USASF Makes Changes to Divisions for Cheerleading Worlds 2018

Earlier this week, USASF announced changes to the Cheerleading Worlds divisions for the 2018-2019 season. There were two major changes, including the addition of new “open” divisions and changes to who qualifies to compete in the Extra Small and Extra Small Coed divisions.

USASF added three new divisions: Open 5, Open Small Coed 5 (including 1-4 males), and Open Large Coed 5 division (including 5-12 males). There are other implications to these new Open divisions which we’ll dive into when IASF clarifies the international divisions sometime in the future.


USASF Changes the Extra Small Senior and Coed Qualifications

What we do know for certain is that the Extra Small Senior and Extra Small Coed divisions are no longer off limits to programs with additional Worlds teams. Now, a program and their franchises may compete in Extra Small Senior and Extra Small Senior Coed regardless of how many other Worlds teams they have. Teams may now have up to 16 athletes, an increase from last season’s 14. 

When the Extra Small Senior divisions were first announced last year, they were not eligible to compete at the Cheerleading Worlds. A few weeks later, after the Cheerleading Worlds 2017, USASF announced that they would add the Extra Small Senior and Extra Small Coed divisions to the Cheerleading Worlds 2018. That second announcement added the caveat that a program could only compete in one of the two divisions if they had no other Worlds teams.

In true cheerleading fashion, there was an outcry. Many people argued that this was making the Cheerleading Worlds easier and that soon they’d propose a D2 Worlds (they’re not). Now that the restriction has been lifted, there is yet again another outcry. Go figure. We’re shocked. Literally, no one is happy regardless of what decision USASF makes. But, we decided we would give our own opinion.

An Advocate for the Divisions as a Whole

I was a huge advocate for the Extra Small and Extra Small Coed divisions last season. It gave the community the ability to see smaller programs succeed in a new division that wasn’t drowned out by the biggest names in cheerleading. It’s no secret that large and successful gyms tend to dominate the conversation, and that’s because they’re the teams who make it to finals.

I don’t see a problem with large programs and teams who dominate because more often than not, they’re better. But because the same teams tend to make finals, it does make it easy to ignore the other 80 teams in a single division – even if they are competitive! 

We saw this play out at Worlds in a pretty predictable way. The Small Senior and Small Coed divisions were quite literally cut in half. In 2017, there were nearly 90 teams in both Small Senior and Small Coed. At the Cheerleading Worlds 2018, there were 40-50 in Small Senior and Small Coed, and the other 40-50 joined Extra Small and Extra Small Coed. It seemed as if USASF’s intention played out exactly as it should have.

New Teams Took the Spotlight

Throughout the season, it was MUCH easier to pick out new talent in the Extra Small divisions than it was to identify the middle-tier teams in Small Senior or Small Coed. When you break them out and place them in their own division, it simply makes it easier to pay attention to. 

It’s no secret that the Extra Small divisions allowed small gyms to take center stage and showcase some phenomenal talent. At the Cheerleading Worlds 2018, five of the six teams who placed in the top three won their first-ever Cheerleading Worlds globe. Whereas, in the 12 other divisions at Worlds, there was only one other program who won a globe for the first time (and it was in an international division).

Now that the Extra Small divisions are open and available to all programs, I think we’re going to see a mild shift in larger programs moving into the division. While it’s true that SOME of the largest programs in the country generally have no problem fielding their Worlds teams, every major gym location is not equal. There are several large programs who have locations that would qualify as D2. And the option to create an Extra Small team is likely pretty appealing.


Point blank, do I like this change? Yes. The Extra Small divisions were the first-ever to have an extra stipulation. International and senior divisions are split based on age, and that makes sense. But, in my humble opinion, creating a barrier to a senior division changes the purpose of the Cheerleading Worlds. 

The Cheerleading Worlds is supposed to be the best of the best competing for the top spot. The Extra Small divisions still allow smaller programs to field level-appropriate Worlds teams that were specifically designed for them. That hasn’t changed. 

We published an article last summer about the positive impact the Extra Small divisions would have on their programs. Most of the arguments in that article still remain true. And now that every program is allowed to field a team, it makes it fair. 

I highly doubt that a major contender from either Small Senior or Small Coed (or a larger division) will move to Extra Small because of this change. Will a program like California, Cheer Extreme, or Rockstar create an Extra Small team at one of their smaller locations? Mostly likely. But, I don’t think that diminishes the division’s purpose. 

I think we’ll still see some new programs and teams take the spot, as we did at the Cheerleading Worlds 2018.

What do you think?

Do you agree with the changes to the Extra Small Senior and Extra Small Coed divisions?

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