Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Why Should We Care About Varsity?

Why should we even care about Varsity? It is just a business right? I would have said that myself a couple months ago. I had no idea of Varsity’s reach, their involvement in the world of cheerleading. Now that I have done my research, I fear what I originally saw as a simple company, is far more than that.


 -Showtime, Penn & Teller, 2010

Jeff, do you really mean it?! I thought we were no more a sport than CHESS? Seriously Jeff, you are confusing me. Want to try to wiggle out of this some more?

Everything evolves over time. Cheerleading has definitely evolved. Today, your typical cheerleader is not simply an ambassador that yells chants and shakes pom-poms. They are athletes that compete. They compete in a sport. Ask any school cheerleader what they want. I bet you they will say to WIN! Sure, they enjoy cheering on the sidelines and supporting the teams of their school, but today’s cheerleader is a different animal all together. I cheered for my time when I was a cheerleader. What I did over 20 years ago is NOT what cheerleaders are doing today. Just as cheerleading has evolved, I think it is time for the schools, states, collegiate system and Title IX to evolve also. Can we truly risk the rules and regulations not evolving at the pace the skills are?

The 10K SEC document filed by Varsity on 3/31/03 tells us what they are concerned about! Read this carefully!

“However, if rules limiting off-season training are applied to cheerleading and/or dance teams similar to rules imposed by the NCAA on some inter-collegiate sports, it could under certain circumstances, have a material adverse affect of Varsity’s business, financial condition and results of operations. Although we are not aware of any school officially adopting these activities as a competitive sport, recognition of cheerleading and/or dance teams as  sport would increase the possibility that cheerleader or dance activities may become regulated.

At the high school level, some state associations have classified cheerleading as a sport and in some cases have imposed certain restrictions on off season practices and out of state travel to competitions. However, in all cases to date, we have been able to work with these state athletic associations to designate acceptable times for the cheerleaders within these states to attend camps. We have also signed agreements with several state associations to assist with sponsoring and executing official competitions within these states. To date, state regulations have not had a material effect on our ability to conduct our normal business activities.”

WAIT! What? Do you mean to tell me that you have been worrying and planning over this “issue” for 7 years now? Also, if this Cheer Mom is reading correctly, you put up a  friendly stop sign every single time a high school or college takes a step forward to recognizing cheerleading as a sport! I doubt they really realize it. It is easy for them and it works. This just doesn’t add up.

Varsity has their hands in:
1.      Uniforms
2.      Camp apparel and accessories
3.      Choreography
4.      Running of camps
5.      Training of coaches
6.      Training of gym owners
7.      Owning of cheer gyms
8.      Running of competitions
9.      Training of judges
10.  Making of the rules
11.  Governing of the rules

They also have special relationships with:
1.      NCAA
2.      NFHS
3.      All 50 state athletic associations
4.      All 50 state cheer associations
5.      Safety organizations
6.      World competitions

They have MULTI MILLION dollar contracts with:
1.      Disney
2.      ESPN

THEY HAVE 75% of the market share!!!  I am starting to think it would be way easier to write about what Varsity is NOT involved in.

So Cheer Moms, it is almost impossible for us to even attend anything involved with cheerleading and not be hand in hand with Varsity. I had someone mention planning a year of competitions with no involvement with Varsity. Guess what? It is virtually IMPOSSIBLE ladies!! Varsity has made this so simple for us that we can write one big, fat check to them for everything from our gym fees down right down to the admission we pay to get to SEE OUR OWN CHILDREN at competitions. Oh, wait, we pay for those also don’t we? You better add that onto your check too.

“Cheerleading would be less safe if made a sport.”
            -Jim Lords, Executive Director of AACCA
            -Washington Post

WHAT? Did someone drop him on his head a few times? I honestly think he is more confused than I have been for the last several days wading through the muck of this mess. Give me a break!

Currently, without sports recognition this is what you get:
o   No regulations.
o   More control from companies…i.e. VARISTY
o   Increased profits for…..come on, take a guess!
o   NO height restrictions on basket tosses
o   Stunts are allowed on gym floors, asphalt and grass.
o   The rules are not clearly defined.
o   There are NO enforcement mechanisms to hold anyone responsible for ANYTHING!
o   According to the AACCA manual spring floors are considered height increasing apparatus instead of a safety device!
o   According to over 2/3 of cheerleading coaches have no certifications.
o   Without regulation, means no enforced safety plans.
o   Amazingly, no Varsity competition has ever reported any catastrophic injury.

