Competitive Cheerleading, also known as allstar cheer, is a rigorous sport where athletes, referred to as “cheerleaders”, go to competitions to perform at 2 minute and 30 second routine against other teams. These performances included a routine of jumping, stunting, tumbling, and dancing. Judges evaluate the performances and the team with the highest score in their division wins. There are 6 levels in competitive cheer, and many different rules and regulations for each level. Level 1 is the simplest level and 6 is the most difficult. Cheerleading takes endurance, good sportsmanship, commitment, and skills needed to compete. However anybody with the drive and agility to work hard into becoming an athlete can be a cheerleader.
Competitive Cheerleading Divisions
Who you compete against at competition is determined by which level your team is, the age group your team fits in, the size of your team, and the size of your gym. The age groups are divided by Tiny (5-6 years old), Mini (5-8 years old), Youth (5-11 years old), Junior (5-14 years old), Senior (10-18 years old) and Open (17 years and older). The size of your team is separated by Small, Medium and Large. You must have a certain amount of people to fit into Small, Medium and Large. In some competitions and levels there is also and Extra Small division. Gym sizes are D1 and D2. D1, more formally referred to as Division 1, must have 126 athletes or more enrolled in their cheerleading program, and D2 has 125 or less. These separations make it more fair, so that each team has an equal opportunity to do well.
History of Competitive Cheer
While school/sideline cheer started roughly 100 years earlier, allstar cheer began in the late 1980’s, and gained popularity in the years following. The purpose of allstar cheer was to perform and compete for titles, rather than cheering for a football or basketball team. In the 1990’s, more cheer gyms began to open and more and more people started to enter in competitions, including some of America’s most well-known gyms, Top Gun and Cheer Athletics. Springboard floors were also introduced in the late 90’s, which made skills such as jumping and tumbling easier to do and safer for flyers when they stunt. Since the early 2000’s cheerleading has erupted into a very popular and intense sport, with big help from the extremely successful movie Bring It On, which was released in 2000. It has even been added to one of the sports making its debut at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. There are currently more than 3.3 million cheerleaders across the United States.
Cheerleading was originally an all-male sport. In the late 1880s, at the first college football game between Princeton and Rutgers, male “yell teams” began to form to cheer for their teams It is more common to find male cheerleaders in schools or on the sideline rather than in competitive cheer, with only approximately 3% of male allstar cheerleaders in thousands of gyms across the country. Another fun fact is that several U.S. Presidents have been cheerleaders, including Dwight Eisenhower, George W. Bush and Franklin Roosevelt. Something others may find interesting is that the offseason for competitive cheerleading is very short. The season usually starts towards the end of the year between October-December and commonly lasts until April or May. Summer and early fall is the only time of the year where there are no competitions and it is considered “offseason”. This shows that cheerleading is a very demanding sport and takes a lot of time and effort.