Just like in any sport, cheerleading has lots of words and phrases that might be tricky to understand. In this article, we’ve tried to explain as many of these terms as we could think of!
Disclaimer: This glossary provides general definitions, not “official” ones. Please refer to the official governing bodies or organisations for exact definitions, rules, or guidelines. This is meant for entertainment purposes only, and the information may change at any time.
Aterm used to describe when a team or athlete wins something (like a championship or competition) three consecutive times. For example, winning The Summit three years in a row makes a “3-peat”.
Advanced (ICU division):
The “Advanced” divisions at the ICU (International Cheer Union) World Cheerleading Championships are equivalent to Level 4 in allstar cheerleading.
The “age grid” is a structured list/table that shows the available divisions for cheerleading competitions, typically determined by the local governing body (USASF for example). It specifies the level, gender inclusivity (male/female), team size, and age range for the athletes.
Not all listed divisions in the age grid need to be offered by each event producer. They can select which of the available divisions to include in their competition.
Adivision or team where all the members are girls/women, with no boys or male participants.
Allstar cheerleading is a form of competitive cheerleading made up of individual gyms or clubs. It involves stunts, tumbling, jumps, and dance in routines. In contrast to school cheerleading, which often cheers for sports teams, Allstar cheer focuses on training and competing against other cheer teams rather than supporting other sports.
“Allstar Worlds” is a common term for the “Allstar World Championship,” which is a cheerleading competition organized by the Open Championship Series. This event is held annually in Florida and includes divisions for Mini, Youth, Junior, and Senior cheerleading teams. It should not be confused with the “Cheerleading Worlds,” (see definition below) which is a separate competition organized by a different event producer.
A body position performed by flyers in cheerleading stunts. For additional details and examples of various body positions, you can refer to our “body position” definition below, or see our guide on different flyer body positions.
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Back to back:
Refers to consecutive wins or victories achieved one after the other. This term can be applied to various types of competitions or achievements, such as being “back-to-back world champions” or winning “back-to-back regional competitions.”
A position in cheerleading stunts, placed at the back of the stunt group. For more detailed information on stunt positions, you can refer to our article, which explains in more detail.
A position in cheerleading stunts, placed directly underneath the flyer in the stunt group. To learn more about the base position and other stunt positions, you can explore our in-depth article on the topic.
A type of stunt skill where the flyer is thrown into the air. The flyer steps onto the base’s wrists/hands and is thrown into the air. While in the air, the flyer may perform different tricks and/or spins, depending on the team’s skill level.
A “bid” is like a special ticket that cheerleading teams can earn to compete at big events like The Cheerleading Worlds and The Summit. You get these “invitations” by doing well in competitions during the season. The requirements for earning a bid may vary from one competition to another. To learn more about how bids work, you can check out our detailed guide here.
A bracer is typically a flyer who is connected with another flyer (by holding onto each other’s arms for example). The reason is often to help make the pyramid stable or allows the team to perform skills in a pyramid that would otherwise be illegal if not braced. Bracers play a crucial role in ensuring the safety and success of pyramid stunts by providing the necessary support.
Bounce back is a type of tumbling skill in cheerleading. Instead of just landing after a tumbling pass, like a tuck, the tumbler uses the energy and rebounds from the skill to keep going.
For example, they might land in a tuck and then directly do a front tuck step out, allowing them to continue the tumbling pass forward. This “move” uses the momentum from the initial tumbling pass to seamlessly combine it with another pass, resulting in an extended and exciting tumbling sequence that often gets the crowd going!
See an example of a bounce back tumbling pass at 1:15 in this routine:
A bow is the most common hair accessory worn by cheerleading teams, often designed to match the team or gym colors. For more detailed information on makeup and hair guidelines, see our article covering the guidelines released by the USASF.