-Courtesy of National Cheer Safety Institute

Is it just me, or do you find it ironic that cheerleading is a female dominated sport and these are all men? Do you see one single woman that makes a decision at Varsity? I find that extremely interesting. Our cheerleading expert Greg Webb, sits on the board of The Women’s Sports Foundation. Is your brain hurting as much as mine is right now? If he sits on this board, and he is a cheerleading expert, why isn’t he advocating that cheerleading be recognized as a sport? Why do we want to come up with new NAMES for what we do?  Hold on, it is coming to me….I think I have it! If we come up with yet another variation of cheer just think of the possibilities!!! Varsity would have a ball! They could start a whole other army of companies. They could CHEER all the way to the bank. You know just as well as I do, that a cheerleader that loves to cheer is NOT going to just do one part of cheer.  Just think of what they stand to gain, and gain, and gain. Think of what your athlete stands to LOSE.

I made a little graph for you. Well actually, it is not very little, but it is informative!

This, my friends, is Varsity. They own, financially support or have a strong say in every single one of these companies. I will provide all the hyperlinks to the websites, you can check the facts! If you click around enough you will end up at Varsity. Actually, Varsity is in the title of most of these web addresses.

I do want to say that I do not think Varsity is the root of all evil. They have helped cheerleading evolve at a rapid pace. They have many initiatives that I am in complete agreement with. I just can’t agree with playing both sides of the fence. The fence jumping is getting old.

The bottom line is this. Varsity stands to lose if cheerleading is recognized as a sport. They will no longer be able to monopolize grade school, high school and college cheerleading.  THE NCAA will take over the collegiate end of cheerleading and the states will take over the rest. There will be ONE national champion per division, not 66. States will have state championships just like basketball, football, etc. Cheerleading will be afforded the same courtesies that other sports at schools are afforded. They will have designated, appropriate practice areas, regulations, coaches will need knowledge of the sport and safety, with recognized, agreed upon rules! These rules will be made by a “body”, not a company.  In my opinion a state or national body that has no corporate input is going to be more apt to be advocates for the athletes of the sport. I have been fortunate enough to meet so many new people that would jump at the chance to be on a board like that!  This is why we see Varsity talking out of both sides of their mouths saying cheerleading is a sport, then turning right around and saying it isn't.

I have come full circle, back to the original question I blogged about last week. What do I want to accomplish? I want cheerleading to be fully recognized for what it is. I want it to become safer for our youth. I also want to see cheerleading, as an industry, open up to other businesses and MINDS. Simply put, I want more voices to be heard than just ONE. Schools, states and independent gyms, I beg you to open up your eyes and see what is going on around you! Be an advocate for change! Be an advocate for our youth! I look at all this information and I start to imagine an octopus with all its arms practically strangling our cheerleaders! 

Cheer Moms will become an advocate for better training, safety and fairness for all cheerleaders. If we find a group that promotes these goals, then we will promote them with all we have. We also invite any independent company that sells quality products or promotes quality cheer competitions to send us your link. Let us feature you!  

As always, 
Just a Cheer Moms Opinion!

What do YOU think? 

*You can click on any graphic to view it full screen. 

The Varsity Brands

ACP – American Cheer Power
UCA – Universal Cheerleaders Association
WSF – World Spirit Foundation 
ACA – American Cheerleading Association
SS – Spirit Sports
AACCA – American Association of Cheerleading Coaches and Administrators
ASC – All Star Challenge
NDA – National Dance Alliance
UDA – Universal Dance Association   
O. – Ozone
VU – Varsity Uniforms 
VSF – Varsity Spirit Fashions              
V!ROC – Varsity! Remarkable Original Choreography
VBI – Varsity Brands, Inc.
CDT – Cheerleader & Danzteam
SC – Spirit Cheer          
C –             
VTV – Varsity TV        
USASF – United States All Star Federation
CTC – Cheerleading Technique Camps
IALC – International All-Levels Championship
SXC – Spirit Xpress Cheerleading       
TAC – The American Championships              
NCSSE – National Council for Spirit Safety & Education
NCA – National Cheerleaders Association
AC – Athletic Championships             
USA – United Spirit Association 
Premier Athletics                                              
OSiP – Organization of Industry Providers    
USA Japan
Intropa Tours   
International Logo Inc.
IASF – International All Star Federation
International Cheer Union        
Norway Cheer           
Varsity Brands Holding

Saturday, June 26, 2010

The Penn & Teller Episiode

For those of you who haven't seen the show, here it is!

