August 3, 2022 – The World Allstar Federation, a new non-profit cheerleading and dance federation, held their inaugural general session in Hollywood, Florida. The meeting was led by Executive Director Les Stella, with guest speakers Heidi Weber (Open Championship Series), Brent Steele (Steele Athletics), Cat Weeden (Luxe Athletics), Jacob Parker (Rain Athletics), Tabbi McCallister (Icon Cheer), Tyler Hendrickson (CheerVille), BJ Lindenberger (CheerVille), Craig Hallmark (Open Championship Series), and others.
The World Allstar Federation publicly announced its formation in May 2022 via a Facebook post. The new organization is in response to growing frustration with the current cheerleading governing bodies and the state of the industry. For years, the all star cheerleading has struggled with issues related to transparency, scoring, and sexual predators, to name a few.
This inaugural meeting could signal a significant change in the competitive cheerleading industry. Although we were watching via the live stream, we could hear many industry leaders in the audience from some of the most respected programs in the country, such as Top Gun and World Cup.
Creating Cheer 2.0
The World Allstar Federation announced Les Stella as the executive director on July 12, 2022. Stella opened the general session and shared his journey, priorities, and focus for the immediate future. He is an industry veteran with more than 23 years of experience, and he most recently served as the IASF Director. He has helped IASF, USASF, and Varsity establish training, rules, ethics, and judges.
Les Stella shared the WASF’s goal to create a “Cheer 2.0” and build what the industry has always wanted and what they thought they were making the first time.
Stella’s 5 Most Important Items to Focus On:
Les Stella summed up the organization’s initial focus areas.
- Athlete safety from a sexual predator standpoint. The past few years have been difficult for the industry, and they recognize the need for change.
- Transparency – creating an open door policy where everyone has a voice and is industry-led.
- Growth of the sport both domestically and globally.
- Education – new credentialling ideas for coaches, judges, etc.
- Consistent rules interpretation and formation to maintain the integrity of the sport.
Notable Organization Announcements
A New Level 5, 6, 7 World Championships
The World Allstar Federation announced its plan to host a new World Championship event for levels 5, 6, and 7. The event will take place April 27-28, 2023, in Kissimmee, Florida.
New divisions and changes:
- No international / USA division splits and removal of top 3 from each country advancing
- Athletes can crossover to two teams
- Junior Level 5 and Level 6
- U16 Level 5
- U16 Coed Level 5
- U16 Level 6
- U16 Coed Level 6
- U18 Level 5 (Seniors)
- U18XL Level 6 (Seniors) – Max 50 Members (Coed / All Girl not disclosed)
- All Building Divisions (similar to current Non-Tumbling) – Level 5, 6, and 7 (ages not disclosed)
- Small up to 20 members
- Large up to 35 members
- All male division (details coming soon)
- A complete division list will be available in the next two weeks
Section 501(c)(s) Status:
The World Allstar Federation organization is a Section 501(c)(3) and not a 501(c)(6).
What is the difference between Section 501(c)(3) and Section 501(c)(6)?
The IRS defines a 501(c)(3) as “charitable, religious, educational, scientific, literary, testing for public safety, fostering national or international amateur sports competition, and preventing cruelty to children or animals.”
The IRS defines a Section 501(c)(6) as a “business league is an association of persons having some common business interest, the purpose of which is to promote such common interest and not to engage in a regular business of a kind ordinarily carried on for profit.”
You can see an in-depth comparison of the two types of organizations here. Generally, a 501(c)(3) must be charitable, transparent regarding donations, cannot participate in political activities, and has more oversight.
The World Allstar Federation announced its partnership with the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) on July 28, 2022. Founded in 1888, the AAU is one of the largest non-profit multi-sport organizations in the world. Their goal is to promote and develop amateur sports and physical fitness programs. The AAU offers many services, including access to insurance policies and universal background checks. In the future, the WASF will also have the option to compete in the Junior Olympics. The WASF’s membership fees will include the AAU membership.
The Afternoon’s Colorful Conversations
While we could describe the morning as hopeful, optimistic, and bright, the afternoon sessions brought the meeting back to the current realities in all-star cheer. There are complex issues that the industry needs to address. And they do not have a straightforward solution. Judging, scoring, and fairness all influence cheer’s image and the World Allstar Federation (and everyone for that matter) has their work cut out for them.
