Points of Emphasis highlight the major rules changes and emphasize other rules for which additional clarification may be needed.
Application of NFHS Spirit Rules Book – The spirit rules book provides rules and safety limitations that should be followed by all cheerleading/dance/drill/pom and other spirit teams that stunt, tumble, or use props as a base. Dance/drill/pom and other spirit teams that stunt, tumble, or use props as a base must follow the appropriate safety limitations in Rule 2 and Rule 3. Cheerleading or other spirit teams that use props as a base must follow the appropriate safety limitations in Rule 3.
Coaches’ Responsibility: Minimizing Risk – Risk minimization for participants must be the primary objective for all spirit coaches. Cheerleaders should be placed under the direction of a qualified and knowledgeable coach who can recognize a squad’s particular ability level and limit their activities accordingly. “Ability level” refers to the squad’s talents as a whole. Programs should qualify cheerleaders according to generally accepted teaching progressions. The NFHS skills and techniques of stunts appropriate for the abilities of the cheerleaders must be perfected before advancing to the next level. Only those skills mastered in practice and consistently executed correctly should be performed in public. Additionally, coaches should ensure that cheerleaders are thoroughly trained in proper spotting techniques and receive appropriate training before attempting any form of cheerleading gymnastics. Coaches should also provide a comprehensive conditioning and strength-building program to ensure optimum fitness for their athletes.
Coaches’ Responsibility: Education – Coaches have a professional responsibility to read and fully comprehend the entire NFHS Spirit Rules Book. It is vital that coaches fully understand all rules in order to correctly teach the appropriate skills to their athletes. It is also the coaches’ responsibility to educate their student-athletes so they are aware of the rule changes. In addition, coaches are expected to be advocates for and models of good sportsmanship and follow all rules as written.
Overuse Injuries – Overuse injuries are a common problem characterized by irritation to a body part. Cutting back on the intensity, duration and frequency of specific activities/skills will help to minimize the potential for overuse injuries to athletes. Headstands, headspring flips, back handsprings, or jumps are examples of skills that have the potential for injury due to overuse.
Concussions – The understanding of sports related concussions has evolved dramatically in recent years. We have learned that young athletes are particularly vulnerable to the effects of concussion. An athlete who exhibits signs, symptoms or behaviors consistent with a concussion (such as loss of consciousness, headache, dizziness or balance problems) shall be immediately removed from participation and shall not resume participation until cleared by an appropriate health-care professional. Look to your state high school association and the NFHS for education regarding prevention and treatment of concussions.
Performance surfaces and areas – The rules specify that “Performance surfaces and areas must be suitable for spirit activities and reasonably free from objects and/or impediments.” Further, the rules state that “When discarding props that are made of hard material or have corners or sharp edges, team members must gently toss or place the props.” In some situations, discarded props and signs could increase the risk of injury should team members step on them. This is true for both competitive and non-competitive spirit activities. In competitive spirit activities, state associations or local competition administrators can provide information on deductions that may be taken for stepping on objects on the performance surface.