A body position normally refers to the specific skill or position that a flyer performs during a stunt. These positions are essential for showcasing the flyer’s skills and contribute to the team’s overall score. Body positions are not limited to a specific skill level, meaning you can see flyers of all levels performing all kinds of impressive positions.
To see a list of both basic and more unusual body positions with examples, you can check out our article below. These positions may seem effortless in routines, but they demand a combination of flexibility, strength, technique, control, and balance!
In All-Star cheer, a chant involves the repetition of words and phrases, often with choreography, pom poms, and usually incorporates a few stunts and skills. This is performed before or in the routine to engage the crowd.
While chants are no longer a part of most competitive routines, they remain in Global divisions at The Cheerleading Worlds and for teams at the ICU World Championships. In some countries, teams on different levels may still include chants in, or before their routines.
Different divisions in cheerleading specifically for athletes with disabilities. These divisions are included at competitions like the ICU World Championships (“ICU World Championships Disabled Sports Divisions”) and The Cheerleading Worlds (“CheerABILITIES”).
Choreography in cheerleading can be described as the art of designing the routine’s visual aspects. It involves not only the skills performed but also the exact movements, dances, transitions, and positioning of every team member on the mat.
This complex process involves careful consideration of various things, such as ensuring athletes can smoothly transition from one place to another, optimizing the routine for a high score, maintaining a seamless flow, determining the ideal duration for each section (given the 2.30-time limit), and tailoring the choreography to match the team’s skill level and capabilities. It’s like putting together a puzzle to make the best routine possible!
A choreographer is the person who creates the choreography for a team. Some teams have their own coaches create the routines, but it’s also common to hire a professional choreographer who specializes in creating cheerleading routines. This person plans and teaches the team all the movements and sections that make up the routine.
“Clean” in cheerleading has two common meanings:
- It can describe a specific motion. In this context, “clean” means that an athlete stands with both feet together and their arms held tightly by their side.
- It can refer to the overall quality of a skill or routine. When used in this sense, “clean” means that the skill or routine is performed sharply and flawlessly. Everything looks tight, solid, and well-executed. There are no wobbles or mistakes, and the performance and choreography look sharp and polished.
The term “coach” in cheerleading is pretty self-explanatory…A coach is the one who leads and oversees the team, taking responsibility for practices and ensuring that the team performs at its best. Coaches are crucial not only for teaching skills but also for building teamwork, discipline, and sportsmanship while also making sure the team improves and performs well.
In cheerleading, “coed” refers to a team or division where both male and female athletes compete together on the same team. This is pretty unique because in most sports, teams are usually divided by gender. The opposite of this is an all-girl team (see definition above).
Coed Style Stunt, toss, or Partner Stunt:
A “coed style stunt,” often called a partner stunt, is a cheerleading stunt that involves only two athletes. In this stunt, a single base grabs the flyer at the waist, tosses them into the air, and catches one or two feet with one or two hands.
Alternatively, the flyer may “walk in” to the stunt. This is where the flyer faces the base, who is holding onto the flyer’s foot, and the base lifts them instead of tossing. During a toss, the flyer can go straight up to the base’s hands, or they may perform spins or flips on the way up.
While this type of stunt is commonly seen on coed teams (as defined above), as it is part of the coed team’s scoresheet, it can also be performed on all-girl teams.
Watch some impressive partner stunts in our compilation video:
In Allstar cheerleading, the main focus is on competing against other cheerleading teams. Unlike traditional cheerleading, Allstar teams are not affiliated with schools; they exist primarily for the purpose of competition, much like other sports. Allstar cheerleading competitions are high-energy, thrilling events that typically include teams on different skill levels.
Want to learn more about other cheerleading competitions? See some of our other competition guides:
A type of dismount (see dismount definition).
In the context of two-day cheer competitions, “Day 1” commonly refers to the first day, typically involving preliminary or semifinal rounds. See “semi-finals” definition for more.
In two-day cheer competitions, “Day 2” typically signifies the second day, often reserved for finals. See “Finals” definition for more.
