We asked Rich Allen-Page, a credentialed judge, to walk us through the difference between the Varsity scoresheet most people are familiar with and the USASF and IASF Cheerleading Worlds scoresheets.
Disclaimer: This article is based on opinion and not sanctioned or endorsed by USASF, IASF, Varsity, or any other event producer. It is meant as entertainment and to offer context. For official questions regarding scoring, please contact the appropriate company.
How The Cheerleading Worlds Scoresheet is Different
As the Cheerleading World Championships approaches, one of the most talked about topics each year is scoring. How did the Spectator All Stars Skinny Legends win all season and not even make day two at Worlds?! Throughout this article, we’ll lay out the differences between Worlds scoring and the scoring system used for the majority of the season.
To get a better understanding of everything we’re going to go over, you need to think like a judge and not like a fan. Judges look for specific criteria in each category to create scores – good choreography or iconic music can only get a team so far. As we go through each section, think about your favs, and hone in on the specific category we are reviewing.
Another difference at the Cheerleading Worlds is how each panel is structured. Historically, each panel consists of three Building, three Tumbling, three Overall, Deduction, and Safety judges. The nine judges that are scoring the components of your routine will have the scores within the category averaged together, then added up for a grand total of 150 points. In contrast to the normal season, most events only have two judges per category who share a single score sheet.
Before we get into each individual section of the Worlds scoresheet, you need to know that Worlds uses COMPARATIVE scoring. Meaning, they are comparing what you do to other teams. Your score can fluctuate from day to day, and with the exception of Jump and Toss Difficulty, there is no way to guarantee yourself a score. Every day is a blank slate, and judges start fresh with no notes from the previous day.
The Building scoresheet is comprised of Stunts, Pyramids, Tosses, and Creativity.
The stunting section of the scoresheet is broken up into Difficulty and Technique. The high range for Stunt difficulty at Worlds requires a team do four level appropriate skills by a majority of the team. For the Spectator All Stars Brown Cow Stunning medium senior team of 25, that means they need only four groups executing the skills in order to hit a 6.0. This varies from what you have seen all year because teams need MOST of the team to perform skills, including elite elements. That said, this range is four points which is significantly larger than what you have seen at Varsity all season. You’ll notice this trend in all sections of the scoresheet.
One important call out for COED teams is that they are required to perform Coed-Style skills to score above 8.0 in the building difficulty portion of the score sheet.
Similar to the Stunt portion of the scoresheet, the high range of 6.0-10.0 with four level appropriate skills and two structures is where you will find nearly all teams at Worlds. You will see large separations in teams here as there are 41 tenths to award compared to only 6 tenths to separate teams on the Varsity scoresheet.
There is a major departure in Toss scoring between the Varsity scoresheet and the Worlds scoresheets. Varsity required the majority of the team to perform a level appropriate skill to score a 5.0 (out of 5). At Worlds, this will only get you a 8.0.
Worlds introduces the idea of division expectations. Regardless of the number of athletes on your team, you are required to perform a certain number of tosses throughout the routine. Doing the number below with solely level appropriate tosses will score you a 9.0. To score a perfect 10 in toss difficulty, one of the tosses in your routine must be of “Worlds” level difficulty, meaning a 4+ skill toss. You will see a lot of teams with low number of athletes compared to the rest of their division changing routines to add in more tosses. This category like Varsity is a “capped” score, meaning you only need to do what is listed to score a perfect score.
- Extra Small – 3 tosses
- Small – 4 tosses
- Medium – 6 tosses
- Large – 7 tosses
- Senior Open – 4 tosses
For building technique, you will find yourself in the 5.0-8.0 range for AVERAGE execution and in the high range of 8.0-10.0 for near perfect execution in each of the categories above. You will see significant differences here from Varsity events all season. Where Varsity is focused only on five drivers for technique and require a portion of the team to show improvement areas for that driver before reducing the score, Worlds is completely up to judges’ discretion.
There are factors that will impact your score, but at the end of the day, you will see significantly varied scores. For example on a team of 38 with eight baskets, one group performing poor technique could still get you a 5.0 in technique at Varsity. At Worlds, you will see that technique score impacted.
