Choosing the right program for your young cheerleader can be challenging, but taking the time to research what they’re all about is crucial to assuring that your child’s experience is a safe and fun-filled one.
By Karen M. Lew
Are you sure your child is enrolled in the appropriate cheerleading program? How do you know if your child is being taught by qualified individuals? Is the gym actively involved in reducing injuries, providing a positive yet competitive environment and – most importantly – are they committed to the ongoing safety of your child?
If you have some doubts or have not done the necessary research to assure your child is safe, now is the time to do it.
Over the past several years cheerleading has changed, becoming more skill oriented, competitive and focused on talent, but one thing that has not changed is the need for the program to have value to your child and provide a safe environment.
In order to keep your child safe, take the time to review your child’s coaches, team and gym. This is not just for all-star cheerleading but the same educational expectations should be completed by school based, recreational and youth coaches.
Direct supervision and practicing with a coach present is a must. Injuries often occur when cheerleaders are not being properly supervised or begin attempting skills without following the correct progression.
Follow these safety tips, recommended by the American Association of Cheerleading Coaches and Administrators (AACCA), to help keep your cheerleaders safe:
- Required safety training for all coaches, including Sports First Aid, CPR and AED training.
- Access to certified athletic trainers to assist with injury prevention and emergency procedures.
- Adherence to recognized safety rules such as the AACCA, NFHS or U.S. All-Star Federation Rules.
- Regulation by state school athletics/activities associations to require adherence to rules and safety training regardless of whether cheerleading is designated as a “sport” or “activity.”
- Recognition by coaches, cheerleaders and parents that the use of skill progressions and the demonstrated ability to safely perform basic skills before advancing is the key to safe participation.
- Continued review of cheerleading safety rules to provide a framework for safe participation.
- Every program should develop and practice an Emergency Action Plan. A sample plan can be found in the Resources section of the CheerSafe website at http://www.cheersafe.org/safety-resources.
- Adherence to the AACCA Concussion Management and Return to Play Recommendations for Cheerleading or the development of a like policy.
An educational program for both cheerleaders and coaches is a necessary component of safe cheerleading.
The minimum standards for coaches’ education includes risk management, emergency action planning, knowledge of skill progression and stunting, CPR/AED certification, and basic first aid knowledge.
In addition to basic first aid knowledge and training, all coaches should complete a reputable head injury assessment and treatment program. To ensure all cheerleaders receive the best possible treatment following a suspected head injury, coaches are encouraged to complete the Center for Disease Control’s free online Heads Up Concussion and Mild Brain Injury training program or a similar educational program, such as the National Youth Sports Coaches Association’s Concussion Training, free to its members.
Take the time to carefully research the cheerleading programs your child may be interested in to ensure that safety is a key component – you’ll be glad you did.
And so will your child.
Karen M. Lew, MEd., ATC, LAT is a certified athletic trainer that has been involved with cheerleading for 21 years. She is a member of the Team USA Medical Advisory committee and is involved with a variety of Cheerleading and Dance events. She is also the Clinical Coordinator for Athletic Training at the University of Miami.
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