D1 and D2:
D1 and D2, or Division 1 and 2, are categories used in all-star cheerleading to divide cheer gyms for more fair competition. The goal is to level the playing field, especially for smaller gyms.
A D2 gym is one with 125 athletes or fewer, while a D1 gym has 126 athletes or more. For some competitions that use this system, D2 gyms may only compete against other D2 gyms. This helps make things more fair since smaller gyms may not have the same resources as larger ones.
The D2 Summit is the biggest competition for D2 gyms, and only D2 gyms get to compete there. You can find more information about the D2 Summit in our article here.
Points deducted from a team’s score for errors, mistakes, or violations during a routine. These can include stunt or athlete falls, stepping outside the mat, and other performance issues.
Deductions may also result from not following the routine time limit, prop issues, or “Unsportsmanlike Behavior.” The goal is to avoid deductions at a competition and achieve a “hit zero” routine (see definition). For a detailed list of common deductions, see this article:
The categories used in competitions to group teams based on several factors. These factors include the athlete’s age, whether the team is coed or all-girl, the team’s size, and its skill level.
For example, you might see divisions like “Level 3 Senior Coed – Small,” where “Level 3” represents the skill level, “Senior” is the age group, “Coed” means it’s a mixed-gender team, and “Small” indicates the number of athletes on the team.
In most cases, teams compete against other teams in their own divisions. However, there are some special exceptions. For example, when teams are aiming for a bid or a “grand champion” title, they might compete against teams from different divisions for this title or award.
Let’s look at bids for example; if a paid bid goes to the highest-scoring teams across different divisions, all of these teams are technically competing against each other for the same bid. However, it’s important to remember that while they may be in the same competition for the bid, they still only compete directly against teams in their own divisions.
Large competitions might also further split divisions into A and B sub-divisions. An example of this division splitting can be seen at The Summit, where divisions with a significant number of registered teams (71 or more teams as of 2023) split into A/B, resulting in two Summit Champions for that division.
A dismount is how the flyer comes down from a stunt or pyramid. It is the final movement, leading to either being caught by the bases or landing on the performance surface (mat).
For instance, in a cradle dismount, the flyer is caught in a laid-out position with the bases’ arms wrapped around underneath them. Dismounts can vary in complexity and may include twists, such as a 1/4 twist, 1/2 twist, full twist, etc. depending on the team’s skill level.
To see examples of dismounts at levels 1-4, you can watch our video below:
Elite (ICU Division):
The “elite” divisions at the ICU (International Cheer Union) World Cheerleading Championships is equivalent to Level 6 in allstar cheerleading.
End-of-season events are like the “grand finales” of the cheerleading season, and they’re typically the last competitions of the season for the participating teams. These events are important because they offer one last major opportunity for teams to compete and essentially try to “win the season.”
Some examples of these end-of-season events (in the U.S.) include The ONE Finals, Regional Summit, U.S. Finals, The Summit, D2 Summit, The All Star World Championship, and The Cheerleading Worlds.
Event producers are companies or organizations responsible for organizing and hosting cheerleading events and competitions. Different event producers exist in all-star cheerleading, some using their own scoresheets and offer bids to different competitions (see the definition of bids).
Some examples of event producers include The Open Championships, USASF, IASF, CheerCon (Australia), JAMZ Cheer & Dance, Future Cheer (England), The Spirit Network, and Varsity along with its different brands, such as NCA, UCA, Jamfest, and many more.
Event producers are typically split into “Independent event producers” and Varsity event producers. Independent are those not owned or operated by Varsity or any of its brands. Learn more about independent event producers here, and see our “Varsity” definition for examples of Varsity’s competition brands.
How well athletes perform all their skills in terms of technique and precision. To score well, athletes are expected to execute their skills with excellent technique! This means that routines should not only focus on the difficulty of skills but also on the proper execution of each skill.
