IMPORTANT UPDATE, 7/29/2016: Following feedback from coaches, the new rules regarding 3 trick baskets and 1 1/2 loads to pyramids have been returned to 2015-16 rules. These skills will be reviewed for 2017-18.
New or revised rules are highlighted in bold, underlined, italicized print. A summary of the rules changes is available at the bottom of the page.
- Base – A person who is in direct contact with the performing surface and is supporting another person’s weight.
- Cradle – Dismount from a stunt/pyramid/toss in which the top person lands in a face-up, semi-piked position.
- Cupie/Awesome – A stunt in which both of the top person’s feet are in one hand of the base.
- Dive Roll – An aerial forward roll where the feet of the performer are at or above the performer’s waist prior to the hands making contact with the performing surface.
- Flatback – A stunt in which the top person is in a face-up, straight-body position parallel to the performing surface.
- Flip – When a person is airborne while the feet pass over the head.
- Height-increasing Apparatus – Any type of equipment that increases the height of a skill.
- Helicopter Toss – A stunt in which the top person is tossed into the air with the body parallel to the ground and completes a 360 degree horizontal rotation (like the blades of a helicopter.)
- Loading Position – Any intermediate position below shoulder level that uses continuous motion to put a top person in a stunt or pyramid. Examples: Elevator/sponge load, basket load, smoosh, scoop from the back, etc.
- Middle – A person who is being supported by a base while also supporting a top person.
- Pyramid – A skill in which a top person is being supported by a middle layer person.
- Rewind – Skill in which the top person starts with at least one foot on the ground, is tossed into the air and performs a forward, backward, or side flip into a stunt, pyramid, loading position, or cradle.
- Spotter – A person who is responsible for assisting or catching the top person in a partner stunt or pyramid. This person cannot be in a position of providing primary support for a top person but must be in a position to protect the top person coming off of a stunt or pyramid.
- Stunt – A skill in which a top person is supported by a base or bases.
- Top – A person who is either being supported by another while off of the performing surface or who has been tossed into the air by another person.
- Toss – A movement by a participant or group of participants that propels a person into the air so that the person is airborne (i.e., free of contact with the performing surface).
B. General Program Guidelines
- Cheerleading squads should be placed under the direction of a qualified and knowledgeable advisor or coach.
- All practice sessions should be supervised by the advisor/coach and held in a location suitable for the activities of cheerleaders (e.g., use of appropriate matting, away from excessive noise and distractions, etc.)
- Prior to the performance of any skill, the immediate environment for the activity should be taken into consideration including, but not limited to proximity of non-squad personnel, performance surface, lighting and/or precipitation. Technical skills should not be performed on concrete, asphalt, wet or uneven surfaces or surfaces with obstructions.
- Advisors/coaches should recognize the particular ability level of all participants and should limit the squad’s activities accordingly. Participants should not be pressed to perform activities until they are safely prepared.
- Skills that have not been mastered should be performed only in a supervised practice environment.
- Thorough training in proper spotting techniques should be mandatory for all squads.
- All cheerleaders should receive proper training before attempting any form of cheerleading gymnastics (tumbling, partner stunts, pyramids and jumps).
- All cheerleading squads should adopt a comprehensive conditioning and strength building program.
- An appropriate warm-up exercise should precede all cheerleading activities.
- All programs should qualify cheerleaders according to accepted teaching progressions. Appropriate spotting should be used until all performers demonstrate mastery of the skill, and when spotting is required by specific rule.
- In environments where there is close proximity to the athletic event and out of bounds plays pose a significant risk of injury to the participant, no technical skills should be performed while the ball is in play.
- All partner stunts, pyramids, and tosses should be reviewed and approved by the coach prior to execution.
C. General Restrictions
- The use of any height-increasing apparatus (e.g. mini-trampoline, etc.) other than a spring floor is prohibited for performance.
- Unless allowed below, the top person in a partner stunt, pyramid or transition cannot be released from bases or leave the floor unassisted with the intent to land or be caught in an inverted body position.
- An individual may not jump, flip or dive over, under, or through partner stunts, pyramids or individuals from basket tosses, similar tosses, partner stunts or other tosses from hands.
- Drops (knee, seat, thigh, front, back and split) from a jump, stand or inverted position are prohibited unless the majority of the weight is first borne on the hands/feet which breaks the impact of the drop.
- Jewelry of any kind is prohibited (e.g., navel jewelry, tongue jewelry, earrings, necklaces, etc.) Medical bracelets are allowed provided they are taped to the body.
- Soft-soled athletic shoes must be worn while cheering or competing. Gymnastics shoes, jazz shoes and/or boots are prohibited.
D. Partner Stunts
- Dismounts with more than one and one quarter twists require an additional spotter that assists on the cradle.
- Released load-ins from a handstand position (stationary or through a handspring load-in) to a partner stunt require an additional spotter.
- Stunts in which the top person is in a handstand position require an additional spotter.
