Sunday, April 7, 2013

Falling Into Good Hands

Stunting safety and building good foundations.

In all athletics, there is a risk for injury.  Cheerleading is incredibly athletic by nature and has many opportunities for injury.  With over 3 million cheerleaders in the US alone and continuing to grow across the world, injury prevention should be forefront in all programs.  As athletes, coaches, parents and administrators we need to focus our energy on preventing injuries. With this you lower the risk of injury and increase the chance that when there is an injury it can be attributed to an unpreventable accident instead of something that never had to occurPreventing a fall is the first step in preventing an injury.

Many states and programs are recognizing the need for safety standards and are requiring coaches to be certified through the Safety Initiatives.  California and Oregon follow the rules of the AACCA or the American Association of Cheer Coaches and Administrators. The state of Nevada uses the NFHS or National Federation of State High School Associations for Spirit for their rules and requires coaches to have their AACCA certification.  Until recently there were very big differences in the rules for each.  In 2012, the AACCA and the NFHS worked together to streamline their rules so that everyone was on the same page for safety and injury prevention.  Before this coaches had to be careful when selecting camps and material depending on what certification their state followed.  In 2008 AACCA created a policy that any AACCA Certified coach in violation of the rules would lose their certification.  In Nevada, that would mean that you would not be allowed to coach the following year. 

In 2005, Administrators at the college level started seeing huge injury trends.  Until then, the NCAA reported that 20% of its insurance claims were for cheerleading injuries.  In 2006, they started requiring that all teams follow the AACCA rules, limiting teams to no basket tosses or 2 ½ high pyramids on the basketball court.  Since then, the NCAA has reported zero catastrophic injuries.

As a cheer coach, it is our responsibility to know they rules of our state.  We must also know the differences between the rules at the high school, all-star and college level.  When watching film and Youtube for skills and stunts we need to know if the skill is legal for our level and if not, how can we make it safe.  Coaches need proper training in all levels of stunting in order to teach the skills safely to their athletes. 

You may have heard the term “Protection before Progression.”  While “perfection” is unattainable, we want everyone to focus on the skills and drills at each level before moving on.  This will ensure that the athletes master basic skills before attempting skills that are out of their ability.  Each level of profession builds upon itself and is designed in a way that once mastered will become muscle memory and easier for the next skill to be learned.  

With my staff and my cheerleaders, we learn the progressions in the following order:
Spotting Skills (Hands On and Active)
     Hands on spotting is when an extra person in the stunt places their hands on the stunt to help with stability.  This is done in the first phases of learning stunts.
     Active spotting is when the extra person or people in a stunt are watching the flyer and have their body in a position where they can control a fall. This is usually done after a stunt has been mastered as a extra level of safety.
Catching Skills (Bear Hug and Cradles)
     Bear Hugs are when the spotter assists in a dismount by placing their outside arm and shoulder in front of the flyer and the other arm and shoulder behind the flyer so that they can slowly lower the flyer to the ground.
Cradles have two to three catchers, one at the head and shoulders and one or two on each side of the flyer.  They pop the flyer into the air and the top girl falls into their arms.
Climbing Skills
     The flyer starts with a foot on the ground and hands on the shoulders of the base.  They push off the shoulders of the bases and ground to the top of the stunt.  Step-up Drills & Step-up Liberties are examples of climbing skills.
Climbing with Weight Transfer
     For weight transfer stunts there is a transfer of the top persons weight from their feet to their hands or vice-versa.  They require the bases to have locked arms and a solid stance and the flyer to be able to hold their own body weight.  They flyer also needs to have a good understanding of body awareness and control.
Timing Skills
Timing skills require cooperation between the bases, back spot and flyer.  Bases must have a solid weight-baring stance. Tops must be able to pull the momentum of the stunt upward and distribute their weight.  Some examples of timing skills are elevators and extensions, basket tosses and transitional stunts.

Taking the time to master these skills will build strong sturdy foundations for your cheerleaders.  They will have a better understanding of how stunting works and how to keep each other safe.  When every one takes and active roll in safety we see decreases in all injuries.  While there will always be some injuries that can not be prevented, we can make sure that our athletes are prepared and conditioned to perform the skills being asked of them.

Here are some links of importance: 
Cheer Rules
Cheer Safe


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