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AACCA Releases Cheerleading Rules for High School and Younger

(A press release has also been issued here)

The AACCA released its “2010-11 School Cheer Safety Rules” today which include some changes for all school teams along with the first ever set of rules specifically for elementary, middle and junior high school cheer teams.

Changes affecting all school teams:

  • Released stunt transitions must be braced on at least one side. This effectively removes skills such as free-standing Tic Tocs. Load-in releases such as a Switch Lib are still allowed as they do not begin in a stunt.
  • In stunts where the top person falls away from the bases in a flat body position (also known as a Pendulum) the top person must be caught by at least three catchers. Previous AACCA rules required a minimum of two catchers.

While these particular skills have not had specific safety issues, the changes were made to further the continued efforts by the AACCA and National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) to have a more consistent set of cheerleading rules. This change effectively means that there is only one remaining major difference between these two sets of rules. The AACCA restricts all released twists on basketball court surfaces without a mat, while the NFHS Spirit Rules currently allow up to one and one-quarter twists on the basketball court surface.

Changes affecting elementary, middle and junior high school teams:

  • All basket tosses and double full twisting dismounts are prohibited on all surfaces.

This year is the first time there have been different rules for these school divisions. Over the past years, those in the cheerleading industry, including safety organizations such as AACCA as well as administrators and event producers, have seen more teams at these levels performing advanced skills for which they were not prepared. Poor execution results in more falls, and more falls increase the opportunity for injury.

In addition, high school coaches are seeing more incoming cheerleaders who have advanced too quickly and do not have the proper fundamental technique for performing some of the upper level skills. For these reasons, the AACCA rules committee decided to add a further restriction on stunts for elementary, middle and junior high school teams.

While there are certainly teams at this age level that can safely perform these skills, the rules are not written for the elite just as they aren’t written for the beginner. These changes will allow coaches, who are nearly always full-time teachers in the school, to focus on fundamentals without the pressure of having to teach the most advanced skills.¬†Cheerleaders at these schools will perform more repetitions of elevators, extensions and even full twisting dismounts before arriving at the high school level where they can develop more advanced skills.

About the AACCA rules

These rules are written for school teams and do not directly address all-star or youth recreational programs. There is a difference in the focus of school cheerleading, a limit on the talent pool from which teams are selected, and a certain level of risk acceptance on the part of administrators of a public entity.

Since there have been no rules other than those written specifically for high school teams, many elementary, middle and junior high schools and state associations have directed their cheerleading teams to follow the high school rules. We strongly recommend that in addition to the rules (NFHS or AACCA) that they currently follow, they add the restrictions included in section F of the 2010-11 AACCA School Cheer Rules.


As we get email questions, we will update this section with clarifications on the new rules. If necessary, we will update the actual rules page. Please check back often. Send questions to

  • These rules apply to practice, game and competition.
  • (Rule C-5) “Low to High” Switch Liberties where the back remains in contact with the top person are not “released”, therefore they are not prohibited. At the point of release from the bases, the backspot becomes the main base and the bases become the spotters, which reverses once the original bases are back in contact with the top person.
  • (Rule C-5) A load-in position where the top person is off of the ground and supported by bases (Example: elevator load-in, sponge load) is considered to be a stunt by definition. Therefore an elevator load-in, ball up to stretch is illegal unless it is braced before the release from the bases/backspot. ¬†A basket load-in to extension would be legal if braced or if the backspot remains in contact throughout the transition.
  • (Rule F-1) “Multibased tosses” means sponge tosses or elevator tosses that originate from below shoulder level and use a throwing motion to get the top person into the air. An elevator or extension cradle does not meet this criteria. Elevator cradles and extension cradles are not “tosses” and are allowed.
  • (Rule F) The basket toss and double down prohibitions are for elementary school, middle school and junior high school teams. A 9th grade or JV team in a high school is not restricted by the middle school/jr. high rules.


Pingback from AACCA School Rules for 2010-11
Time May 12, 2010 at 5:25 pm

[...] The American Association of Cheerleading Coaches and Administrators (AACCA) released the School Rules for 2010-11. The major changes are listed here with additional information in the AACCA Press Release. [...]

Pingback from New Cheerleading Safety Rules for Middle Schools & Junior High Squads | Sideline Cheers
Time May 13, 2010 at 11:11 pm

[...] from [...]

Comment from Sandra Dobrowolski
Time May 14, 2010 at 11:49 am

Hi Jim,

I have the utmost respect for you and AACCA and thank you for all you do for the cheerleaders of the world.

I do, however, disagree with the basket toss rule for Middle Level and Junior High Students. As a coach who fully understands and follows the rules of pregression, I do not feel this is necessary.

Having coached for over 25 years, I will not and have never allowed any of my participants, of any age, to do a basket toss unless they have a strong pop cradle from a full extension.