- Stunts in which the base uses only one arm for support require a spotter when:
- The stunt is anything other than a cupie/awesome or basic liberty. All other one-arm stunts require a spotter (e.g., heel stretch, arabesque, high torch, scorpion, bow and arrow, etc.).
- There is a released twisting load-in or dismount. The spotter must be in place during the twist and assist on the cradle during twisting dismounts.
- The top person is popped from one arm to the other.
- A top person can be released from a handstand position on the ground to a hand-to-hand stunt provided the top person does not twist or rotate.
- A top person can be released from a cradle position to an inverted position.
- Single based split catches are prohibited.
- Twisting dismounts greater than two rotations are prohibited. Exception: side facing stunts – i.e. Arabesque, Scorpion, double full twisting cradles to the front are legal.
- Front, back and side tension drops are prohibited.
- All leg pitch, toe pitch, walk-in, sponge, and straddle catch flips to the performing surface are prohibited.
- Flips into or from partner stunts are prohibited, with the following exceptions.
- Rewinds into a stunt, loading position, or cradle are allowed under the following conditions:
- The top person is limited to one and one quarter rotations and one half twist.
- Bases are limited to one quarter turn under the top person.
- Bases or spotters may not throw from under the foot of the top person (toe pitch).
- An active spotter is required throughout the skill.
- If the rewind is continuous to a cradle, the spotter must assist in the cradle.
- In a rewind to another base, the original base may serve as the spotter.
- Flips from stunts in which the top person is in an upright position standing in the hand(s) of the base(s) are allowed under the following conditions:
- An additional spotter must be active throughout the following skills. Exception: An additional spotter is not required for a double base front flip to the performing surface.
- The top person is limited to one and one quarter flipping rotations and one half twisting rotations.
- Front flips to the performing surface, a cradle, or double based horizontal position are allowed from single or double base shoulder level stunts. Flips to the performing surface require the top person landing on at least one foot with assistance from at least one base.
- Back flips to a cradle or horizontal position are allowed from double base shoulder level stunts.
- Flips from stunts in which the top person is in a horizontal position not being supported at their feet are allowed under the following conditions:
- Front flips and back flips from shoulder level double base stunts to a stunt, loading position, cradle or the performing surface with assistance from a base. Note that flips are not permitted from a horizontal position below shoulder level or from a single base.
- The top person is limited to one and one quarter rotation and may not twist.
- A spotter is not required.
- Rewinds into a stunt, loading position, or cradle are allowed under the following conditions:
- Pyramids higher than 2 ½ body lengths are prohibited. Pyramid height is measured by body lengths as follows: chairs, thigh stands and shoulder straddles are 1 ½ body lengths; shoulder stands are 2 body lengths; extended stunts (i.e. extension, liberty, etc.) are 2 ½ body lengths. Exception: an extended stunt on top of a thigh stand is allowed.
- In all pyramids, there must be at least two spotters designated for each person who is above two persons high and whose primary support does not have at least one foot on the ground. Both spotters must be in position as the top person is loading onto the pyramid. One spotter must be behind the top person and the other must be in front of the top person or at the side of the pyramid in a position to get to the top person if they were to dismount forward. Once the pyramid shows adequate stability and just prior to the dismount, this spotter can move to the back to catch the cradle. As pyramid design varies greatly, we recommend a review of any new pyramids where the spotting position may be in question.
- In all “2-1-1 thigh stand tower” pyramids, there must be a spotter who is not in contact with the pyramid in place behind the top person. If a bracer is needed to assist the thigh stand middle layer, they do not fill this role and an additional spotter who is not in contact with the pyramid is required.
- Cradles and horizontal landings from pyramids over two high must use at least two catchers, one on each side of the top person.
- All flips from pyramids are prohibited, with the exception of a forward flip dismount to a cradle, face up horizontal position, or the performing surface. All flip dismounts require two catchers, one on each side of the top person.
- Flips into a pyramid are allowed under the following conditions:
- The flip is from a handstand on the performing surface, rewind, toe pitch, or a double based “sponge” loading position. (Basket toss flips are not allowed.)
- The top person is limited to one and one quarter rotations and may not twist.
- Top persons may not land in an inverted position.
- A rewind to a pyramid does not require an additional spotter.
- Front, back, and side tension drops are prohibited.
- Basket tosses or similar tosses may only be performed from ground level, can use no more than four bases, and must be cradled by three of the original bases, one of which must catch in a scoop under the head and shoulders. Exceptions:
1) Elevator tosses may flip into pyramids as outlined above.
2) Basket and elevator/sponge load-ins can land in a stunt or pyramid provided that the toss does not significantly exceed the height of the intended skill.
- Basket and elevator/sponge tosses may not be directed so that the bases must move to catch the top person.
- Basket and elevator/sponge tosses cannot exceed one flipping and two twisting rotations.
- In flipping basket or elevator/sponge tosses (tuck, layout, or pike position) only two additional skills are allowed. One twisting rotation is considered to be one skill.