Learn about more specific team/gym sayings here:
In many cheerleading competitions, there are multiple rounds of competition, meaning teams may compete more than once. The final round, or “Finals” is the last round of a competition, where only the best teams who qualified in previous rounds* are left. During finals, these top teams compete one last time, and the champions are later awarded.
*Some teams might skip rounds depending on the type of bid they’re competing with (see our article explaining bids for more information).
The athlete who is lifted in the air during stunts. They are the ones who perform different skills and body positions in the air. For a more detailed explanation of the flyer’s role and other stunt positions, check out our stunt positions article.
In cheerleading, formation means where the athletes and stunt groups stand on the mat to make the routine look neat and well-organized. It’s about making sure everyone is in the right place, so the routine looks nice and put together.
A less common position in cheerleading stunts, placed in front of the stunt group, typically for extra support and stability. To learn more about the front spot’s role and other stunt positions, see our more detailed article here.
In cheerleading, “full” or “full twist” typically refers to a tumbling skill, which can be performed in both running and standing tumbling. It can also be performed in level 7 basket tosses. This skill involves a full twist in the air.
Going “full out” means performing the complete routine just like it’s done at an actual competition. It involves executing every single skill, stunt, and move in the routine. While athletes may sometimes “mark” skills during practice (meaning they skip doing certain skills to concentrate on other parts of the routine) going “full out” requires performing everything in the routine, which can be very demanding!
The trophy awarded to the top 3 teams at The Cheerleading Worlds, featuring its characteristic globe on the top. “Globing” means placing in the top 3 at Worlds, and therefore receiving a globe!
An organization responsible for overseeing and regulating the sport of cheerleading, at an international or national level. For example, the International Cheer Union (ICU) is the globally recognized governing body for cheerleading.
Countries also have their own national governing bodies recognized by the ICU. You can find the list of all member nations and their governing bodies here. Examples include USA Cheer in the United States, SportCheer England in England, and the Australian Cheer Union in Australia.
Here are some of the main governing bodies:
USA Cheer, or the “USA Federation for Sport Cheering”, is a non-profit organization established in 2007. It serves as the U.S. National Governing Body for Sport Cheering. USA Cheer works with different types of cheerleading, including All Star, traditional school-based cheer, and the growing STUNT sport. The organization is also responsible for selecting U.S. national teams to participate in the ICU World Cheerleading Championships.
International Cheer Union (ICU):
The International Cheer Union (ICU) is the global governing body for cheerleading, officially recognized since 2013. It currently consists of 119 member nations worldwide. The ICU’s mission is to advance cheer globally and it oversees the annual ICU World Cheerleading Championships. The ICU has also received full recognition by the International Olympic Committee, which you can learn more about here: https://www.thecheerbuzz.com/cheerleadings-olympic-journey-history-whats-coming/
US All Star Federation (USASF):
Founded in 2003, the US All Star Federation (USASF)’s mission is “to support and enrich the lives of All Star athletes and members, provide consistent rules, strive for a safe environment for athletes, drive competitive excellence, and promote a positive image for the sport.” USASF is a “delegate member” of USA Cheer, and hosts The Cheerleading and Dance World Championship annually.
International All Star Federation (IASF):
The IASF separated from USASF in 2016 to focus on international All Star matters. IASF determines safety guidelines and scoring systems for international divisions. The federation also manages the qualification process for non-U.S. teams at The Cheerleading Worlds.
Some of these governing bodies, along with Varsity Brands and others, have been involved in various lawsuits, including allegations of a monopoly over cheerleading. For more details on these lawsuits, you can refer to our articles here, and our weekly newsletter coverage here.
In the context of cheerleading, a gym refers to the specific club or organization where athletes participate. These gyms field teams for competitive allstar cheerleading. Gyms have the flexibility to choose the divisions and levels they want to compete in, and they can operate as businesses or non-profits.
