CIF prepares to add competitive cheerleading as an interscholastic sport

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Governor Brown signed Assembly Bill 949, which requires the California Interscholastic Federation to develop guidelines, procedures, and safety standards which will add competition cheerleading as an interscholastic sport. CIF will implement cheer for one of the 2017-18 seasons.

“We’re just in the preliminary stages statewide of developing what the sport will actually be and what season it will be in and how competition will take place,” said CIF San Diego Section commissioner Jerry Schniepp.

Governor Brown signed Assembly Bill 949, which requires the California Interscholastic Federation to develop guidelines, procedures, and safety standards which will add competition cheerleading as an interscholastic sport. CIF will implement cheer for one of the 2017-18 seasons.

“We’re just in the preliminary stages statewide of developing what the sport will actually be and what season it will be in and how competition will take place,” said CIF San Diego Section commissioner Jerry Schniepp.

Assembly Bill 949, which is now Section 33353.7 of the California Education Code, defines competition cheer as a sport in which teams participate in direct, head-to-head competition with one another using an objective scoring system. That will likely involve stunting rather than the spirit squads used for football and basketball games, so the football and basketball cheerleaders will not be subject to CIF practice limitations unless they are also part of the competitive cheer team.

Club cheer competition includes both male and female cheerleaders. Badminton, which is played only in the City Conference, is currently the only co-ed CIF sport. Schniepp expects CIF cheer competition to be co-ed.

“We don’t have a comparable male sport,” he said.

The stipulation of an “objective” scoring system calls into question whether judges’ scores can be used as is the case of gymnastics and the diving event of swim competition or whether those judges’ scores would be considered subjective. Club cheer relies on judges’ scores.

The CIF prohibits school sport athletes from engaging in club competition in a specific sport during that sport’s CIF season, so CIF cheer competitors will be prohibited from participating in club cheer during the CIF season and club cheerleaders may choose not to participate in CIF cheer. “Depending on which season it’s placed in I think there will be a conflict and kids are going to have to make a choice,” Schniepp said.

Club cheer competition, including at the national level, exists during the CIF fall, winter, and spring seasons.

The CIF rules also prohibit Sunday competition or practice, which could prevent participation in parades or other Sunday events.

If competitive cheer is a fall or winter sport, football and basketball yell leaders might not be subject to the CIF rule against club activity during the CIF season

 “The football and basketball season would be some type of a spirit squad,” Schniepp said. “It won’t be the sport of cheerleading as we’re going to offer.”

Competitive cheer is the first CIF sport to be added by state legislation; most new sports are added when sufficient interest justifies the transition from school clubs to CIF competition.

“It’s a new era for athletics and how we look at sports, and adding cheer as a sport is part of that,” Schniepp said. “We’re going to make adjustments.”

The state CIF will take the lead in developing guidelines with San Diego Section input playing a role in the development of cheer as a CIF sport.

“As a part of the educational institution I think it’s going to be a positive thing. The details are going to be difficult,” Schniepp said.

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