MSHSAA members vote to no longer sanction competitive cheerleading

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

The organization will still support sideline cheerleading.

ST. LOUIS -- High school cheerleaders in Missouri are being told to stay on the sidelines.

As of July 1, the Missouri State High School Activities Association will no longer sanction cheerleaders to take part in regional or state competitions. The association will maintain jurisdiction over sideline cheerleading at school athletic events. Squads that want to compete must do so as a club.

The decision means the activities association no longer will provide catastrophic liability insurance to cover accidents during practices for or performances at competitions. The association will continue catastrophic coverage for sideline cheering.

At many public schools, club sports do not receive district funding. Athletes in club sports pay for their own equipment, insurance, coaches and other costs.

Some St. Louis-area districts -- among them, Ritenour, Pattonville and Maplewood-Richmond Heights -- have decided they will not fund a cheerleading club, because they do not fund other club sports.

Ritenour athletic director Jerry Nolen said St. Louis-area athletic directors went on record to support the continuation of competitive cheerleading. But statewide, the vote last month was 258-184 to drop governance of competitive cheering.

Cape Girardeau Central athletic director Mark Ruark said he did not expect the vote to go the way it did.

"I'm actually surprised it passed," Ruark said. "Most of the people I talked to didn't seem to be in favor of it."

Ruark said Central actually won't be affected by the developments. He said the school's cheerleaders have not attended outside competitions in recent years, instead simply focusing on sideline cheering at school athletic events.

"I don't think it will affect us at all, because our cheerleaders haven't been going to separate competitions anyway, so you won't see any change in how we do business here," Ruark said.

St. Vincent athletic director Bruce Valleroy said his school is in pretty much the same boat as Central.

"We really don't go to competitions; all we do is cheer at the games," Valleroy said.

But that is not the case for some other area high schools whose cheerleaders take part in competitions outside of school events. Those schools could soon be faced with a decision.

"We haven't really done anything with it yet, but it's something we're going to have to look into," Chaffee athletic director Terry Glenzy said. "This was more or less a surprise, because people I talked to around here didn't think it would pass.

"We're going to have to do something, to make sure everybody will be covered. The big thing is the [catastrophic liability] insurance. That's very important."

In a written statement released Monday, MSHSAA said its member schools have been "faced with the challenge of administering the continually-evolving activity of competitive cheerleading within the context of their activities programs."

MSHSAA assistant executive director Rick Kindhart said the move had nothing to do with liability or injury concerns.

"Cheerleading has evolved beyond sideline cheers, which was what our bylaws were intended to address," Kindhart said. "The option was get in or get out, and our schools said competitive cheerleading should be best left in the hands of individual schools."

Southeast Missourian sports writer Marty Mishow contributed to this story.

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