Examples of cheerleading gyms include Cheer Athletics (U.S.), Flyers All-Starz (Canada), Outlaws All Stars (Australia), UPAC Allstars (Chile), and Coventry Dynamite (England).
A body position performed by flyers in cheerleading stunts. For more details and examples of various body positions, see the “body position” definition, or our guide on different body positions.
A “herkie” is a type of jump where one leg is extended straight to the side while the other leg is bent, similar to a hurdler jump. It is named after Lawrence “Herkie” Herkimer, who is considered the “Father of Modern Cheerleading” and is the founder of the National Cheerleaders Association (NCA). The herkie jump is typically not seen in allstar cheer routines.
To explore more types of jumps in cheerleading, you can check out our guide on different cheerleading jumps.
“Hitting zero” in cheerleading means that a team performed their routine without any deductions. A routine without any deductions is therefore called a “hit”. Achieving a hit, or hit zero is important because it increases a team’s chances of placing higher or winning a competition.
To learn more about what this means and why it sometimes causes confusion, you can check out our article here:
According to the USASF rules, inversion refers to a position where the “Athlete has at least one foot above the head and shoulders are the below the waist.” The specific types of inversions allowed vary depending on the team’s level.
You can watch examples of different types of inversions in our video:
Intermediate (ICU Division):
The “Intermediate” divisions are defined by the ICU (International Cheer Union) as equivalent to Level 2 in allstar cheerleading.
Cheerleading judges are the people who assess and score the routines performed by teams. The number of judges at a competition can vary due to things like the event’s budget and the rules or scoring system. Different judges may have different roles, such as checking if routines follow the rules, giving deductions for rule violations or safety issues, and ensuring the scores are accurate. Judges may specialize in specific aspects like tumbling or stunts.
Jumps are different types of “jumping movements” that athletes perform, typically in a dedicated jump section of the routine. They come in different levels of difficulty, and their impact on scoring vary depending on the division.
For a more detailed explanation of the types of jumps and how they are scored, you see our “Cheerleading Jumps for Beginners: Types and Scoring Explained” article. This article covers the basics of cheerleading jumps and provides insights into how jumps contribute to a team’s score.
A basket toss primarily seen in Level 6 routines, where the athlete “kicks” up one leg and then spins twice on the way down. See more about this toss, and other basket tosses invented by Top Gun Allstars TGLC here. Kick doubles can also be performed in tumbling, as seen in this example:
Similar to the Kick Double, a Kick Full can be performed in basket tosses and tumbling. The difference is that in a Kick Full, the athlete performs one spin while in the air, compared to the two spins in a Kick Double.
In some cheerleading routines, you might see a unique part called the “last pass.” This refers to a special last tumbling pass of a tumbling section, performed by one or multiple athletes. This final pass is often designed to be show-stopping and impressive, featuring a combination of skills to leave a lasting impression on the audience and judges.
Here’s an example of an impressive last pass, starting at around 2:15 in the routine:
A layout is a skill in cheerleading, commonly used in tumbling and basket tosses. It involves the athlete doing a backward flip while keeping their body straight and in a hollow position.
In all-star cheerleading, the level your team competes on determines which skills and their degree of difficulty are allowed. Allstar Cheerleading is divided into seven different levels, ranging from level 1 to level 7, with level 7 permitting the most advanced skills.
To explore these levels further and understand the differences, read our comprehensive article on cheerleading levels.
Liberty, often called “lib,” is a position in cheerleading stunts where the flyer stands on one leg while keeping the other foot on the side of the knee. It’s important to note that this position is not classified as a body position, as per the 2023-2024 United Scoring System: “BODY POSITIONS: Lib and platform are not considered body positions.”
