I have been an all-star cheer parent for 4 years now. My daughter is 8 years old, and started working on being an all-star cheerleader at the “ripe old age” of 4, right after she saw a local team (the team she is on now) in the city’s Holiday Parade. When those big green eyes looked up at my husband and me, her cute little voice said, “Mom? Dad? I want to do that!” It was the beginning of the ride we are still on (and plan to be on for many years to come!).

       There is so much to learn to be a cheer parent. The veteran parents can tell you what they have done, and they have learned along the way making the mistakes (forgetting make-up at home for the competition 7 hours away, how to make competition weekends “budget friendly”, where to put the uniform and shoes prior to leaving for traveling to the competition three states over, etc.), but I went into this not knowing a sole! When our daughter joined, it wasn’t because her friend “Suzie” was there, or that some kids at school were on the team – it was because she saw them and liked what they were doing and how they looked. They looked like they were having fun and were a part of a huge team! She wanted to be a part of that fun and team! Sure, everyone was very nice at the gym, but knowledge was very limited for all-star as this was a gym that was still in the growing stages.

       Lucky for me, I am an avid researcher. To the internet I flew like a flash! First off, I have to say I LOVE GOOGLE!! Searching on Google can’t be beat! Easy, not to mention you can choose to “search” or “I feel lucky”! With a sense of humor, life is ALWAYS good!! I typed in “All-Star Cheerleading” and hit the “search” button (I feared the “I feel lucky” button for this one. . .). I got numerous gyms listed that were in our state as well as national. I got YouTube videos of all-star gyms performing (some amazing stuff, might I add!), and I got the USASF. The United States All-Star Federation was something that had intrigued me, so I headed onto that site and it was HEAVEN for me as a new all-star cheer parent! This site had THE RULES listed (though as a new all-star cheer parent that had been an avid volleyball player it was all Greek), had connections to gyms, listed sanctioned gyms and events, and had a connection to the USASF-PAC. The USASF Parent Action Committee (PAC) is an organization that is a part of the USASF totally comprised of all-star cheer parents from all over the nation, large gyms and small. Their mission “is to promote and improve the communication between the parents, coaches, gym owners, athletes, event producers and USASF in the All-star Cheerleading industry.”

pac pic

       Ding! Ding! Ding! We have a winner!! I had hit the MOTHERLOAD of information on being a parent in all-star cheerleading! Instantly I clicked on their pdf “Cheer Parent 101”, and read all 19 pages of this amazing document. When I finished reading it, not only did I have a greater understanding of the world of all-star cheerleading, but greater respect for the coaches, gyms, and event producers! It had everything spelled out for the person that had never been in cheer before (me) and had a child that was interested in participating in the sport (me) and used language for those that had no idea what a “double down” was (me). It explained things WITHOUT brushing over such issues as cost (they stated that “it can be a very expensive sport”) and commitment (they also explained that the commitment can be heavy for the entire family both time-wise and financially). There were no punches pulled with this. They laid it all out there for me to read and absorb. Because of that simple pdf I am the cheer parent that I am today. I am the first one to come to the defense of a coach if a parent is in the viewing room complaining because her daughter didn’t make the Level 3 team even though she has Level 3 tumbling (there is more to a team than tumbling – like STUNTING). I am the parent that knows the rules and is generally contacted if a parent has a question. I am the parent that is very involved in the “behind the scenes” of things, promoting the sport and appreciating all of the work that goes into this glorious sport! It is the reason that I blog for Cheer Parents Central, network with other gyms, parents and coaches, and why I this year applied to be a part of (and was accepted to) the PAC.

       The PAC does exactly what it states – is a communication link between parents, coaches, gym owners, athletes, event producers and the USASF. They promote the sport of all-star cheerleading by doing all of this. People are going to do so much if they are happy with the sport as a whole, and information is the EASIEST way to make people happy. Changes get made when people work together to vocalize an opinion and take action to make the change. The PAC is that organization for parents in all-star cheerleading! The PAC is a HUGE source of all-star cheerleading information, with parents that have athletes that are in cheer (both all-star and school), that are in various levels of all-star cheerleading (from Level 1 up to and including Level 5 and 6), and from gyms ranging from one in North Central Wisconsin with about 90 athletes to a gym on the East Coast with a Worlds team, to one of the best known all-star gyms in the industry with hundreds of athletes, to everything in between! Parents are well-represented, and the committee is very well-informed. If they don’t have the answer, you bet your bottom dollar they know where to go to GET the answer. Along with the “Cheer Parent 101” pdf, they also have “Worlds Insider’s Guide” and “Ask the Worlds Judge” for parents that have been “around the block” or are new to all-star cheer, but have the athlete talented enough to hit the Level 5 team.

