Sport Rulebook

Safe and Successful Cheerleading: Understanding the Rules and Responsibilities

Cheerleading is an exciting and competitive sport that combines athleticism, teamwork, and creativity. Whether you are a young beginner or a seasoned professional, it is important to understand the different levels of competition and safety rules that govern this sport.

It is also essential to know how scoring works and the training and responsibilities of judges.

Levels of Competition

Cheerleading has different levels of competition that cater to various age groups and skill levels. These levels are defined by USA Cheer, the governing body for cheerleading in the United States.

The levels include Youth Rec Sideline, Junior High/Middle Schools, High School, College, and All Star Cheerleaders. Youth Rec Sideline is the introductory level for cheerleading and is designed for children aged five to 12 years old.

These teams perform at youth recreational leagues and often cheer for sideline games. The focus is on learning the basics of cheerleading, such as stunts, tumbling, and routines.

Junior High/Middle Schools cheerleading is designed for students in sixth to eighth grade, which is usually ages 11 to 14. Their teams compete against other middle schools in the district and state levels.

The focus is on intermediate-level skills, including jumps, tosses, and tumbling. High School cheerleading is the most common and popular level of competition in the United States.

It is designed for students from ninth to twelfth grades, which is usually ages 14 to 18. Their teams compete against other high schools and the goal is to qualify for the national championships.

The focus is on advanced-level skills, including pyramid stunts, baskets, and coed partner stunts. College cheerleading is the highest level of competition for cheerleading and is designed for college students.

Their teams compete against other colleges and the goal is to qualify for the national championships. The focus is on elite-level skills, including high-level tumbling, stunts, and pyramids.

All Star Cheerleaders are competitive cheerleaders who perform outside of school teams. They can range in age from 5-18, and they compete within various levels defined by USA Cheer.

All Star teams usually participate in more challenging routines and execute skills at a higher level. Safety Rules Based on Age/Level

It is important to note that safety is always a top priority in cheerleading, regardless of the age or skill level.

Therefore, rules and regulations are in place to ensure safety and prevent injuries from occurring. Young cheerleaders must learn basic skills and gradually work their way up to more advanced ones.

Coaches must encourage their athletes to progress at a reasonable pace and learn new skills correctly. Different age groups will have restrictions and will need to reach certain age levels before tackling advanced skills like partner stunts or basket tosses.

Safety rules may vary by competition level, and teams/gyms may have additional rules to ensure their athletes’ safety. For athletes who have already learned some of the more advanced skills, they must practice these in a safe environment.

Proper training and conditioning are essential for the development of cheerleading skills. Coaches must ensure their athletes are well-instructed on proper form and technique to avoid accidents that may cause injury.


In cheerleading competitions, the scorecard is the tool used to assess and rank performances. Scorecards differentiate from competition to competition, but they usually incorporate two categories: performance and objective deductions.

Performance refers to how well a team performs their routine, which includes stunts, jumps, tumbles, dance, vocals, and more. Performance scorecards look at how well a team has executed their skills and how the routine is put together in terms of creativity, music, and costume choice.

Objective deductions refer to penalties that teams receive based on mistakes made during their routine. Examples include falls, bobbles, and missed counts.

Objective deductions may also include illegal skills or illegal movements, where the athlete performs a maneuver that does not adhere to the safety guidelines. Points will be deducted for each error.

Furthermore, the judges’ training and responsibilities should also be considered. USA Cheer provides judge training seminars that teach the required skills and criteria to score a routine accurately.

Additionally, judges must stay up to date with the latest changes in rules, techniques, and safety guidelines. It’s important that judges remain impartial and focus only on the performance presented in front of them.

Subjectivity, preference, or any kind of personal bias should not be considered in the scoring.


Cheerleading is an exciting sport that requires the perfect combination of athleticism, teamwork, and creativity. Safety must always be a top priority for all cheerleaders, regardless of their age or skill level.

However, cheerleading is not just about performing skills, but also about creativity and expression. Every cheerleading performance tells a story, and the goal is to ensure that the judges understand the story and the skills behind that performance.

To achieve this, teamwork, hard work, and excellent coaching are essential for any cheerleading team.