Creativity is another section where there will be a large spread in teams. The Varsity scoresheet allows for 2.0-2.5 to be awarded in both stunts and pyramids. Worlds will award creativity based on the ENTIRE building scoresheet and has a range of 1.0-5.0. This again is based on the judges’ discretion. Scoring an average of 2.2-2.3 at Varsity was never a huge detriment to a team, however being in the average range of 2.0-3.0 at Worlds could have a significant impact to a teams score at Worlds. The benefit of the combined score is that it allows teams who may have creative pyramids and average stunts to still be rewarded with above average creativity. But again, creativity is in the eye of the beholder (aka the judges).
Standing & Running Tumbling
Standing and running tumbling are scored as different categories but have the same exact rubric. Less than a majority performing a level appropriate skill will score from 1.0-6.0. You should see very little teams here because these skills don’t need to be “Elite”. A simple Toe Back for standing or a Roundoff Handspring Full for running will count as level appropriate. Teams performing 50% + one level appropriate skills will score in the 6.0-10.0 range.
Remembering that doing just Toe Backs by majority will get you into this range and anything more difficult will continue to drive a score up. In addition, there are no requirements for athletes to perform the standing skills in the same section. All level appropriate skills throughout the routine for both Running and Standing will be used to score your difficulty. And as always, the judges’ discretion will help drive these scores higher.
Remember Division Expectations from the Toss section above? Well it’s back – this time for jumps. The way Varsity split “Most” this year, actually is 50%+1 for some different size combinations. This is an area where many teams should make adjustments. You’ll notice teams that are not at the top of the division size (from the number of athletes) will make changes to their jump sections.
Like Varsity, teams are required to do 2+1 or 3 jumps, with the only change being the number of athletes performing them. If teams kept their minimum numbers from Varsity, you’d be scoring anywhere from a 8.0-10.0. Most teams will adapt to this scoresheet and score a perfect 10.0 in this capped category.
- Extra Small – 12 athletes (or full team minus 1)
- Small – 16 athletes (or full team minus 1)
- Medium – 22 athletes (or full team minus 1)
- Large – 28 athletes (or full team minus 1)
- Senior Open – 18 athletes (or full team minus 1)
Similar to building skills, the technique scores for each category are scored from 1.0 – 10.0. Judges can score teams as they want using their discretion and are not limited by the drivers. For example, on the Varsity scoresheet, you can only lose 0.3 points for poor body control in tumbling. At Worlds, you may find yourself in the poor execution range of 1.0-5.0. This system is designed to separate teams, and tumbling technique is one of the places where you will see the most variation.
The best part of the Worlds rubric is how detailed the dance section is. The ranges are 1.0-2.0, 2.0-3.0, and 3.0-5.0 with full descriptions on expectations for each. What the scores usually come down to are the levels of perfection, technique, and synchronization. Any coach can make a dance increasingly harder, but the way it is performed has a large impact on the judges’ perception.
In order to score a team for difficult things, they have to be able to understand what you’re doing. On the Varsity scoresheet, this category ranged from 9.0-10.0 with most teams scoring in the 9.4+ range. At Worlds you will again see a large variation, which is by design.
Similar to Varsity, this section of the score sheet looks at two main things: how well choreographed your routine is and how well it is executed. The ranges at Worlds are 1.0-10.0 which is again quite a departure from the 9.0-10.0 range on the Varsity scoresheet. Those with average creativity and overall appeal will find themselves in the 5.0-8.0 range.
The range for performance at Varsity is 9.0-10.0 and was scored by each of the three category judges. At Worlds, the scoring range is 1.0 to 10.0 and scored only by the three overall judges. When your coach tells you to recover from a mistake and keep going, it matters even more at Worlds. If you let one mistake drag you down, it can have a massive impact on your performance score.
For those who don’t know, the purpose of this category is to score a routine for high levels of energy, entertainment value and excitement while maintaining consistent uniformity, genuine enthusiasm and showmanship. This will include appropriate athletic impression throughout the routine.
If you didn’t get the memo about athletic impression from Varsity throughout the season, you will definitely see it at Worlds. This is a sport, not a night out with your friends. Keep it appropriate for all audiences and have a good time while doing it to help keep this score in the high range.
IASF – International Divisions
When looking at the international divisions, a whole different perspective of judging is applied. The design of the scoresheet is made so that coaches make all decisions related to their routine and put out the best performance they can. There is not a single place on the scoresheet that has a requirement for skills or the number of athletes. The ranges are split by “Non-Difficult”, “Moderate Difficult”, and “Difficult” skills.