The Majors is an exclusive cheerleading competition where only the “best-of-the-best” Senior level 6 teams are invited to compete. For more details about what makes The Majors unique, you can check out this article:
The mat is the surface where cheerleading routines are performed. It is often divided into panels, by straight lines separating different sections of the mat. In the United States, all-star teams typically compete on a “spring floor,” which has built-in springs to provide bounce and support. However, many all-star teams outside the United States practice and compete on a “dead mat,” which does not have built-in springs and provides a different surface for performing routines.
Median (ICU Division):
The “Median” divisions at the ICU (International Cheer Union) World Cheerleading Championships are equivalent to Level 3 in allstar cheerleading.
In cheerleading, a mix refers to the music used for a team’s routine, typically created and produced by a specialized cheer music producer or company. These mixes can either be pre-made or custom-made to suit the specific team’s needs.
Custom mixes often include unique elements like voice-overs with team sayings, team name, the gym, special phrases, team colors, and other personalized elements to make the music unique to that specific team.
Motions are specific arm placements or movements that are a fundamental part of routines. These are some of the first things athletes learn when starting cheerleading. Motions are used throughout a routine and are important to learn and perform correctly.
Judges pay close attention to ensure that all athletes execute motions in a synchronized and precise way. Common examples of motions include “High V,” “Low V,” and “T,” among others.
The NCA All-Star Nationals, often known as “NCA Nationals” or just “NCA,” is the world’s largest cheerleading competition held annually in Dallas, Texas. Organized by Varsity, it attracts thousands of teams competing for the prestigious national champion title. For more details about the competition, check out our article explaining the NCA All-Star Nationals.
These are special jackets awarded to the winners of NCA Nationals, signifying their status as “National Champions.” To learn more about NCA and the rewards teams can earn, you can read our article about NCA Nationals.
A body position performed by flyers in cheerleading stunts. For more details and examples of body positions, see the “body position” definition, or our guide on body positions.
Non-tumbling cheerleading routines include all elements of a cheerleading routine except for tumbling, focusing more on stunts and pyramids. These routines are 2 minutes, which is slightly shorter than the typical 2 minutes and 30 seconds.
For a more detailed look at non-tumbling teams, their history, and specific requirements, see our article below:
This is a type of stunt or pyramid that the USASF defines as “Single-leg stunts bracing each other while in the single-leg position. The stunts may or may not be extended.” The stunt groups are typically positioned next to each other, with the flyers bracing each other (see brace definition).
A “pike” is a jump where the athlete extends both legs straight in front of them while keeping their arms straight in front as well. This skill can also be performed in basket tosses and is seen in routines starting from level 3 and higher. For more information on various cheerleading jumps, see our article about jumps.
The athlete positioned in the middle of the mat during those sections of the routine.
The shiny, colorful, and fluffy accessory or prop used in traditional cheerleading. Pom poms are not typically used in all-star cheerleading but may be occasionally used as props in a routine. Exceptions include the Global Division at The Cheerleading Worlds, where teams perform a chant before their routine and use pom-poms as part of this segment.
These are for teams that don’t require as much time and effort as competitive all-star teams. Prep Cheer teams might practice less and have a shorter season. The main idea is to introduce cheerleading to athletes with a smaller commitment than full-year teams.
Premier (ICU Division):
The “Premier” divisions at the ICU (International Cheer Union) World Cheerleading Championships is equivalent to Level 7 in allstar cheerleading, which is the highest level.
Prelims, short for the “preliminary round”, is a round of competition offered at some events. Some teams are required to compete in a preliminary round, depending on their bid type or division for example. For more information on bids, check out our article explaining different types of bids.
A prop is an object that can be used for visual effects in a routine. The USASF rules specify allowed props such as “flags, standard flat banners/signs, pom poms, megaphones, and pieces of cloth.” For examples of cheerleading routines using various props, check out this post:
A pyramid is formed when two or more stunt groups are connected. The connection is often achieved through a brace, as defined earlier (see brace definition). Pyramids are a fundamental part of every routine and are part of the scoresheet. Teams can showcase a variety of skills within a pyramid, including release moves, flips, structures, and twists.