3) Basic Rules

Cheerleading is a physically demanding sport that requires proper training and progression of skills to ensure the safety of all athletes. A qualified coach is essential for the progression and development of cheerleading skills.

A qualified coach is someone properly trained and certified to teach cheerleading skills, including stunting, tumbling, and dance. They are not only responsible for the athletes’ safety but also for creating an environment that promotes teamwork, self-discipline, and respect.

A qualified coach’s responsibility also includes creating a practice atmosphere that fosters a love of the sport from its athletes. Qualified coaches must focus on proper progression of skills to avoid potential injuries and allow their athletes to build a sound foundation before attempting more advanced skills.

It is equally important to note that a coach’s job involves teaching safety awareness to athletes in addition to cheerleading skills. Athletes must learn not only proper form and techniques but also safe practices such as maintaining safe distances from their teammates while practicing stunts or the proper way to execute dismounts.

Coaches must oversee and manage athlete practices to ensure compliance with these safety guidelines. In addition to qualified coaches, it is also important to use appropriate surfaces and safety equipment while practicing and performing cheerleading exercises.

Mats and padded surfaces are some of the best practice surfaces to use when learning or perfecting tumbling, stunting, and jumping skills. As cheerleading involves a high degree of physicality and athleticism, spotters should be present to help athletes maintain proper form and protect them in case of a fall.

Prohibited surfaces include concrete, bare floors, and surfaces that have hazardous components such as stones or sharp objects. Safety equipment such as mats, floor padding, and safety belts play an important role in protecting athletes during training and performances.

Coaches must be aware of the safety equipment requirements in their practice and competition facilities.

4) Competition Rules

Competitive cheerleading can be a thrilling and intense sport with many rules to follow. These rules are important to ensure fairness among competitions and ensure athletes remain safe while competing.

One of the most important aspects of competitive cheerleading is athlete attire. Athletes must follow specific rules when it comes to their uniforms, shoes, and accessories during performances.

Uniforms must be appropriate for the competition’s level and must comply with the team’s requirements. Shoes must be athletic shoes, and no sandals or open-toed shoes are permitted.

Jewelry is also prohibited, and athletes must remove them for both safety and fair play reasons. Edible items like gum or candy are also prohibited during a competition.

These items can pose a choking hazard to the athlete, can stain the surfaces, or stick to a fellow teammate, making it challenging to perform stunts and execute their routine. Time is equally important in competition cheerleading, and teams are allowed a specific amount of time to perform.

Performance times depend on the level of competition. Teams should ensure that they follow the specific guidelines to avoid time penalties.

Going over the allotted time can result in the deduction of points. Competitions usually have rules surrounding the use of props.

If a team uses any type of prop during their performance, they must ensure that it fits within the rules and regulations for that competition.

In conclusion, cheerleading is a fun and exhilarating sport; however, safety should always be a top priority.

QUALIFIED COACHES and adherence to rules and regulations are essential to maintaining the safety and well-being of cheerleaders. Basic rules and competition guidelines are in place for the athlete’s safety and to ensure a fair competition experience.

Athletic development and progression must be completed properly to avoid injuries, while the correct surfaces with spotters and safety equipment will help to avoid accidents. With teamwork and dedication, cheerleading athletes can achieve success and perform at their best.

Cheerleading is a highly physical sport that requires adherence to safety guidelines and rules. Qualified coaches are vital in teaching proper skill progression and safety awareness, while appropriate surfaces, spotters, and safety equipment must also be utilized.

Cheerleading competitions have specific rules surrounding athlete attire, time, and props. To prevent injury and ensure a fair competition, it is essential to follow these guidelines.

Cheerleading is an enjoyable and rewarding activity, but it must be done in a safe environment.


– What is the role of a qualified cheerleading coach?

A: A qualified coach is responsible for teaching cheerleading skills, safety awareness, and creating a safe practice environment. – What surfaces and safety equipment should be used in cheerleading?

A: Mats, floor padding, and safety belts are essential safety equipment, and padded surfaces are recommended for practice. – What is the importance of athlete attire in cheerleading competitions?

A: Athlete attire must be appropriate for the competition level and comply with the team’s requirements. – What are the rules surrounding time and props in cheerleading competitions?

A: Performance times depend on the level of competition, and props must adhere to specific guidelines to avoid penalties.

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