Legal (two skills) Illegal (three skills)
Tuck flip, X-out, Full Twist Tuck flip, X-out, Double Full Twist
Double Full-twisting Layout Kick, Double Full-twisting Layout
Kick, Full-twisting Layout Kick, Full-twisting Layout, Kick
Pike, Open, Double Full Twist Pike, Split, Double Full Twist
Arabian Front, Full Twist Full-twisting Layout, Split, Full Twist
Note: An Arabian Front followed by a 1 ½ twist is considered to be a legal skill. A Kick Double Full Twist with no flip is legal.
- Tumbling skills performed over, under or through partner stunts, pyramids or individuals are prohibited.
- Tumbling skills that exceed one flipping rotation are prohibited.
- Tumbling skills with two or more twisting rotations are prohibited.
- Dive rolls are prohibited.
- Airborne drops to a prone position on the performing surface are illegal. (Examples: A back flip or a jump landing in a pushup position is illegal. A handspring to a pushup position is legal as it is not airborne prior to the prone landing.)
H. Specific Surface Restrictions
- The following skills are only allowed on a mat, grass (real or artificial) or rubberized track surface.
- Basket tosses, elevator/sponge tosses and other similar multi-based tosses.
- Flipping skills into or from stunts, tosses or pyramids.
- Two and one half high pyramids. Mounts or dismounts to and from 2 ½ high pyramids may not flip or twist on a rubberized track surface.
- Kick double baskets and baskets that flip AND twist are not allowed at a football game during regular play or timeouts. They may be done during a pre-game or half-time situation, but only on grass (real or artificial) or matted surface with dimensions of at least 10’ x 10’.
- At indoor court-type games such as basketball, the following skills may only be performed during pre-game, half-time, or post-game (not during timeouts) where the area is free of obstructions and non-cheer personnel, and all skills are performed on a matted surface.
- Basket tosses, elevator/sponge tosses and other similar multi-based tosses.
- Partner stunts in which the base uses only one arm to support the top person. Exception: Cupies/awesomes are allowed with an additional spotter.
- Flips into or from partner stunts.
- Inversions. Exception: High school level inversions are allowed. (For example, suspended forward and backward rolls, low-level inversions, and braced flips with two bracers are allowed. For college, the two bracers and top person are not required to be double based.
- Twisting dismounts greater than 1 ¼ rotation. Twisting dismounts up to 1 ¼ rotation on the court require an additional spotter.
- Two and one half person high pyramids.
- Airborne twisting tumbling skills (Arabians, full twisting layouts, etc. Cartwheels, roundoffs and aerial cartwheels are allowed.)
The above safety rules are general in nature and are not intended to cover all circumstances. All cheerleading skills, including tumbling, partner stunts, pyramids, jumps and tosses should be carefully reviewed and supervised by a qualified and knowledgeable advisor or coach. The American Association of Cheerleading Coaches and Administrators makes no warranties or representations, either expressed or implied, that the above guidelines will prevent injuries to individual participants. For the most recent safety rules and information, visit http://www.aacca.org.
A12. Allows rewind to be from one foot on the ground. This will allow heel stretch and other “one foot down” positions. Does not allow toe pitch, but would allow leg pitch (see below).
A12. Allows front flipping rewinds in addition to back and side flips. This will allow bird front type of stunts and leg pitch flips as long as they follow other specific rule restrictions for rewinds.
D5. Allows a handstand from the ground to land in a handstand. Handstand skills still require an additional spotter.
D6. Allows a cradle to release to a handstand position. This can be to a handstand stunt or to grab the waist on the way to a handstand to the ground.
D10. The phrase “to the performing surface” was added to this rule to clarify its intent. Flips that begin or end in a stunt are covered in Rule D11.
D11.a.1. We changed the restriction on the top person twisting in a rewind to allow one half twist.
D11.a.3. Though the new definition for rewind allows one foot on the ground, a toe pitch rewind is still prohibited.
D.11.b.2. Because we allow face up/prone landings from flips, we also want to allow half twists to that position.
D.11.b.3. Added “double based horizontal position” in addition to cradles and floor dismounts for front flips.
D.11.b.4. Added “or horizontal position”. Note that this can be a ¾ to face down (supine) or 1 ¼ to face up (prone.)
E.4. Added “and horizontal landings.” Prone landings are allowed, but we still want them to have a catcher on each side.
E.5. Added “face up horizontal” and “to the performing surface” to allow front flip dismounts to land in these positions, still requiring two people on each side for the catch.
E.6. We have consolidated several other pyramid flip rules into a new “flips into pyramids” section.
E.6.a. Allows front or back handspring entry.
Allows toe pitch on a rewind to pyramid.*
Allows double based load.*
* These changes are designed to allow for better completion of the flipping skill before landing on the 2nd layer.
E.6.b.The handstand 1 1/2 load to pyramid change has been rescinded back to the 2015-16 rule.
E.6.b. The top person may not land in an inverted position from a flip, even if contact is made between the top and 2nd layers prior to the inverted position. They can land on their feet or in a horizontal position.
F.4. The initial change to allow 3-trick flipping baskets has been rescinded back to the 2015-16 rule.