How Cheerleading Has Changed

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Cheerleading has changed tremendously over the years. It has grown and evolved from being considered a past time to being a well respected activity. We first became involved in all-star cheerleading in 2002. At that time teams were not labeled numerically by levels one through six but rather by skill level (novice, intermediate and advanced, and later on excel). These levels were further broken down into youth, junior and senior categories. Over time, minis and international categories were also added. It was not unusual to have athletes who crossed over not only in division but also in stunting position. At one time my daughter, Cayce, back spotted on Youth Advanced, based on Junior Advanced, and flew on Senior Advanced, while also back spotting on her Youth stunt team and flying on her Junior Stunt team. At the time this all seemed quite normal and common place. But now, due to age restrictions per division, this is a thing of the past. Also, the possibility of injuries and its potential to affect multiple teams has also reduced the use of cross overs.

As cheerleading’s popularity grew so did the requirements needed in order to make specific level teams. In the earlier days of all-stars it was a rarity to have a full squad tumbling skill regardless of level. It was not unusual to have only a handful of tumblers per team that had mastered the skill appropriate for that level (back handspring for novice, tuck for intermediate, layout for excel and full twisting layout for advanced). Even stunting skills were nowhere near where they are today. Years ago audiences were as much in awe of novice teams who had majority squad back handsprings as they are today with level five teams who have majority squad double full twisting layouts. Watching videos of cheerleading years gone by makes one fully admire and respect the evolution and the progression it has made.

As the level of competitiveness grew in all-star cheerleading over the years, so did the aspect of high school cheerleading. High school cheerleading became more than just merely putting on a uniform and supporting a football team under the Friday night lights as competition cheerleading teams were formed at the school level. High school teams began incorporating not only sideline cheers and jumps with stunting but also including tumbling skills as well. The criteria for making a sideline varsity squad, and even junior varsity for that matter, became intense as more and more individuals began to respect cheerleading as more than just a support system to a sports team. Ironically, even though cheerleading started out as individuals yelling encouragement to athletes, individuals now yell words of encouragement for cheerleaders. Listening to crowds at competitions one not only anticipates but expects the crowd involvement and encouragement. Hit hit hit pull! Level five cheerleaders love to hear the crowd yelling those four words to them…not only as encouragement but as overall excitement.

Just as cheerleading has made great changes over the years, it is exciting to see how it will continue to grow and evolve in the future. It is almost unimaginable that in the future skills could be performed that make today’s stunting and tumbling a thing of the past, but with cheerleading’s advances over the years it could quite possibly occur. I don’t know about you but I am looking forward to seeing how cheerleading will be in the years to come.

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Gina Whitlock

Gina Whitlock resides in Winter Haven, Florida. She is married with a 16 year old son, Chace, and a 20 year old daughter, Cayce, who cheers for Top Gun All Stars and Florida Southern College. Gina is a former Polk State College cheerleader and has coached at both a private school and at a public high school. She has been a proud cheer mom for fourteen years. Outside of supporting Cayce in cheerleading and Chace in baseball Gina enjoys spending time with her family and friends, boating, and traveling.

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