Cheerleading Competitions Nixed Over Liability Concerns, Says Mo. State Association

June 13, 2006

As of July 1, the Missouri State High School Activities Association will no longer sanction cheerleaders to take part in regional or state competitions. The association will maintain jurisdiction over sideline cheerleading at school athletic events. Squads that want to compete must do so as a club.

The decision means the activities association no longer will provide catastrophic liability insurance to cover accidents during practices for or performances at competitions. The association will continue catastrophic coverage for sideline cheering.

At many public schools, club sports do not receive district funding. Athletes in club sports pay for their own equipment, insurance, coaches and other costs.

MSHAA Assistant Executive Director Davine Davis said the board of directors decided to put the question of competitive cheerleading to a vote among member schools statewide, after hearing the issue come up so often from parents and schools.

Some parents complained that under association rules, their daughters couldn’t compete at a national level, nor could they simultaneously cheer with their high school squad and a private competitive team.

Other questions involved competitions themselves. Should the association sponsor its own competitions? Should there be more competition?

St. Louis-area athletic directors went on record to support the continuation of competitive cheerleading. But statewide, the vote last month was 258-184 to drop governance of competitive cheering.

Safety was not the primary concern, officials said. For example, a cheerleader injured at another athletic event will still fall under the jurisdiction of the MSHSAA.

Nancy Allen, a retired teacher and cheerleading coach for the Parkway School District and co-founder of the Missouri Cheerleading Coaches Association, said the decision sets Missouri back decades.

The regional and state competition “was the one outlet that gave the girls the spotlight for once, maybe twice, a year,” Allen said.

At Ritenour, cheerleaders say they are determined to raise money to compete at the St. Louis regional event Aug. 7-8 at Lindenwood University. They will ask businesses for help, hold fundraisers, even write letters to Oprah Winfrey.

“We are going to regionals,” junior cheerleader Katrina Harris said. “We have to be optimistic. We’ll find a way to pay for it.”

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