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

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