Cheerleading Essentials

Cheerleading incorporates elements of dance, gymnastics, and intense school spirit. Although cheerleaders are most often spotted by the average person on the sidelines of basketball and football games, cheerleading squads are usually active on the competitive level as well. Squads may be comprised of all females, co-ed, or, rarely all-male.

Types of Cheerleading

* School-sponsored: Most cheerleading teams represent their school. Cheerleaders can begin as early as elementary school. Many American universities have cheerleading as part of their recreation program.
* Youth League: Many organizations that have youth basketball or football leagues sponsor cheerleaders as well. Pop Warner, for example, is a non-profit organization that gives children ages 5 to 16 the opportunity to join a football team or be a cheerleader for their football team.
* All-Star Cheerleading: Emerging in the 1980s, All-Star Cheerleading focuses mainly on competitions. The U.S. All-Star Federation for Cheer and Dance Teams, or USASF, formed in 2003 and has since acted as the national governing body for all-star cheerleading and created specific rules and standards to use when judging performances. In late 2006, USASF assisted in creating the International All-Star Federation, or IASF, and brought cheerleading to other countries. All-Star squads are usually comprised of 6 to 36 people. Performances are intense and most squads spend all year preparing to compete. The performances, however, are a mere 2.5 minutes. All-Star squads are placed into divisions based on age, ability, team size, and gender of participants. The age of participants range from 4 to 18 and up. Squads usually compete in 5 to 8 competitions a year. The ultimate goal is to place high enough in these competitions to make it to Cheerleading Worlds, where the best squads from all over the world compete for the title of World Champions in their respected divisions.

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