- Two-High Pyramid: This is the regular kind of pyramid, and it’s what you most often see in an allstar cheer routine. Each flyer is held up by one or multiple bases standing on the ground/mat.
- Two and a Half High Pyramid: This is a more advanced pyramid with three layers of people. Similar to a regular two-high pyramid, the bases hold a flyer. However, in this type, the flyers in the middle layer hold additional flyers, usually at waist level. This creates a pyramid that is considered “two and a half” high. You’ll commonly find these pyramids in level 7 routines, and they can be done in many variations.
See impressive “Two and a Half High Pyramid” examples in this video (the Premier level 6 teams):
A type of skill performed in stunts. According to the United Scoring System, a release move is when the “Top person and bases break contact to execute a building skill. Release skills need to release from and return to the same base/bases. In levels 1, 2, and 3, skills will resemble a released skill where a spotter may maintain contact except for on the foot.”
This means that in a release move, the flyer and bases intentionally let go of each other to perform the skill. Examples of release moves include tick tocks, switch-ups, ball-ups, and other skills that can be executed in different ways depending on the team’s level.
A release move performed from ground level (the mat). In a rewind, the flyer does a backward “free flip,” meaning they are not connected to the bases or back spot. After the flip, the bases and back spot typically catch the flyer’s feet, either one foot or both, on prep or extended level.
Refers to the rings awarded to winning teams at prestigious competitions like The Cheerleading Worlds. These rings typically have a simple design showcasing the competition and year.
Many teams also order custom rings, which athletes often pay for themselves. Custom rings are more elaborate, resembling Super Bowl rings, with features such as crystals and personalization including the team name, motto, colors, athlete names, and more. Herff Jones, a part of Varsity Brands, is the official provider of rings for these Varsity-owned competitions.
In cheerleading, a routine is the choreographed performance that a team competes with at competitions. An All-Star routine normally lasts for 2 minutes and 30 seconds and includes elements such as stunting, tumbling, jumps, and dance. The routine is performed to a (often custom) mix of music and needs to incorporate all essential elements on the score sheet.
Teams practice throughout the year to perfect the timing, difficulty, and execution of their routine, aiming to find a balance between difficulty and flawless execution to achieve the highest possible score. Non-tumbling divisions, however, have routines lasting 2 minutes. For more details about non-tumbling divisions, you can read our article explaining them here.
A body position performed by flyers in cheerleading stunts. See the”body position” definition or our guide on different body positions for more details.
In cheerleading, a score sheet is a document used by judges to evaluate and score a team’s performance at a competition. Different cheer teams may encounter different score sheets depending on factors such as their country, level, and the specific competition.
The score sheets normally experience changes every season, which can be challenging for teams, especially smaller gyms, as they work to keep up with changes and field competitive teams based on these shifting requirements.
At many cheer competitions, teams perform more than once. Semi-finals is one of these competition rounds. For certain competitions, like The Cheerleading Worlds, some teams move to semi-finals by doing well in the preliminary round (“prelims”), while others compete directly in the semis*. The aim in semi-finals is to get a good enough score to advance to the last round, or “finals”.
*Some teams might skip rounds based on the type of bid they’re competing for (check our article on bids for more info).
A shoulder sit is a stunt where a top person/flyer sits on the shoulder(s) of a base(s). This is classified as a prep-level stunt, according to USASF rules.
A shoulder stand is a stunt in which an athlete stands on the shoulder(s) of a base(s).
A showcase is an event where cheerleading gyms gather their teams to perform and “showcase” their routines. Typically held for friends, family, and other guests, the showcase is often the first opportunity for fans to see the complete routine for the season. Additionally, some gyms may host showcases or “show offs” before major competitions as a way to motivate and excite each other.