The building categories account for 100 of the 150 points on the score sheet. There are no capped skills and the entire scoresheet is comparative. Scores will change from day to day. This is where the bulk of the points are for these divisions and will really set teams apart.
There are a few things to call out about tumbling. IASF strongly rewards synchronized tumbling with more athletes per pass. Both Running and Standing difficulty are rewarded from 0.1 – 5.0 points. Tumbling technique is scored out of a 0.1 – 5.0 but is combined for both running and standing.
Remember that this is comparative, so you will see a lot more teams scoring towards the high end of the range if there are a lot of international teams from developing countries performing L1/2 skills who will make up the majority of the low range. Jumps will also be scored on this sheet and are worth five points with Execution and Difficulty combined. Again there are NO requirements, so don’t be surprised if you see teams only doing single jumps to drive execution. The entire tumbling sheet is worth 20 points and makes up the smallest percentage of the overall score.
This judge will award a total of 30 points out of the 150 available in International. There are several differences here from the USASF Worlds sheet. Dance is worth a total of 5 points with the top range being 2.0-5.0. Routine creativity is scored between 1.0 – 5.0. This is scored separately from Formations and Transitions which is worth 1.0-10.0 points. Then Impressions/Showmanship is worth an addition 1.0-10.0. You’ll notice that this scoresheet is emphasizing clean and synchronized cheerleading which also helps benefits the international teams that may not be as advanced as some of the established countries who are perennial winners.
The deductions are weighted equally between both IASF and USASF Worlds and there are a lot more deductions available to give than Varsity events. If you see teams with deductions that you think hit, remember that bobbles and incomplete doubles will be assessed as deductions.
- Hands or Knees down in an individual skill will get you 1.0 off
- All incomplete twists will get you this deduction as well. Your hips, feet, and shoulders should all be completely rotated upon landing!
- Multiple body parts (Hands AND Knees) or any part of the body’s core or head will get you 2.0 off.
- Any bobble will result in a 2.0 deduction.
- Excessive movement from bases and saves will result in a bobble deduction.
- A hand or foot to the ground during a dismount. (Which would be a fall for Varsity)
- Incomplete twisting. Any dismount or toss that has a blatantly (non-choreographed) incomplete twist.
- Uncontrolled falls or lowering of a stunt.
- A base to the floor during a stunt.
- This will be a 3.0 deduction.
Major Stunt Falls:
- Flyer hitting the floor during a fall will result in a 4.0 deduction.
- The most a single group falling or a pyramid collapse can get is 5.0
- All safety violations are 4.0 in deductions.
- Worlds is much stricter with safety violations compared to other events through the season.
- Any routine that exceeds 2:30 (for a regular routine) will receive a deduction. There is no grace period. If you see any teams stopping their music during the dance in finals, you’ll know it was because of a time deduction.
Out of Bounds:
- An athlete who goes completely past the safety border will incur a 1.0 deduction. The red border will not get you a deduction.
The Worlds scoresheet appears to be designed for two things. One, to separate teams and have clear winners. When you have 50+ teams in a division, you need room to differentiate between all levels of difficulty and technique. And two, to allow the judges’ discretion in scoring teams.
Varsity (and other event producers) as a company is likely designing a scoresheet that it can justify across hundreds of events throughout the season consistently. Varsity is a business that needs to make their clients happy and give them a product they want. Worlds, being a single weekend with the same panel judging the same divisions, is able to use a looser scoresheet and apply it in a consistent way. Being the national governing body (NGB) of a sport, they are creating a scoresheet that highlights the best of the cheerleading and are not concerned with giving a prescribed rubric to guarantee scores.
You will see scores you didn’t expect at Worlds. You will see teams that weren’t on your radar scoring well, and you will see some top level teams a few points behind teams they were beating all season. If you’ve never been to or watched Worlds before, you are in for some surprises and there is almost nothing that is predictable.
The one thing I want you to take away from this is that the scoresheets are designed to reward what you want to put in the routine. They are not designed to be a set rubric for you to follow. In addition, the IASF and USASF scoresheets are significantly different and can’t be compared across events. For all intents and purposes, IASF Worlds and USASF Worlds are different events with different scoresheets. So let’s not have anyone claiming to be Grand World champions.
And remember, every point matters. Even though the ranges are much larger than you are used to seeing, there will still be placements decided by small margins.