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Opinion: Extreme Competition Times

Opinion: Extreme Competition Times

I understand this topic has been addressed, but it obviously has not been corrected. I feel that it is extremely important to do so immediately at the risk of losing more all star kids and supportive parents. While many coaches are very concerned about competitive advantages, rules, scoring, ages, and many other things that are integral to the success of our sport, I am concerned about the parents’ investment in the activity.

Extreme Competition by Lisa RingerCourtesy Lisa Ringer

I wish to keep parents and kids happy by providing them a safe and valuable experience to brighten their future. This is how our sport will expand. As I have proclaimed many times, this should be every responsible industry member’s number one priority!  Forcing kids to compete from before 7:00 AM to after 11:00 PM does not accomplish this task and is not appropriate. Let us explore some of the many reasons why.

Young kids work on schedules. They are already thrown off by hotel rooms and foreign sleeping conditions, and now we expect them to warm up at 6:00 AM? That means waking at 5:00 AM or before to get dressed, properly fed, and ready. Many of these kids are very young and new to the sport. The preparation for an event should be fun and exciting, but being forced to complete these preparations before the sun comes up zaps the excitement right out of the process. Most hotels and restaurants don’t even serve breakfast at this time!

Now with a sleep and nutrition deprived young athlete we expect them not only to perform but to complete athletic skills involving extreme acrobatic and partner lifting skills. This is not a safe or an effective way to provide for our young athletes or their parents. They do not and cannot practice at this time normally. Why would we expect them to compete at this time?

The American Academy of Pediatrics has done research on safe and effective start times for schools and recommends start times no earlier than 8:30 AM. (PEDIATRICS Vol. 134 No. 3 September 1, 2014 pp. 642 -649) Other scholarly articles state that lack of sleep in adolescences can result in poor performance and foul moods. That does not seem healthy for a successful cheerleading competition! While I am generally the first person that says we need to push our kids and raise our expectations for their successes, I also see the evidence clearly on early start times, but none of my thoughts even matter. The only people that matter are the parents that are investing in our sport and the kids we are trying to keep active for years in all stars. They have spoken and they want change.

Parents that have made an investment hate these extreme competition times. They get particularly perturbed when they find out about it only 5 days prior to the event. I recently had a pediatrician friend and mother tell me that an early morning start time was too extreme for the young participants. She would not have agreed to go if she knew the start time was that early when they registered. Also, many dedicated all star parents have 2 or more kids in the gym, and most of them host multiple children households. With multiple competitors, parents may now be there from 5:45 AM to 11:00 PM. It’s a little hard to find quality sitters in a hotel if the little ones cannot make it that long as most children do not function well on 18 hour days.

As I have worn many hats from gym owner and coach to event producer and parent, I want something to change! I understand that these event companies must make money at these events to stay in business, as do I, but should we do it at the risk of losing aggravated clients to our sport permanently? And do not say that won’t happen because it already has, and I have witnessed it firsthand.

The USASF, event producers, and spirit industry leaders need to realize that we serve these gyms, coaches, parents, and athletes. Without them, we do not exist! We should take more time and use more thought to make sure that our events cater to the parents’ investment.

I have questioned a few friends in the medical profession, education, and professional sports. They seemed to like my recommendation of never starting an event before a child would normally be expected to practice or learn and ending them in the same fashion. From my experience that would be 8:00 AM to 10:00 PM (depending on age). Can we not make this a rule even if it means event producers will have to limit attendance or invest in more judging panels or floors at events? I have been and will continue to follow this guideline for my company regardless of a rule because it is my obligation to provide a safe and positive experience for the participants and parents that these gyms work so hard to recruit and keep in their programs.

I will do the industry a favor. I am going to poll every parent I see this weekend before 7:00 AM and get their thoughts. Anyone else want to do the same at events across the country? I would imagine most will agree with these suggestions. If I am right, I hope we can come together to make this positive change as it is the parents’ hard earned money that the industry must rely on to keep our gym and competition doors open.

David Hanbery
[email protected]
Deep South Cheer and Dance, Inc.

About The Author

David Hanbery

David Hanbery is the Founder and Owner of Deep South Spirit and Central Mississippi Cheerleading.


  1. Campbell

    I agree 100% My mini me at my gym looks up to me to support her at nearly every competition. She always expects me to be in the same spot. If I am not there, then she will always find me at the hotel and ask me where I was. She was on a mini 1 team last year and almost every one of her competitions were before 8 A.M. However, my best friend competes on a junior 2 team so she competes around lunch. My other friend competes on a Senior 2 team so she competed around 5. I am on a senior 5 team so I competed 10:30 at night for most if my competitions. Most of the competitions were in big cities so there was no time for me to go back to the hotel to get ready. That meant that every competition I get up at 4:45 and do my hair, eat a snack in my room, then go to 2 other rooms to do 2 mini’s hair. Then we go get breakfast. So by the end of the day I usually start crying because I’m so tired, but my friends all want to go eat so I get back to the hotel around 12:30. I always end up falling asleep at school the following Monday.

