Letter to the Editor
This letter came to us via anonymous email. It is a rather controversial piece for HOC, but we chose to share it and let “your voice” be heard. The opinions shared in this piece are of the anonymous person who submitted this and not the opinions of Heart of Cheer, its staff, or affiliates.
Bright lights. Sweaty palms. Crowds gathered at the front of the mat. Anticipation. Excitement mixed with nerves. Loud music. It doesn’t matter if you are the athlete who practiced hours upon hours to make sure her team hits, the parent who wants to see her daughter doing what she loves, or the coach who wants to see her team succeed, there is always the same expectation. No matter what happens in the next two minutes and thirty seconds, the people behind the table will catch every mistake, everything you hit and score you fairly and appropriately.
When that doesn’t happen parents, athletes and coaches are all left wondering the same thing; what went wrong?
Year after year new “improved” scoring systems have emerged, each one promising to fix the problems of the past season. It the annual new hope that this year’s system will get it right. But what if the problem is not only the score sheet, but the person sitting in front of the score sheet?
Judges go through extensive training. They learn the rubric and scoring system at a level that is supposed to deliver the correct placements on a score sheet filled with subjectivity. It’s a tall order from the start. From an early age we are all taught that everyone is entitled to this or her own opinion. What happens when that opinion becomes more than just an opinion and turns into a multi-million dollar industry?
Welcome to All Star Cheerleading where the word and theory of ethics is casually tossed around – a lot! There is the promise to teach athletes work ethic and duty, coaches and judges use words like integrity and gym owners talk about business ethics.
Gym owners are asked to sign a Code of Ethics by the USASF, where by its own admission the governing body of all star cheerleading does not enforce ethics, but rather offers the code as a set of guideline with no disciplinary consequences.
What are ethics? By simple definition, ethics are rules of behavior based on what is morally good or bad. Every individual person is engrained with their own ethical code, presumably taught to them by their parents and other adults that have shaped their lives, such as coaches. As a society we make rules on items we value as good or bad. As an example, stealing is seen on a societal level as bad and laws are put in place to punish those guilty of breaking the laws of what society has deemed or bad.
With the lack of consequenses and lots of money involved, it is no wonder that parents, coaches and athletes alike are leaving competitions confused about scores and placements.
We also hear over and over about the rules in cheerleading. These rules simply apply to what athletes can and cannot do on the mat. Break the rule and face a penalty. Anything that happens off the mat is simply ignored by the rules of cheerleading.
Too often coaches are left to put choreographers and music producers on blast for taking money and not delivering services. It’s a local matter and best left to the authorities is always the answer.
What happens when an individual has worked with a team or has taken money without delivering on the service is now a judge in division for that team? Varsity’s own guidelines aimed at coaches for selection of team members cautions against conflicts of interest. Yet, the same guidelines and recommendations do not appear to hold true for all events.
There are good judges who pride themselves on knowing the scoring system, treating all teams equal and scoring teams fairly and appropriately. They are becoming too few and are often on their own, caught between angry and frustrated coaches who feel their kids hard work isn’t being acknowledged or rewarded and a system that lacks accountability for who choose to abuse the system. Integrity matters in an industry where children are the customers, and the end goal is entrance into the most respected competition in the entire world.
Imagine your team is about to take the mat at competition. The team is ready. They have been working hard at practice and parents, coaches and athletes are confident in the team’s ability. It costs a good amount of money to get to the competition. Training fees, uniforms, travel expenses and other items had to be paid for, and it was all worth it for this short moment in time. The team knows this routine and the difficulty and execution is strong. The routine is fun and enjoyable to watch. The team scored well in the past and can feel a good performance is about to happen.
Now imagine, another team in the division has already paid everyone on the handpicked judging panel to work with that team and those individuals charged with judging the entire division have already seen the other team’s routine, maybe in person, maybe through video, given ideas and input on what they want to see, what will score better and what these judges really liked. Scoring is after all about opinion. You have just found out that its not one person on the panel, but it’s the entire panel that has come together to as a resource for that team to score well. For a couple of thousand dollars, the other team had the organized attention and assistance of multiple panel judges, a safety review judge and Accusocre.
