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Opinion: Les Stella's Response to Scoresheet Challenges

Opinion: Les Stella's Response to Scoresheet Challenges

Les Stella with the USASF released a response to the all star cheerleading coaches community today to address the subject last week brought on by James Speed of Louisville, Ky. that something needed to be changed within the new scoring system and scoresheets.

What do you think? Do you agree? Let us know in the comments below!

USASF All Star CheerFirst some mild disclaimers:

  1. Before anyone gets excited about Les addressing James post; understand that James and I are good friends and have nothing but mutual respect for each other. This is in no way Les vs. James. The first part of my response addresses the points in James post that I have a different opinion.
  2. As I go through phone calls, conference calls, face book threads and everything else, it is glaringly clear that many of the people complaining have never competed on the USASF Universal Scoring System and do not realize their complaints are about the Unified System. I am not throwing the Unified system under the bus (I know nothing about it) but I am only stating what I have found.
  3. For those of you complaining about comparative scoring (the Universal Scoring System) when is comes to bids, we (the Universal Score Sheet Committee) have agree that it is not possible to do this across different divisions and recommend the EP’s use judge’s choice when selecting bids.
  4. After my response to James post you will see my explanation of comparative scoring and why it is the best choice (provided we deliver consistent adequate judges training which I believe is the true problem in scoring).
  5. Also, I apologize for this being a long read and is also why I didn’t post it on Facebook.

“…Coaches will no longer be teachers but will become politicians lobbying for their teams and their gyms… The perception of impropriety will always hang over us all and we will revert back to the days of feeling the need to know the right people and worrying more about being liked than being good.”

Gym Tyme and Louisville were successful programs long before rubrics were brought into cheerleading. No one including myself would ever say that GT and Louisville were only successful because James knew the right people. They were and are successful because they are talented and well coached.

“Under the current situation we lose the ability to reference the score sheet as a teaching tool.”

Not accurate. The Universal Scoring System tells you exactly where you stand in relation to other teams in opposition to the rubrics which only tell you what range you’re in.

“Parents and kids will soon become disillusioned with the sport of cheerleading.”
This ENTIRE industry was built on comparative scoring since the very first cheerleading competition decades ago.

“We need to comfort them with the knowledge that we will become better using the information given us by the judges.”

How is it a judges responsibility to tell you how to coach? A coach in any other sport does not look to the referees to ask how to win. The creation of this comes from event producers trying use scoring as customer service. I am not blaming event producers but just detailing the uniqueness in our industry. Making the point that you don’t know what the judges are looking for is one of the biggest justifications to eliminate rubrics. The judges SHOULD NOT be looking for anything. They should be judging what YOU put in your routine.

“Success will be simply a personal preference of style and the ability of a team to keep a repeat judge from becoming bored with a routine they have already seen.”

This is not accurate with well-trained judges. If a judge is using their personal preference then they are not a well-trained judge.

“We have worked for 15 years to slowly convert cheerleading into a more objective and less subjective sport… But to throw out 15 years of work and to go back to a winner being chosen through a secret rubric or a personal like or dislike of a team or program just doesn’t make good sense.”

1. The rubrics have only been around for 5 to 7 yrs not 15 and converting cheerleading from subjective to objective will only hurt this sport. This is not gymnastics or diving. Our sport actually has performance value to it and has many more than one participant at a time. I pray that we NEVER use gymnastics or diving as our role model. We have athletes join our sport by the thousands across this globe because of the attraction creativity, showmanship and performance that does not exist in these other sports.
2. There is no “secret rubric”. Personal like or dislike is just as accusatory as saying there is a secret rubric.

“The true test of a good scoring system is not to chose a winner but to chose a winner while protecting every participant from mistakes and discrimination. It should make competing fair for all involved. It should stand up to the questions of the winners and the questions of those in the majority that did not happen to finish first. We all do not have to agree but we all should understand the process. Scores should be easily defended with respect to a understanding and expectation between judges and coaches and participants. A good system should force a judge that doesn’t like me personally to give me a similar score to one that loves me. It should force a score that is right regardless of personal bias. We should respect the difficult position of good Judges and we are protected by the mistakes of those judges that are less experienced.”