My feeling is NFHS needs to be more forceful on the AD’s to inforce these rules and check progression charts. I have been at games where the cheerleaders are doing things they are clearly not ready to be doing and no one questions it. I have approached visiting coaches at my own school when I see a rule violation only to be sneared upon.

Rules are great and absolutely keep our participants safe. The problem is, the rules are in place with no inforcement or penalities unless someone is injured. Then and only then does the rule book come out.

All of this being said, I do agree with the Elementary having such a rule. I feel once these participants have entered Junior High and Middle School, many of them are ready to move on to baskets performed on an appropriate surface. Coaches Education and rule enforcement is the KEY!

Comment from Middle school coach
Time May 19, 2010 at 2:24 am

I have to agree about the basket toss rule for middle school and junior high. All star youth levels are allowed to throw baskets and there should maybe just be a limit on the type allowed to be thrown. I too have been coaching for many years. I have coached all stars for 11 years and school cheer for 5. I have never allowed baskets to be thrown until the proper progression skill was obtained.
Very very disappointed with this rule!

I see more unstable, unsafe heel stretches and one legged stunts as well as transition stunts at the school level .

Comment from Jennifer Sabdo
Time May 20, 2010 at 2:03 am

I too am very disappointed in this rule. I have coached for over 9 years now. Five with pop warner, two with All stars, and two with the middle school. My girls have grown up with cheer and I hate to have to take this away from them. I agree that maybe a straight ride could be a limit but to remove it completely is, in my opinion, not a good idea. I hope to see this changed….

Pingback from Responses to New Elem/MS/JH School Rules | Cheer Safety From AACCA
Time June 1, 2010 at 5:29 pm

[...] was expected, there were quite a few responses to the announcement May 11th that there would be new restrictions by AACCA for elementary, middle school and junior high school [...]

Comment from Ashli Paige
Time September 7, 2010 at 6:05 pm

Is a prep with out a backspot illegal for the regionals and state competition?

Comment from AACCA Executive Director
Time September 7, 2010 at 6:44 pm

Ashli, a prep does not require a backspot for school teams. It only requires one if it’s used as a brace for a released pyramid, when it cradles, or if it’s extended.

Comment from karen larimer
Time September 13, 2010 at 5:08 am

How many coaches are required for 5 to 6 pyramids that have a few unskilled cheerleaders? What is the coach to pyramid ratio? I think there should be a certain amount of coaches or spotters with a large squad!

Comment from Jennifer
Time September 17, 2010 at 8:19 pm

I was recently at a high school football game and witnessed the Varsity cheerleaders do a backtuck basket toss. I thought these types of tosses were only allowed at the collegiate level. As a cheer coach myself I was wondering what is allowed as far as basket tosses are concerned. Can you please clarify the types of basket tosses that are allowed at the high school level.

Comment from AACCA Executive Director
Time September 17, 2010 at 9:31 pm

Karen, there’s not a specific figure because there doesn’t need to be. One coach can coach a large pyramid, but they need to do it in the right way, and have the right spotters in place.

Comment from AACCA Executive Director
Time September 17, 2010 at 9:32 pm

Jennifer, that’s pretty simple – in high school, baskets are limited to 2 1/4 twists and no flips.

Someone needs to point out the legality issues to this coach and if they don’t respond in an appropriate way, to the athletic director or principal.

Comment from middle school cheerleader
Time September 25, 2010 at 9:02 pm

i am a middle school cheerleader as well as an all star level 2, and 4.2 cheerleader. i feel that some of these rules arent fair because at a level 2 allstar team you are allowed to do basket tosses and you arent to exceed a half one legged stunt. while in middle school you can twist from a full one legged stunt but you are not allowed to do a straight ride basket or even a chuck toss. this isnt fair because my mini team is level 2 and they are doing baskets at the age of only 6 and 7. the basket rule for middle school and junior high should be strongly reconsidered!

Comment from Deanna
Time October 17, 2010 at 8:37 pm

I have been a coach for well over 10 years for schools and pop warner I am very disappointed in the rule change not allowing tosses. It seems unfair since other teams (rec., Pop Warner and All Stars) can toss. If the argument to get rid of tosses is becuase of a school’s limited “talent pool”, then how is Pop Warner still allowed to toss? They also have a limited “talent pool” as well and usually coached by parents who are volunteers.

Comment from AACCA Executive Director
Time October 18, 2010 at 11:05 am

Deanna, the AACCA does not write rules for youth recreational leagues. It is up to those organizations to determine the level that will be allowed for their teams. Most organizations like Pop Warner do have different levels and the lower levels do not allow tosses. Some organizations are limiting their rec league teams to the same restrictions AACCA published for middle schools and younger and some even have more restrictive rules that require spotters on all stunts, not just extended ones.

Comment from linda
Time October 18, 2010 at 12:12 pm

please confirm the term spotter in a situation where there are 2 bases, a backspot and and flyer. is the backspot the spotter or is an additional person required to stand beside the backspot requiring 4 people on the floor with 1 flyer?

