revised spring 2008 Cox
Almost every aspect of life or human activity is regulated by some list of rules. Depending on the activity, the list can be either long or short; these regulations are known as the juridic load of that specific activity. High school sports are certainly no exception to this reality and this paper examines the juridic load of competitive high school cheerleading and even more specifically in the state of Wyoming. Competitive cheerleading in Wyoming for the most part involves the annual statewide competition. This competition is open to all schools that have cheerleading teams and there are multiple divisions that include Co-Ed stunt teams, all girl stunt teams, all girl non-stunting teams, and dance teams. Each team is allotted a certain amount of time in which to perform their routine and then is judged based on a set of established guidelines. The competition floor is a pre-established size and extra officials are on the floor during competition for safety purposes when stunting teams are competing. Almost all aspects of the competition routine are regulated, from the types of stunts allowed, to how many people are required for each stunt, to length of the routine, and the types of props allowed.
Since cheerleading is a state regulated activity in high school falls under the auspices of the state High School Sports and Activities Association as well as one of two other entities known as the National Cheerleading Association (NCA) or Universal Cheerleading Association (UCA). The NCA and UCA operate under different guidelines so the competition rules are determined by not only the State Activities Association of the state the competition takes place in but also whether it is a UCA or NCA sponsored event. Wyoming state competitions are under the auspices of the WyHSAA (Wyoming High School Activities Association) as well as the UCA. The WyHSAA guidelines are used generally for eligibility of athletes. Wyoming rules of eligibility include maintaining a C grade average. Penalties of violating this rule include team forfeiture of all contests involved in, adjustment in place standings, and returning of awards.1 The amount of practices required for other sports are also applied to cheerleading teams. Each member must participate in no less than nine practices before any competition, with one day counting as no more than one practice.2 Other rules include the strict barring of any substances such as alcohol or tobacco, and being caught with any of the above mentioned substances will result in suspension for a certain amount of days or being removed from the team. In order to compete, all members of the team must also attend school on the day of the competition or the day that the team leaves for said competition. The state guidelines also dictate the size of the competition floor; in Wyoming for cheer sections of the competitions a 42 feet by 42 feet area will be used and for dance competitions a 48 feet by 48 feet area3 .
The UCA rules governing the competition deal with the more minute aspects. The UCA also defines the different roles within the stunt groups of each team i.e. the base is the person who supports the majority of a top person’s weight, the top person is the person held off the ground, and the spotter is the person responsible for assisting or catching the top person.4 The UCA also regulates team size. Uniform guidelines include no bare midriff when performing, but nude colored leotards count as cover.5 The time limits placed on teams are two minutes and thirty seconds with musical section not to exceed one minute thirty seconds (the remaining minute to be reserved for cheer). The most significant rules placed on teams in competition are the guidelines placed on stunts for safety reasons. For example, each stunt group must consist of at least one base, top person, and spotter. The types of stunts are also defined by the position of the top person while in the air such as if both feet are in one hand of the base, and the height they are at. Any stunt higher than two people is strictly forbidden at the high school level. This is to say that the base supporting the top person must be standing on the ground and not on another set of bases. Dismounts are also regulated for the safety of the top person and if “cradled” (a dismount toss where the top person is caught in a face up pike position and then their feet placed on the floor) must be caught by at least three people in group stunts and two in partner stunts. Any stunts that involves the flyer’s feet going over her head is also not allowed unless her hands remain in constant contact with the bases’ hands in what is called a suspended forward roll dismount.6 The breaking of any of the safety guidelines results in points deductions on the final score, or disqualification if the team exhibits flagrant disregard for guidelines and safety is exhibited by the team. The rules governing competition can be found in booklets published not only by WyHSAA but also by the UCA. The pamphlets can be requested by mail, available on the internet, or at any activities office for that particular school district.
The juridic load can be quite heavy on the team when planning the routine because all the standards on safety, numbers, and length requirement must be met and adhered to. Many aspects also fall into the grey areas that might or might not be legal based on the interpretation of the rules. The numbers required for some stunts also place constraints on smaller teams that may only have enough members to perform a complicated stunt in one group which hurts them against larger teams that can complete more stunts. In addition, the type of stunts forbidden is also the most challenging and therefore the most exciting to perform. Stunts that may be legal to perform at games may be illegal for competition purposes. All these aspect have to be kept in mind when planning a two and a half minute routine. All these aspects can heavily constrain teams from truly showing what they are capable of doing, the otherside is that it also serves as an equalizer for smaller, less experienced teams, which may not feel the controls as heavily as they might not have enough people for the complex stunts.
Really the only way to escape these juridic controls is to choose not to compete in the event, or choose not to be a member of a competitive team. The only other way would be to completely disregard the rules, but that would not be escaping the controls as the punishments would still be visited on the team in the judgment at the end of the competition. In reality the only way to escape is to petition for change of the rules to allow more flexibility or to not compete.