As you look around the area, it hits you, the individual who hired all these theses judges, gave the judges their division assignments and is in charge of reviewing the scoring has been working with select teams in preparation for this competition and another judge in this network of so-called cheer professionals, has been advertising all over social media that for a set price, teams can work with this select group of highly trained individuals to “elevate their season” just like other select programs have done in the past.
And there are bids in play.
Do you feel confident now?
When judges are profiting outside of their usual judges pay, a conflict of interest arises. The hope is that judges recuse themselves from judging teams they have worked with in the past and that the Event Producers have put measures in place to prevent such benefits from affecting the competition outcomes. There is a clear manipulation of competition when an entire group of judges from a major bid giving company come together to form a consulting company to profit off of their collective positions of authority. By these consultants very own admission, these actions have been going on for the at least the past two seasons and “hiring” these consultants been the best chance possible for select teams to “succeed, drive scores and ensure success.“
With a scoring system that gives license to judges to decide scoring within a full point range per category, and no apparent safeguards in place to prevent abuse, this unchecked command that has permitted at least one group to believe their own best interests and that of their friends, supersedes the greater good of the industry as a whole. It is wildly inappropriate for a group of judges to offer a service in this manner for a set price and to feel confident in doing without the fear of consequences.
Athletes, parents, coaches, good judges and event producers suffer from the negative consequences of such actions. Confidence is eroded and questions arise. Good judges face backlash due to the actions of those who do not share the same high standards. The athletes who are awarded top honors suffer as their accomplishments are tarnished when questions arise regarding the possibility of backroom deals and kickbacks. Parents question spending time and money in future seasons in a sport that lacks a fair chance at success for their children. Gym owners become increasingly frantic about the impact on their business. Coaches become increasingly angry and frustrated with event producers who see customers searching for alternate competitions.
The lack of ethical standards has placed a stain on the fabric of the all-star industry and must be addressed. An independent investigation as to how and why this is allowed to happen and a change of culture with in the industry is the first step in correcting the course. Answers as to who is responsible for allowing such actions to go unchecked must be given, and individuals must be held accountable in an effort to restore faith in the brands that have allowed for open payments for better scoring to flourish at their events. Individuals responsible for such actions must also be removed from any connection to competitions as a first step in restoring trust. Such individuals have already shown their true lack of virtue. With the amount of money that is flowing in the all-star industry, such flagrant disregard for the very basic principals of integrity, coupled with the lack accountability for such behavior was inevitably going to lead to, simply put, an actual price list for judge’s sweeteners.
If cheerleading in any form is interested in daring to enter the Olympic Arena, it would be a wise first step to understand the importance the Olympic Committee places on ethical standards and to align this industry with those goals.
Unless safeguards including an enforceable code of eithics combined with an independent ethics commission with the power and authority to issue sanctions are put into place to protect the all star community, national championships, World’s and Summit bids will only be available to the programs with the greatest ability to pay. It is black and white. The only hope is that those with the power to stop this abuse of power will do what is necessary before its too late and all faith in lost in an industry that has left integrity off the list of competition must haves.http://www.heartofcheer.com/blog/letter-to-the-editor/http://www.heartofcheer.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/letters-to-the-editor-1-400x233.jpghttp://www.heartofcheer.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/letters-to-the-editor-1-300x300.jpgBlogall star cheerleading,cheer competitions,cheerleading
Yet another area in All Star Comp Cheer that is unregulated and has an incredible potential for abuse. Until this activity or “sport” is regulated these abuses will continue.
Why is it a “sport” and not a sport? It is definitely the hardest “not a sport” sports. It’s the best sport you can do.
Wow wow wow! One of the reasons for me leaving the all star world! When your complaints fall on death ears it is very difficult to remain in the game. Good job with this article! I know one day these unethical individuals will get caught and pay the consequences.
This is wrong on so many levels! With the cost of all star being so high it is already impossible to even consider being a participant. Then you have judges working against you! You have lost before you have even started! This is going to take this whole industry down and that’s a shame! Something that was once about the children has now become so commercialized that it’s no longer about the sport but about the money that can be made from the sport is making a lot of people think long and hard about what’s best for themselves and especially for their children!