Agree with all of the above and that is exactly what the Universal System does that I don’t believe the rubric systems do. However, I think you have left off some other points. A good scoring system should not tell you what to put in a routine and should not give you an automatic score just because you fulfilled a quota. A good scoring system should allow the judges to actually judge and sit there like monkeys with a pencil and be told what number to write down. That is the number one reason we have such a shortage of good quality judges in this industry right now. No one (outside of Worlds judges) has truly judged in the past five years. They just put a number down that fits the quota or they are told what number to put down. I have seen literally thousands of times where a judge actually tries to judge but is told to change their score. This is not judging.

My take on the issue:

  • For roughly five to seven years we have watched this industry go down the rabbit hole of the rubric system. Systems where coaches use a score sheet to determine what they put in their routines.
    Score sheets SHOULD NOT dictate your choreography. Coaching and choreography is your responsibility and not that of the score sheet or the judges.I will use an analogy to help explain both my point and to show where I think the problem lies.
  • Too many coaches are asking for paint by number instead of a blank canvas. Unless you are a true artist, anyone will do a better job with a paint by number system. It tells you what color to use, where to put the color and what the picture will look like in the end before you ever get started.
  • If you take coaches like Victor and Kristen from Top Gun (this is not to slight any other top programs but just to use an obvious example), they do not use a paint by number but rather a blank canvas and create what they want. This is what cheerleading is. Performance, showmanship, creativity and skills are what make up this industry and attracts so many athletes.
  • If you have great skills but don’t spend time on your transitions and formations then you SHOULD lose in that category and it may cost you the place you were hoping for.
  • As I said earlier, I hope and pray that we never use gymnastics, diving and/or any other judging sport as our role model to develop this industry. We are very unique. We have many many athletes on the floor at one time compared to these sports who have a single athlete performing. Also, we are not a sport based skills alone with no regards to entertainment value.

Another issue with rubrics:
How many of you shot for the low are medium range last year???? ZERO of you! If you did, you should be fired. Of course you are going to shoot for the high range. You are going to do what the score sheet tells you to do and expect a certain score. If you don’t get that score we all know where you will be in 20 minutes.

Let me give you an example of this from last year:
At NCA 2014, Cheer Athletics, World Cup, Cheer Extreme and Stingrays all scored a perfect difficulty score on partner stunts, pyramids and tosses.
I don’t remember specifically what the execution score was, but, I know Stingrays along with World Cup dropped stunts. I don’t think the execution scores were all the exact same but they were all extremely close. Certainly not enough to separate teams.
Basically what I took from that score sheet was; they all did the exact same thing and they all did it with about the same execution. (Clearly that wasn’t the case). This happened because they all “HIT” the rubric. When these teams got to Worlds the scores reflected more accurately what they performed. This is not a slam on NCA or any other EP that uses a rubric. It is just a clear example of one of the issues with rubrics.

I have been in cheerleading since 1983 and I have never seen a competition or scoring system where everyone walked away believing they received the scores they deserved. I don’t believe there is a problem with the Universal Scoring system. I do believe there is a problem in CONSISTENT judges training. Any judge who has started judging in the past five years has a high probability of not having the training they need due to the fact that they have been told what score to write down for the past five years.
A large number of you know me on a personal level and I hope that view me as a fair and consistent person (even when you hate me). I don’t play politics and I don’t play favorites. I am concerned for the long term health of this industry and will always stand for what I believe is the right thing even if it goes against the grain. So before you blast me (and you are welcome to) please re-read this and try to understand my points. I don’t believe we need to make the scoring system a “Coaching for Dummies” (dummies as in the book series – not insulting coaches). Learn to take the blank canvas and create your masterpiece and when it doesn’t win, be humble enough to study and learn where YOU fell short. Yes, I agree mistakes happen and judging training needs to be of the highest priority to get the places right.
By the way, there are plenty of other comments, conversations and topics within this issue but this post is long enough.



About The Author

Shane Womack

Shane Womack is the founder and owner of Cheer Media, the parent company of Cheer! magazine and Shane was an all star and high school cheerleader before becoming a collegiate cheerleader with Louisiana State University where he earned his degree in Business Marketing. Shane is also an elected member of the USASF National Advisory Board.


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