PAC       The PAC also greatly supports the “iPromise” campaign, which is a sportsmanship campaign done by a subcommittee of the USASF National Advisory Board. They have an “iPromise” for Coaches, Athletes, and Parents. They are amazing posters that can be printed off for posting and promoting within gyms all over the nation, no matter the size. The iPromise campaign does everything to promote the sport of all-star cheer how the USASF (and most people involved in the industry that I have spoken to) want it to be – to play by the rules, respect others, sportsmanship from everyone, positive views, self-control and that the “pursuit of victory” is much “more important than winning”. They are done from the views of the coach, the athlete, and the parent, speaking to each group and to their part of the entire sport of all-star cheerleading. It is also their part in the “National Sportsmanship Day” campaign, done every March 1st.

       The PAC is not only a part of the USASF in the promotion, but also published a position paper in October, 2009 titled “Money Saving recommendations for the All-Star Community”. The committee sought out opinions from “parents and professionals in an effort to provide a wide scope of financial suggestions and strategies” to benefit the USASF and their subsidiaries during the tough financial climate of 2009. The purpose of the paper was more to assist gyms, boosters and organizations in keeping all-star cheerleading around as opposed to it being victim of the financial climate. When many organizations around the nation were looking to cut out areas of great spending, the PAC was involved with helping keep the sport of all-star cheerleading around to assure that it didn’t become a casualty of budgets for organizations that were at the mercy of tuition payments and donations (YMCA as well as other non-profit organizations/groups) and creating a sport that was lumped into the label of being a “rich kid’s sport”. Not every family or athlete in all-star cheerleading is from wealth or the financial means to pay all of the costs that other families are able to do. They encouraged creating “travel budgets”, encouraged gyms to “provide flexible payment options” and did a lot to promote the work of the “fundraiser”. They also encouraged gyms to find creative ways to decrease expenses that might be “unnecessary” for families – selling used uniforms, allow athletes to choose the shoe they can afford as opposed to the one that the gym wants, use uniforms for more than 2 seasons, and other creative things. The 8-page paper is still available for review and is very interesting to read.

       So the USASF is not such a big secret for parents today. I know that because everyone knows there are the rules to follow and guidelines that gyms have to implement into their programs as well as gyms being sanctioned by the USASF. To this day though, it amazes me as to how many people actually KNOW of the Parent Action Committee. I’m not talking about parents that have been in all-star a year or two; I’m talking about parents that have been in all-star for 5, 8, even 10 years have not heard of the PAC! When I spoke about what I found on the website, I had “veteran” parents coming to me wanting a copy of the “Cheer Parent 101” that I had printed off and given to the new parents to the program. They loved the information that I had found and wanted to know about it themselves.

       The first year that my daughter was in all-star cheerleading, I made her a member athlete of the USASF – two years before her gym made it mandatory that athletes had to be members. She was legal to perform at any USASF-sanctioned event before it was mandatory for her to be. I have maintained that membership each year of her all-star career thus far. There are two types of memberships – the free membership (which most use, which is for age-verification by the USASF only) and the “Gold” membership ($25 annual fee). With the “Gold” membership, the athlete is also covered by a $1 million dollar catastrophic insurance policy (see the website for details) as well as is qualified (when she is old enough) to apply for USASF athlete scholarships for college.

       My research paid off greatly, and still does to this day! If ever I have a question pertaining to the rules, guidelines, another gym’s actions affecting my child (in-season recruitment), or any other question pertaining to all-star cheer, my first stop is the USASF. I know my area rep, and I know how to contact the PAC (long before I became an active member of the PAC) for an answer, opinion or an idea. They are there as a resource, and I use it to the fullest. I would encourage any parent that has an all-star cheer athlete to connect with the PAC and become familiar with the USASF website. I can’t tell you how many times it has saved huge drama arguments in the viewing room (why can’t my 8 year old be on the senior team?) and headaches for the coaches. It is my goal to grow this sport, and with the USASF and the PAC, I feel that I have started in a wonderful place!

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       I have been an all-star cheer parent for 4 years now. My daughter is 8 years old, and started working on being an all-star cheerleader at the “ripe old age” of 4, right after she saw a local team (the team she is on now) in...