No single solution or organization can address all of the cheerleading industry’s issues at once. However, there is a ripe opportunity for an organization to make bold moves.
We heard from Craig Hallmark, The Open Championship Series Customer Experience Manager, during the scoring discussion. He walked through each section and described the philosophy behind it.
A lively discussion about the new system’s development and real-world application hosted by Tyler Hendrickson (CheerVille) followed. The new system’s goal is to separate the “good” teams from the “great” teams and make scoring fairer.
A few conversation points stood out:
- Concerns over changing routines from competition to competition because event producers use different scoresheets.
- Judges’ integrity, credentialing, and overall transparency. There is significant concern over judges’ training and ability to score teams accurately despite challenging performance schedules. Heidi Weber (Open Championship Series) shared the World Allstar Federation’s plans to create a Judge’s Association to address the inconsistencies.
- Constant changes to the scoring system impact judges’ ability to offer fair and consistent scores.
- Elaine Pascale raised concerns over the influx of small teams and how the quantity requirements make it impossible for large teams to succeed. Small teams pose unique challenges such as a need for more coaches, more space to practice, and long competition days.
- Victor Rosario questioned how the scoring system was tested and the math behind it. For example, are the deduction values impactful given the weight of any section’s score? But beyond scoring, he said that we need to take the time to ask, “what do we want cheer to look like?” The answer to that question should influence the scoring system.
Town Hall Discussions
The Collective Town Hall opened the floor to the attendee’s pressing questions. The conversation orbited around a wide range of topics, from the new World Championship event to athlete safety.
Are there plans to increase the visibility of cheerleading and grow the sport?
Heidi Weber shared that the World Allstar Federation’s priority is all-star cheerleading. They are identifying new revenue opportunities for gyms and ways to get more people involved.
Does the World Allstar Federation plan to align with the ICU and other organizations?
Les Stella said they are not against working with the International Cheer Union (ICU). However, they do not think it is likely soon.
The World Allstar Federation was not created to fracture the industry and will work with anyone willing to do so. One of the organization’s top priorities is to lead with integrity and transparency.
A few audience members shared that they feel the existing governing bodies forced this change. Last season, USASF removed several organizations because they wouldn’t adhere to all of their rules. There was a void, and the WASF is stepping in to fill it.
What makes the World Allstar Federation better and different from the current organizations?
Someone asked how the WASF would be different despite its founders’ current positions of power. Les Stella once again reinforced that the new organization is committed to transparency and only has good intentions for the sport.
Where is the money coming from, and where is it going?
501(c)(3) organizations require transparent donations and must publicly disclose who donates. The World Allstar Federation will not accept donations with strings attached, and board seats are not for sale. Donations, membership fees, and registration fees will fund the new organization.
What perks are there, and how do programs sell this to parents?
The World Allstar Federation’s partnership with AAU offers several benefits, including insurance that WASF includes in its membership fees. Beyond the association with the AAU, the World Allstar Federation plans to create an athlete advisory board and increase opportunities for athletes.
Will they offer cheer and dance abilities?
Yes, but it is likely one to two years away.
Why is the World Championship only for levels 5, 6, and 7?
The World Allstar Federation wants to create an elite event without competing with other independent event producers’ end-of-season events. They do not plan to create an end-of-season event for levels 1-4.
How does the World Allstar Federation plan to address safety?
The World Allstar Federation is building relationships with third-party companies to give programs resources to educate and keep their athletes safe. The organization will heavily encourage adult athletes to have background checks, but ultimately it is up to the gyms and the individual event producers.
The WASF is also working on new technology to ensure safety at competitions, but they are still in the works.
Does the World Allstar Federation share the same goal to get cheerleading to the Olympics?
The number one priority is to help all star cheerleading evolve. Les Stella shared that cheer has evolved passed foam mats and cheering on another team. The current WASF goals do not align with the current Olympic movement.
In an impassioned speech, Elaine Pascale – the famed World Cup All Stars owner – shared her excitement for the World Allstar Foundation. She shared memories of cheerleading’s early days when she and Victor fought for things we take for granted today, like spring floors. She hopes that the industry can come together to push cheerleading forward. Her vision is that we create an industry where everyone applauds each other’s victories.
We expect to receive more information from the World Allstar Federation about their new World Championship event. We’re excited to see what’s coming next.