You do NOT want to watch this with children present. :)

zSHARE video - penn.and.teller.bullshit.801.hdtv.xvid-sys.avi.flv

Friday, June 25, 2010

Nightmares of Days Past...and Varsity

This morning I was awoken by nightmares of my past. Was it some horrible thing I had done? It was a small framed man...a man from my past. Unfortunately, it was a former professor who had his doctorate in philosophy. He was looking at me with that same look he did over 20 years ago when I sat in his classroom at a small liberal arts college. You see, the dear man was all about critical thinking and writing for a reason. 

"Why are you writing this? What is the purpose? What are you trying to do? Where are your facts?", he said in my dream. His face was all scrunched up just like I remember. He was not one to hand out compliments because he wanted perfection. The problem was that he believed perfection was not attainable. Your battle with him was lost the second you walked in the door. At first I wondered why I could be dreaming of college? Then I quickly figured it out. 

I have been thinking a lot about Varsity Sports. How could I not? It is in my inbox, Facebook, website...everywhere I go. I know I am not happy, but exactly what am I not happy about? I am doing all this research, but what is my END GOAL? 

I have been around long enough to realize that cheerleading is not the first or last corporate idea that someone has come up with, ran with and turned into a major money empire. I work in technology, surrounded by men (I think that is why I enjoy Cheer Moms so much!), we have an ongoing debate. We are passionate about our operating systems and will argue until we pass out in defense of them. I am a Windows user. A good friend of mine believes Bill Gates, the pioneer of Windows, is the devil reincarnate! One day I had enough of him and said, "I could care less if he is the devil, he makes products that work, he makes the products I need to make my business work, so therefore he will continue to get my business!...Is Microsoft perfect? Lord no! If they were, I wouldn't have so many people calling needing computers fixed, databases corrected and the such. Note to self: Make sure Microsoft never becomes "perfect"!

I digress...this all relates back to Varsity. Actually they are a good comparison to Microsoft. They have the market cornered. You have to play nice with them, or pretty much be alone in your own little sandbox. Is it fair? No. Are there people starting to nip at Microsoft's heals? YES! 

This morning I have finally figured out why I am doing so much research about Varsity and why I care. Varsity needs some nipping at the heals. I can't do it alone, but I can be one voice providing accurate information to a group of people. If enough people get informed, then maybe....just maybe, change can come. Can we do it overnight? Of course not! Look how long it has taken Cheerleading to become what it is today? Look at how long Microsoft has dominated the market! 

Cheer Moms! started out as something fun. It hit me today. Together we can become something. We can become informed advocates for OUR children. We can learn together, share together and put all our single voices together and make a roar! Albeit right now we are a small tiger trying out our roar...but I am ready to give it a go. Are you? 

Today I am just going to be a mom. I am going to clean the house before there is a rebellion and organize my thoughts. Then, I will put all my information together and share it with my favorite group...Cheer Moms! 

God bless his soul, he lost a battle to cancer, but I hope their is one professor looking down smiling today, because he still is with me over twenty years later! I hope I do you proud. 

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Is Everyone a Winner...Seriously?!

I was talking to my sister in law several weeks ago about our children. We were discussing sports, imagine that! I asked how my nephew was doing in soccer. She informed me that the leagues they were in didn't keep score. I was taken a back by the statement. "How do you tell who wins? How do you tell who loses?", I ask. She replied, "We don't." They live several states away. I found the concept to be interesting to say the least. No winners. 

Here where we live every sport has winners and losers. We even kept score at t-ball games, granted it wasn't on a huge scoreboard for all to see, but when my son ran into home base he definitely wanted to know he put a run on the books. 

This got me to pondering quite a few things. The main one that runs into my mind is what are we teaching our children? Are we teaching them that everyone is a winner? Unless I have walked into the twilight zone, life is full of winners and losers. It is a hard, true fact of life. You win some, you lose some. More importantly, if you want to win you work. You work HARD. You put in the effort, the time, the blood, sweat and tears to become a winner no matter what you are doing. My daughter does it every night she walks into the gym to cheer or tumble. Both of my kids make me laugh on a daily basis....but when they say, "Hey mom, look at the sweat!" I know there is a deeper meaning to that. They want me to know they gave it their best. I am proud to say their attitude flows over into school, home and most things that they do. Are they perfect? Of course not! If they were I wouldn't be rushing to clean up my son's room before the window repair man gets her to replace the window he knocked out with a baseball! 