  2. Paula

    Sunday competitions are not a favorite of mine. Especially with a late awards and then long drive times. Kids have school on Monday and to require them to stay on a routine and function the next day is about impossible. I also agree with the comments of no warm ups at 6AM. I barely function at this time and expecting our athletes to is just a joke. Too much money and time is invested in this sport to ask this of them. Let’s not forget their safety.

  3. Jessica Angelo

    Agreed!!! 120%. 6am warmup and 10pm awards is not fun!!! Especially when Sunday schedule starts and ends way later.. they could have split it up better for sure! #disappointedcoach

  4. Mindy

    I agree! These kids need 8-10 at earliest/latest. We all have long drives to and from competitions and to put our kids/parents on the roads that early/late is CRAZY!

  5. Jake

    I’ve only been around this sport for a short time, but I look forward to being around it for a long time. It makes me feel better to read suggestions come from organizers. The time frame in which we get notified Wednesday before competition has seemed very late for a family to be prepared fully. When the competition day falls on Sunday it doesn’t just affect performance with early start times but will also affect the following day back to school. These kids have memorized their routine, strived to improve,many times learned a stunt they never dreamed they could do before the reassurance from their coaches that they are capable. So when you stress the surrounding environment you don’t get to see the true potential of the squads if they draw an extremely early start time.
    Money drives many things in life, but the health of the young athletes has to remain priority. Gyms, event centers and THE PARENTS invest in this sport. With the athletes growing by the year shoes uniforms and practice time are all a stress to keep the child in the sport. It is all worth it to see them succeed and push theirselves to new levels of dedication. At times it seems a slap in the face when you strive to make all practices and long evenings, to end up drawing the burden of trying to get a young athlete ready for a mentally and physically challenging 2 and a half minutes. With no second chance to improve a score that short period of time is very important to these athletes, that are learning to love the sport. I appreciate your time and thoughts on this David.

  6. Misty

    I also feel that Sunday competitions are tough on children. Especially those having to travel 3 or 4 hours back home after awards. This pushes bedtimes back and doesn’t allow them to get enough sleep for school the next day.

    • Rousseau

      I agree 100%! This past Sunday we had a competition and we were lucky enough to get home at 7pm while other got home at 10pm. Even with getting home at 7pm we were dragging for school. NO SUNDAYS!!

  7. Mindy

    8-10 rule should absolutely be in place.

  8. Laurie McClintock

    totally agree. my 9 year old and i have to be there at 6 am and then done by 10:30 awards with what has been one of her favorite competitions of the year. but unfortunately, her 7:12 am performance this year will be a blur to her by noon. not fun! thanks, david for the great post.

  9. Caroline Tierce

    Agree totally with David! These are children, not adults. And all their hard work and preparation should not go to waste because of conditions unfavorable to them. Its both discouraging and a set up for failure. Very sad for these kids that love what they are doing so much!

  10. Payton Hall

    I have nothing more to say than well said David!

  11. Mike Dempsey

    Well said, David! As a parent it’s great to see somebody in the sport voice the same concerns that I have. Kids aren’t going to get to sleep early enough to get the required rest with such an early start time, especially with the excitement of an out of town competition. We had an early time at a competition last year. The squad looked flat, and you really couldn’t blame the kids. No athlete will be at peak performance under such circumstances. Some event hosts need to quit chasing the short term dollar and look out for the safety of the kids and the long term growth of the sport.

  12. Mary Lynn Bowman

    The athlete’s best interest should always be first and foremost. To expect anyone to perform at there best with little to no mistakes with inadequate sleep is absurd. Studies show that we are 60-70% more likely to make mistakes when sleep deprived. A mistake in the cheer industry can paralyze a child for life. You don’t want a trucker driving on too little sleep or a sleep deprived doctor performing surgery; I don’t want my daughter or her squad throwing flyers in the air and risking their lives or the lives and well being of the rest of the squad. PLEASE rethink starting and ending times.

  13. Heather

    Agree that these extreme times are not good for the kids. Especially for those of us that have more that one little girl that has to be dressed and ready and in warm ups by 6:30 am!! Would love to see the 8 am to 10 pm rule in place that David mentioned.

  14. Mary Beth Hanbery

    Totally agree with the article on limiting start and stop times. I’ve been the parent of a college cheerleader, coach, gym owner, and competition host for many years now. I have seen first hand how too early/too late performance times can cause a disconnect in what a team prepared to do and what they are able to do. Consider your athletes and their parents!


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