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The cheerleading industry has evolved faster than any sport or physical activity in the world. We have, in 2 short decades, gone from a support system for athletics- to BEING the athletes. All-Star cheerleading is in its infancy when compared to say, travel baseball or softball. But with over 2500 cheer/dance gyms across the country, and countless gyms emerging across the world, it is clear that all-star cheerleading and dance is here to stay.
In the '80s and early '90s, teams were typically formed of athletes who were interested in improving their skills so that they would stand a better chance of making their high school or college cheerleading teams. As the sport developed and grew, more and more athletes and their parents viewed All-Star Cheerleading as a viable activity in and of itself. As stronger and stronger athletes began to recognize that All Star provided them a way to focus more on teamwork and athleticism and less on pom-poms and decorating lockers, the sport began to separate itself from the traditional stereotypes.
This is no longer your mother's Cheerleading. Teams and athletes in All-Star now focus on gymnastic and acrobatic moves. Today's hybrid sport combines gymnastics, acrobatics, athletic dance, and many elements unique to All-Star. More extreme athlete than fashion model, today's All-Star athlete can learn exciting skills in a fun, safe environment, it is a great way for young athletes to learn new skills while building teamwork, goal-setting, sportsmanship, and numerous other social skills while making lifelong friendships.
All-Star teams are typically comprised of 15-36 athletes with a variety of skills and abilities (much like a football or basketball team.) There can be solid, well-rounded athletes and those who have particularly strong abilities in certain areas (ex. - strong dancers or jumpers). The routines are judged by their level of difﬁculty, precision, creativity, technique and entertainment value.
Each team level has different skill levels that they can compete at. This corresponds to their Age, Tumbling, and Stunting skills. A large misconception is that tumbling is the only skill that matters to determine what level that team will compete at. Yet in fact the stunting skills are considered the more important skill and the one that counts for more points. One example of this is if a team that is competing as a Youth level 2 and tumbling at a level 2 yet stunting at a level 1 they won’t be getting the maximum amount of points that they could be if they were doing level 2 stunts. This team even if they perform flawlessly will fall to a Youth level 2 team that is doing all level 2 skills even if their stunts fall. They are earning more points because they are attempting skill relevant stunts to their competing level. This will also come into effect if the same Youth level 2 squad is tumbling at a level 3, they will be penalized for tumbling at a higher level then they signed up to compete at. This is a large cause for frustration with coaches, athletes, and parents alike.
The USASF (United States All-Star Federation) created the age grid to level the playing field. They determine an athlete’s cheer age by their age on August 31st. For example, if a child turns nine on September 1st, their cheer age remains eight years old. It was designed the same way Pop Warner has divided their participants into age-appropriate divisions, such as Mighty-Mite, Peewee, and Midget. This prevents gyms from placing a four-year-old and an eighteen-year-old on the same team. We assume that children in the same age range are close developmentally, skill-wise, and in experience.
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