was causing her daughter’s stunts to struggle. Still the mom was upset the daughter was removed from the team leading up to major event season, citing the loyalty the coaches should have shown to them given their past together. The mom let me know one of the team coaches was also a coach of her daughter’s last team and another was her main tumbling coach for years and who they were doing privates with to work through the current tumbling frustrations.

The mom reiterated her frustration and couldn’t get over her coaches being so disloyal to remove their daughter from the team when they had been so loyal to the program.

I understood where the mom was coming from. I asked her if I could try to explain where the coaches may be coming from. I wasn’t part of the program and didn’t talk to these coaches about the situation, just spoke from experiences I’ve had and spoken to other coaches about. I pointed out the mom said their daughter wasn’t keeping up with what the team was doing. I then asked if she thought it was possible the coach was really showing loyalty to the team and more specifically the to other athletes on the team. This family’s daughter wasn’t the only one that had been with the program for several years before making the dream team and the coaches could be showing loyalty to the majority of them by only keeping people on the team that were pulling their weight. I don’t think the mom saw it that way, but it seemed like the dad was thinking about it.

As a coach you have an opportunity to give a limited number of athletes a chance to reach their goal. If someone isn’t doing their part removing that 1 may be the best way to be able to give the rest of the athletes the best chance. It may not be disloyalty to the 1, it may be loyalty to the rest.


More Random Ideas

Here are some more random ideas I’ve had. I don’t anticipate any getting implemented, but think they’d be interesting to try.

Benefit of the Doubt

I’d like to try not giving teams the benefit of the doubt about what skills were performed. Instead of a team with 5 groups performing 2 true double ups, 2 1-3/4 ups, and having a 5th group falling while attempting a twisting stunt getting scored as if 5 true double ups were performed only giving that credit to a team that clearly performs 5 true double ups. I think this would lead to the truly elite teams separating themself from the pack.


Coaches Decide

Sometimes following events we hear about how the judges got it wrong and it was super clear the placements should have been ___. This gave me another random idea. How about before results are known giving the coaches from the programs in a division an opportunity to agree on the results? If the results really are super clear the coaches should be able to agree, right?. If not we’ll assume the results aren’t super clear and it goes to the scores. I think it would be interesting to see how often the programs agree and even more entertaining to hear the conversations about who should place where.


Non Tumbling

Instead of teams in the Non-Tumbling divisions getting a penalty for tumbling why not try just leaving tumbling off the score sheet. That way tumbling skills that are being used for overall effect could still be done, but not given credit specifically for being tumbling.


Beautiful or Invisible

Everything in your routine should either be beautiful or Invisible. Many apply the beautiful part to the major skills in their routine, stunts, pyramids, tumbling, etc., but sometime skip the details, motions in the air, landing the tumbling, and timing of skills.

There are a few options for making something invisible, taking it out, hiding it, or distractions. For taking something out think about whether or not it’s really necessary, does it add points to your routine. The first thing coming to mind in this regard is motions. You are scored on the motions you do, not what you could have done, so if a motion isn’t being performed beautifully take it out. Who says tops need to hit a motion or do choreography in the air? If it can be done well, great, but it not take it out so it doesn’t leave a bad impression.

For hiding skills, tumbling comes to mind, specifically landings. If you have an athlete that can perform a tumbling pass, but does it with their legs apart or lands a little funky, put them in a group and in a position within the group where those won’t be as noticeable.

For distractions, formation changes come to mind. If you can’t make the change beautiful try doing something to draw my attention away from the formation change. Put up a quick stunt so my attention shifts there instead seeing the athletes scurry across the floor.


You Can’t Do Everything

What do you focus on when trying to make your team elite? You can’t do everything, at least not all at once, so you need to decide where to spend your time first. There are 15-16 scores on the major scoring systems I looked at. Some scores separated difficulty from execution, stunts and tumbling for example, and others are combined into a single score, like dance.

If the score sheet categories were the menu items at a southern bbq joint, where you could get a plate with 3 meats and 2 sides, what would you order for your ideal routine? Would spectators and judges be able to identify those items based on your team’s routine and performance? Does your practice regimen reflect that order?

Mine would be stunt execution, pyramid execution, and stunt difficulty with a side of building creativity and running tumbling execution.


Past Ideas

Several of my past ideas centered around trying to increase the average number of teams within a division.

First is making the standard team size 24. Forget XS, Small, Medium, and Large divisions and make a single sized-based division with a maximum of 24 athletes. Second is reducing the number of mainstream levels from 5 (last season) or 6 (next season) to 3, excluding Level 6/7. Tumbling wise  the first would require hand support (walkover and handsprings), second would be flips without twisting (tucks, layouts, whips), and third would be flipping and twisting (fulls and double fulls). Building wise we could start with next season’s Level 2, 4, and 6 rules.

Third is changing from the 5 age groups (Tiny, Mini, Youth, Junior, and Senior) we currently have to 4, Tiny (6 & Under), Youth (4-10), Junior (8-14), and Senior (12-18). Fourth is defaulting to every team within the same level and age group competing against each other until there are enough teams to split them. This puts every Senior 4 team, coed, all girl, small, and large, in 1 division until there are enough teams to warrant a split. Fifth is raising the number of teams remaining on each side before a split is made from 2 to 8.

The intent of each of these changes is to increase the average number of teams per divisions at competitions. Implementing any of these changes would have a small impact on increasing the number of teams competing against each other and all of them should have a significant increase.