When I send my children out into the world, will they automatically be put on the Dean's List in college? When they go for their first job, will they receive a check if they choose not to do the work? Will they ever get a promotion if they just "kind of" try? I don't think so. As a parent it is my job to prepare my kids for LIFE. Life is not easy at times, actually with all the responsibilities it can be downright hard. Sometimes, it isn't even fair...yet another concept that sports has taught them. I want them to know that. 

If we are teaching our children that everyone is a winner.........what are we really teaching them? 

As always....just my opinion! 


Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Yes, I am a cheer mom...and?????

I have a confession to make. I am a Cheer Mom.. It hit me yesterday when the doctor said my daughter could have mono. The first thought that ran through my head was, "I hate it when my children are sick!" I will be was immediately followed by, "Oh much practice will she miss?!" 

Cheer moms seem to have a bit of a rap...especially us All-Star moms!  Are we all over the top, overweight women who "wanted" to be cheerleaders? My answer is no! Most of the women I have been fortunate to meet over the last few months are moms just like me. Their child has found something they love to do and they are supporting it! If you see me on a daily basis you know I am the pony tail sporting, casual clothes kind of mom. Right now I am at the ball field or the gym with one of my kids....I have no desire to dress to the "max" when I am going to be a sweaty, dusty mess! I am a happy jean and sweatshirt wearing mom on most days. 

Am I a "wanna be"? I did cheerleading, gymnastics and other sports when my body was much younger. ;) I have been there, done that, I am old...and now I get to watch. OK, I will admit it....I went out for cheerleading one year because I had my eye on a really cute football player...and it worked. :0)

Am I pushing my child to hit the gym multiple nights a week to get that all important "JACKET"?! My crystal ball says the only jacket she will be getting in the near future is the one I run out to the mall to buy for fall when the weather gets cooler. She is wailing today wanting to know when she can get back to the gym actually. She wants to support her team, even if she is just sitting. I must say I am proud of her for that. 

Am I putting my child in suggestive clothing, too much makeup and fake hair to improve her self make her have an over inflated ego that will blow up in her face? Lord, I hope not! She wears a full top, and shows little skin in comparison to some girls I see at the mall. As far as the makeup and hair goes...well it is just fun! She has enough self esteem and attitude for the both of  us, the last thing I need to do is give her more! 

The bottom line is this. Both of my children have picked activities that they love. They both work equally hard at becoming the best they can be. They work their tails off!  I support them both equally. I learn all I can about what they are doing. That is my responsibility as a mom! If it is the chess team tomorrow...then watch out. Here I come! Do I get to make banners, and bling out hair ribbons for the chess team?

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Staying Focused!

The first thought that ran through my mind when I woke up this morning was, "I MUST stay focused this week!".  My to do list for the week is getting longer by the second, with only four days to go. 

My database for the gym is in dire need of an update. We recently had an overwhelming influx of new girls which is fabulous, but not for the paperwork! Now I have the summer down time to get everything under control before fall madness hits at the gym.  I need to get some megaphones made to get ready for the new competition season. I also have Cheer Mom's! This has been occupying a lot of my time and on my mind constantly! I have got to start working on my cheer blogs yesterday. 

Unfortunately there are other things begging for my attention. My house is literally screaming "CLEAN ME!" I have a feeling life might go smoother for me if I have a very organized clean house. Right now my life is literally a representation of my house. CHAOS! Thus, the need to stay totally focused this week and get on the ball. It is time to organize bedrooms, get the office finally functioning and clean all the carpets. Working out of my bedroom is NOT the best place to be productive, although it is a good place to nap!

My goal for a very long time has been to be a stay at home working mom. I want to be there for my children, but still have a way to pay the bills. I recently graduated with a degree as in IT Systems Specialist, with a focus on website and database integration. One of my areas to get in order is a home office, then I can work on my consulting and contracting work to pay the bills. Wow, I  hate bills. I hate them with a passion!!  I just want to work on Cheer Mom's and find a magic fairy to pay them for me. :) Does anyone know where that magic fairy lives? 

For now, I need to tackle the rest of that list....

Cheers All!