One of the more important reasons for attending high school is to gain an education and become a contributing member or society. Unfortunately, for many students, the biggest reason for attending high school is to participate in athletics and to socialize with friends.
In the district I coach in, we have a rule that says all athletes must carry a 2.0 grade point average (GPA). The grades get checked before tryouts and then every three weeks they are checked again. Once they make a team, they are not allowed to have any grades that are F’s. On my team, I run a ‘three strikes and you’re out’ rule. If they show up on the grade list three times in a season, they are removed from the team. This grade requirement is what keeps the majority of my cheerleaders in school. They love their sport so much, they have learned what they need to do to keep participating.
In team sports when you lose a player to grades or injury, you usually have someone else on your bench to replace them. In cheerleading, we utilize all participants in every routine. When we lose a cheerleader, we have to rearrange all the routines, reconfigure formations, re-learn stunt sequences and transitions. Sometimes we can pull JV cheerleaders up to Varsity to fill positions, but not very often.
When I first started to coach I was constantly losing 3-4 cheerleaders each season to low grades. Once they were removed from the team, they very rarely have the grades to come back. I took a look at the kids that I was losing and what was causing them to not have the good grades. Most of them were smart kids but they lacked time management. So I decided to restructure my practices and add time during the week for study halls. One to two times a week I added time after school where they all came in and worked on their homework. They were allowed to listen to music and sit with friends, but they had to be working on something school related. The first season that I did this I didn’t lost ANY cheerleaders from JV or Varsity. The next couple of years I lost a few from JV but still none from Varsity. The Varsity cheerleaders liked the mandatory study halls because it gave them time to finish homework, make up tests, and catch up. I did still lose a few JV Cheerleaders, but this was mostly freshman and mostly because they were still adjusting to the social, education, newness of high school.
Many of the Varsity cheerleaders started getting grades that were good enough to start thinking about cheering in college. They realized that with some time management and understanding that they opened up opportunities that they did not realized they had before. I went from having one cheerleader make it at the college level to three cheerleaders just one year after I started requiring study halls.
In any sport, in any school you are going to have kids that struggle with grades. Make it a team effort to stay eligible. Show them the rewards of getting good grades and the doors that will open to them if they put as much effort in school as they do athletics. Bring in athletes from colleges or even higher to talk to them and help motivate. In our world, education must come first.