Inside Events: USA Cheer
9 Jan, 2019By: Mary Helen Sprecher
An Interview with Lauri Harris, Executive Director
The USA Federation for Sport Cheering (USA Cheer) is a not-for profit 501(c)(6) organization established in 2007 to serve as the National Governing Body for Sport Cheering in the United States. USA Cheer exists to serve the cheer community, including club cheering (all-star) and traditional school-based cheer programs, and the growing sport of STUNT. USA Cheer has three primary objectives: help grow and develop interest and participation in cheer throughout the United States; promote safety and safety education for cheer in the United States; and represent the United States of America in international cheer competitions. In addition, there are US National Adaptive Abilities and Special Abilities Teams, providing further opportunities in the sport.
Sports Destination Management: Cheer has received provisional membership status by the IOC. Where does that stand right now?
Lauri Harris: Cheer internationally has provisional sport recognition with the IOC and is being developed by the International Cheer Union, the governing body globally. USA Cheer, we are working toward becoming a Recognized Sports Organization (RSO) with the USOC. We have submitted our application with the USOC to become an RSO and we are looking forward to continuing to participate in that process.
SDM: Do you feel like having the sport at the provisional level has helped raise its profile?
Harris: We’ve been present at the USOC Assembly for the past two years and have made some really valuable contacts. We have a partnership with USA Weightlifting and the NFHS and are enjoying working together, and we look forward to collaborating with other United States national sport governing bodies as well. We’re really excited about the movement in the sport and about the ability to share the work of USA Cheer across the United States and to help the ICU’s mission of furthering cheerleading globally.
SDM: One of the most exciting things was seeing USA Cheer – and cheer as a whole – represented at the Winter Olympics in PyeongChang. How did that happen?
Harris: As the host country, South Korea chose to bring in the cheer teams from the top seven countries in medal count from the last winter Olympics as global supporters. It was funded by South Korea and we were thrilled to be a part of it.
SDM: Will it happen again?
Harris: There are no plans in the works yet for the next summer or winter Games but I can tell you we would certainly love to be invited to Tokyo!
SDM: When does USA Cheer select its next national team?
Harris: The next national team selection process is on January 21 in Orlando, right after the UCA/UDA College Cheerleading & Dance Team National Championships. The premier all-girl and co-ed teams are selected that day and we start to prepare for the world university cheerleading championship over the next few months.
SDM: Does USA Cheer host championships of its own?
Harris: USA Cheer conducts STUNT Collegiate National Championship and regional championships, and partners with existing national events. At USA Cheer, we put our main focus and efforts on the safety component of the sport. We have made some really important changes to the rules of cheer and we’ve seen a dramatic reduction in injuries as a result of those changes. Right now, we’re in the process of rolling out a new course that will help with training and credentialing coaches and others who will be participating in cheerleading competitive events.
SDM: One of the emerging sports that many cheerleaders are getting involved in is STUNT, which focuses on the technical and athletic components of cheer, but without the sideline aspect. Is it growing?
Editor’s Note: To learn about STUNT, go to this page.
Harris: What we have noticed is that there are huge pockets of STUNT growing in every region across the U.S. We are very excited about the future growth in STUNT and the opportunities it’s creating for female athletes at all levels of participation.
SDM: How many schools participate in STUNT? It seems to be one of the fastest-growing sports for girls and women.
Harris: Yes, it is a great opportunity for female athletes; in fact, we have over 40 colleges participating now – with more showing interest for 2020 – and over 200 high schools this season alone, with junior high schools asking for it too. In California, it’s an official high school sport. There are also pilot programs in STUNT at all-star cheer programs. Those are held in the summer which is the off-season for STUNT.
SDM: There are college cheer programs that offer scholarships to outstanding cheer athletes, and USA Cheer offered a college combine for cheer this past year.
Harris: Yes – we did our first college recruiting combine in September in California and we’ve gotten a ton of requests to host more, especially now that there is such a growing awareness of STUNT and all that it offers.
SDM: Was the combine a success?
Harris: It was a huge success. We had over 400 high school cheerleaders, plus coaches from various colleges attend and get connected to each other.
SDM: Will USA Cheer be hosting more combines in the future?
Harris: Yes, the plan for 2019 is to host four to five of these across the U.S. to give athletes the chance to connect with coaches. We’ve done polls to see where the coaches are and where they’d be willing to travel. Right now, we’re thinking of a few states – Texas or Oklahoma, Florida, Ohio, Indiana – but nothing has been announced yet.
Note: Destinations and event owners wishing to contact USA Cheer for information on hosting combines and events can reach out to Lauri Harris at firstname.lastname@example.org.
SDM: What ages of athletes do you think you’ll be hosting at the combines?
Harris: In 2018, we hosted grades 9 through 12 but I think this year, we’ll set it for grades 10 through 12.
SDM: Any idea how many athletes are involved in cheer?
Harris: Nationwide in the U.S., there are approximately three million cheerleaders, including youth, high school, college and all-star programs. Cheer being part of the Olympic movement certainly boosts growth and participation even further globally. Currently, more than 100 countries are participating in cheer on some level with more on the horizon.
SDM: It sounds like the sport is on a roll.
Harris: It’s in a great spot. We are really excited about the future of cheer.