Comment from AACCA Executive Director
Time October 18, 2010 at 12:17 pm

The backspot is the spotter for stunts requiring a spotter (such as extended stunts) as long as they remain in a position to spot. Basically, if they are standing under an extension with their hands under the feet, they are not in a spotting position any longer. They’ve become a base. But if they are on the ankles and wrists, and are behind the main “line” of the stunt, they fulfill the role of “spotter” for the stunts that require a spot.

Comment from Brianna
Time November 13, 2010 at 6:25 pm

The rule on basket tosses and dismounts is ridicules. My sister competed in a competition today and her entire squad, coaches and all, were unaware of this rule change and they executed these moves beautifully. Why would they change the rules on it if school squads can pull off this move better than most all-star squads? And then why would they outlaw it for school squads and not for gym squads of the same age? I view THAT as a completely irresponsible decision.

Comment from Glenn
Time November 20, 2010 at 12:30 pm

Quick question. If there is a backspot, two bases and a front, is the front allowed to hold under the foot of the flyer???

Comment from Dawn B.
Time November 29, 2010 at 10:51 am

Will AACCA institute safety rules in regards to the ratio of coach(es) to the number of cheerleaders. Our school system currently has 1 coach for 20-22 girls which is overwhelming in terms of coaching and presents a safety hazard when multiple stunt groups are practicing. We found it much safer when there were 2 coaches working with a group this large but we’re limited because there is nothing in writing from AACCA.

Comment from highschool cheerleader
Time December 9, 2010 at 8:25 pm

is it okay to do a full back flip in a 3 group stunt? the middle starts a smoosh and we toss her up with the two outside builds holding her as she flips. and lands in a smoosh again..?

Comment from AACCA Executive Director
Time December 9, 2010 at 8:45 pm

Not at the high school level. That would violate the inversion rule. The only time the top person can be inverted is 1) in a legal suspended forward roll where they have hand to hand contact with two bases or two posts on the ground and 2) coming off the ground inverted to a non-inverted position like a handstand load up to an elevator load in.

Comment from AACCA Executive Director
Time December 9, 2010 at 9:25 pm

The difficulty in doing that is that 1 coach can properly manage 20-22 girls and that’s probably fairly standard. The coach doesn’t have to actively spot/supervise every stunt – only the ones where there presents a heightened risk of a fall. If they are working on something new, then the teaching methods would need to change so that they are working on it one at a time depending on what they are working on, the age level, etc. Could they do it faster with two qualified coaches? Certainly, but it’s sometimes hard to find one good coach for a team much less two. The “safer” is in how they are working with the team, not how many coaches are present. So your argument might be that with only one coach, they will have to slow their progress in order to safely coach and that with another coach they could progress more quickly. Hope that helps explain why there’s not a specific ratio.

Comment from AACCA Executive Director
Time December 9, 2010 at 9:30 pm

I understand the frustration from teams that perform skills well, but that argument alone isn’t a reason to allow something. By that logic, we would not have any rules at all since there are teams that would be able to “safely” perform three high pyramids. It used to be done all the time. The rules were changed for those skills because more teams were performing them that weren’t doing them safely. While it would be a perfect world to simply not have those teams do the skills they were doing unsafely that isn’t the world we live in.

I also think the idea that “most school squads can do it better than all-star squads” simply isn’t a given. There are good all star teams and good school teams just as there are bad both.

We believe that to allow a skill which we were consistently warning about but not seeing improvement on would be irresponsible. Thank you for your comment.

Comment from Derek Johnson
Time December 21, 2010 at 2:52 am

Yes, for middle school…is it illegal for a stunt group of two bases, back spot,front spot to do a front flip…let me explain. The front spot is turned towards the front with her hands locked out over her head with the the flyers arms locked out and holding the front spotters hands. The bases and back spot are holding the flyer in an elevator and toss the flyer over the front spot while there is still contact with the front spot the whole time, who will actually become the back spot. The original bases catch the flyer in a cradle. Hope this makes sense…its difficult to explain!

Comment from Amanda Natale
Time December 28, 2010 at 2:12 pm

Is a tic toc considered a multi-based toss, making it illegal at the middle school level, even with braces on both sides?

Comment from AACCA Executive Director
Time January 3, 2011 at 9:46 am

No, a tic toc is not a toss. A toss begins from below shoulder level and uses a throwing motion to increase the height of the top person. A tic toc is a transitional stunt and is legal with a bracer.

Comment from AACCA Executive Director
Time January 3, 2011 at 9:47 am

Derek, a suspended forward roll is what you are describing. It is legal BUT the top person has to have hand to hand contact with two bases or two posts – she can’t do the suspended roll over one person.

Comment from AACCA Executive Director
Time January 4, 2011 at 10:09 am

We’re going to close this post to further comments as it has become a rules question thread. We’ve created a post dedicated to rules questions at

See you there!