CIF approves competitive cheer standards

Local high school competitive cheer programs, like Great Oak (pictured here), will now have the chance to compete as a recognized CIF sport against other school’s using an objective scoring system. Courtesy photo.
Local high school competitive cheer programs, like Great Oak (pictured here), will now have the chance to compete as a recognized CIF sport against other school’s using an objective scoring system. Courtesy photo.

The CIF Board of Managers voted to approve bylaws for competitive cheer.

The unanimous Board of Managers vote April 5 adds competitive cheer to the list of CIF-approved sports, defines competitive sport cheer as a spring sport, and establishes bylaws for competitive cheer covering definitions, official rules documents and safety certification of coaches.

“We’ve been talking about this for a long time,” said CIF commissioner Jerry Schniepp.

In October 2015 Governor Brown signed Assembly Bill 949 which required the CIF to develop guidelines, procedures, and safety standards to add competition cheerleading as a CIF sport while defining competition cheer as a sport in which teams participate in direct, head-to-head competition with one another using an objective scoring system. The state CIF took the lead in developing guidelines with the input of the CIF sections.

Traditional competitive cheer is defined as any competition using or following the traditional competitive format. Competitive sport cheer is defined as a competition consisting of four quarters of play with a halftime break between the second and third quarters and will include partner stunts, pyramids and tosses, group jumps and tumbling, and team performance.

Coaches for both traditional competitive cheer and competitive sport cheer must meet the appropriate education and safety requirements. The National Federation of High Schools Spirit Rules Book will be the official rule book for competitive cheer.

Both paid and unpaid traditional competitive cheer and competitive sport cheer coaches must have completed a safety education program which emphasizes a philosophy of safety awareness, understanding and assessing legal liability in cheerleading, knowledge of cheerleading safety equipment including apparel and training aids such as spotting belts and mats, spotting techniques for tumbling and partner stunts, physical and psychological performer readiness, skill progressions for tumbling and for partner stunts and pyramids, and medical responsibilities including injury prevention, the development of an emergency plan, and the assessment, treatment and rehabilitation of injuries.

Currently the United States Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights does not classify competition cheer as a sport, so competitive cheer will not be counted toward a school’s Title IX compliance unless the Office of Civil Rights declares cheer to be a sport.

Only traditional competitive cheer and competitive sport cheer are considered CIF sports. Sideline cheer is not subject to CIF bylaws; while schools are encouraged to have sideline coaches certified in cheer safety issues, the restrictions against club sports during CIF season, school transfers, eighth-grader involvement, summer contact between athletes and coaches, and Sunday activities do not apply. If a sideline cheer squad competes, however, it would be considered a traditional competitive cheer team and subject to CIF bylaws.

Although CIF competitive sport cheer teams are restricted to the spring season, there is no season of sport for traditional competitive cheer. The lack of a defined season for traditional competitive cheer exempts that activity from the CIF bylaw prohibiting outside competition during the high school season of sport, so those cheerleaders would still be able to participate in non-CIF competitions any time of the year as can sideline cheer participants.

The bylaws regarding transfer students including a “sit out period” in the absence of a CIF waiver apply to both traditional competitive cheer and competitive sport cheer. Since there is no CIF season for traditional competitive cheer, the sit out period only applies to the first season of sport following the transfer. The Sunday prohibition against CIF sports (unless a school selects Friday or Saturday as their alternate day of respite for religious purposes) applies to both traditional competitive cheer and competitive sport cheer, as do practice allowance limitations. The exclusion of sideline cheer from CIF purview allows participation in parades or other Sunday events. The CIF regulations also include a two-week “no contact” period between athletes and coaches during the summer, and sideline cheer is not subject to that restriction.

Competitive cheer will commence for the 2017-18 CIF year and will be the first new sport since boys and girls lacrosse were added for 2002.

Competitive cheer will join badminton, which is played in the City Conference only, as the only coed CIF sports and will be the CIF’s 29th sport counting boys and girls programs separately but coed sports as one sport each.

The CIF Coordinating Council voted 29-0 Wednesday, March 1, to recommend the bylaws revisions.

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