Typically referred to as either an athlete or a competition staff member. An athlete spotter is a team member positioned next to a stunt, ready to assist if it becomes unstable. A “staff spotter” is typically a non-team member standing behind the competition mat, who steps onto the mat during stunts, also ready to assist.
In cheerleading, a stunt is where at least one person (the base) lifts or tosses another person (the flyer) into the air. Stunts can be made from combinations of skills like inversions, twisting skills, release moves, and more. Stunts often involve two bases, a back spot, and sometimes a front spot, all working together. To learn more about these positions, check out our article on understanding stunt roles.
Stunt levels are a way to categorize and determine the height of a stunt in cheerleading. This is important because the allowed height levels can vary from one skill level to another. For instance, a skill might be permitted at extended level on level 3, but restricted to prep level on level 2.
Here are the main stunt levels:
- Ground Level: is defined as “To be on the performing surface” in the USASF rules, referring to a skill performed, starting, or ending on the mat. For example, a “rewind” stunt, as defined by the USASF, is “A backward free-flipping release move from ground level used as an entrance skill into a stunt.” This means the skill begins with the flyer standing on the mat.
- Prep Level: the lowest connection between the base(s) and the flyer is above waist level and below extended level.
- Extended level: the entire body of the flyer is above the head of the base(s).
- Waist level: the lowest connection between the base(s) and the flyer is above ground level and below prep level.
- Shoulder level: the connection between the base(s) and the top person is at shoulder height of the base(s).
The Summit is a big end-of-year competition, for junior and senior teams on levels 1-6, who are not elegible to compete at the Cheerleading Worlds. Seen as the “world championship” for these teams, it is also open to international participation. Learn more about The Summit in our competition guide.
A release move in stunts, where the flyer switches from one foot to the other. It involves standing on one leg, with the base(s) dipping and releasing the flyer, who then switches to and lands on the other leg. This can be done in a lot of creative ways, involving twists and body positions for example.
A fundamental cheerleading jump and basket toss skill where the legs are extended in a straddle position, toes pointed, and the arms are usually in a “T” motion. The jump is commonly seen on all levels and is often performed in basket tosses starting from level 3 and above. For more details on different cheerleading jumps, check out our article.
Often described as a “backflip,” the tuck is a tumbling skill that can be performed from a standing position or within a running tumbling pass. Both front and back tucks are allowed starting at level 3 and above.
Tumbling in cheerleading is like the floor exercises in gymnastics. It can be executed individually or simultaneously by multiple athletes. There are two main types of tumbling:
- Running Tumbling: Involves a forward step or hurdle to gain momentum before executing a tumbling skill. Examples include tumbling passes starting with cartwheels, round offs, and front walkovers.
- Standing Tumbling: A skill or series performed from a standing position without previous forward momentum. (Any steps backward before skill execution are still considered “standing tumbling.”) Examples include standing back handsprings and tucks, back walkovers, and standing fulls.
The term “Varsity” is commonly used when referring to either Varsity Spirit or Varsity Brands. Varsity Brands, comprised of BSN SPORTS, Varsity Spirit, and Herff Jones, plays a significant role in cheerleading. Varsity Spirit, founded in 1974 by Jeff Webb, specializes in cheerleading and is part of Varsity Brands.
Varsity owns over 40 cheerleading competition brands, including UCA, NCA, The Summit, The U.S. Finals, American Cheer Power, CHEERSPORT, Encore Championships, JAMfest, Spirit Sports, and World Spirit Federation. In addition to competitions, Varsity is involved in various aspects of cheerleading, producing camps, designing uniforms, and more.
It’s worth mentioning that Varsity Brands, along with the USASF and others, has been involved in legal disputes, with allegations of a monopoly over cheerleading. For additional information on these lawsuits, you can refer to our website articles here, and our weekly newsletter coverage here.
“Worlds” is a shortened term used to refer to The Cheerleading Worlds.
We hope this helped make cheerleading a bit more understandable! If you have more words or phrases we should include, please share them in the comments below.