Since I entered the cheerleading world, one thing has always baffled me…crossovers. I am a football, baseball, and soccer guy, so seeing an athlete play for two or more teams is a foreign thought. Growing up, when we tried out for a team we were placed on one team and practiced and participated with that team only. Imagine my face when I got to my first All*Star competition as a coach and saw kids competing for multiple teams. I couldn’t believe it. Now that I’m in my 11th year of cheerleading, I’ve come to accept that crossovers are used, but I still scratch my head as to how it can still be a legal part of our sport. I also feel like crossovers are one more thing that is holding us back from being considered a legitimate sport. I am a small gym owner and know how important crossovers can be in case of an injury, a team mate quitting, etc. I’ve heard the arguments that if it weren’t for crossovers small gyms couldn’t make it, that crossovers are the backbone that holds small gyms together, and that cheerleading NEEDS crossovers. Hopefully by the end of this article you will see that arguments like this are only half true and crossovers can actually be a reason why small gyms don’t grow.
I want to share a quick story about a competition I attended in November of 2011. I did not have teams at this event, so I went just to watch and enjoy the local teams and competition. While I was there, I saw a team from a small gym about an hour outside of Baton Rouge that we competed against for the past two years. I was blown away at their performance. They had never looked better or more confident and I was so excited for them. They had stepped up their game big time. I was sure that they would take home a first place trophy, but I was sadly mistaken. The next team that took the floor totally dominated. They were the most amazing level 3 team I’d ever seen. After the second team’s performance, I started to think about how skillful that team was and how they pushed the limits of level 3. Things like this weigh on my mind until I can rationalize it, so I did some research. I came to find out that on their team of 26 athletes, 16 were crossovers from level 4 or 5 teams. What the second team’s coaches did by composing their level 3 team of mostly level 4 and 5 athletes is in full boundaries of what we consider legal. However, is there any question that these types of teams are the best for the future of our sport? This team will probably not be beaten all season. They will go to every competition, win a trophy/banner, and then celebrate like they deserve it…but do they? Is this scenario true competition, even with the ceiling of level playing rules?
Looking at crossovers from a business perspective, small gyms cannot afford to use them the way large gyms can. I do not use crossovers because of the extra expenses that are incurred by the athlete that is crossing over. In my past experiences, every time I would ask a cheerleader to crossover to more than one team, parents would ask, “How much will it cost me?” The parents were not willing to pay the extra choreography cost, competition fees, tuition, etc., so I ended up eating the cost of each crossover. It didn’t take but one year to realize that it did not make sense for me to ask cheerleaders to crossover unless I could get them to pay the extra costs. Unfortunately for small gyms, it is extremely difficult for us to convince our customers to pay extra when they already pay so much just to be on one team. When many small gyms use crossovers, they are taking a similar hit in the pocket book which takes away from other important parts of their business like marketing, new equipment, coaches training, or even pay raises for their staff. For this reason, large gyms have the upper hand in the crossover battle. I’m sure there are some large gyms that do eat the cost of crossovers, but I would bet that most can get their athletes to pay to be a crossover. I’ll give you a scenario – if I owned a large gym (I’ll consider large gym a gym with at least 120 athletes, not 75 like USASF) my proposal for my customers would be this: “We placed you on team X. We can use you on team Z, but this is what it’s going to cost to be a part of that team.” If they turn it down, then nothing else is mentioned of the proposal. If they accept because they want to fly, be last pass, or point jumper on a lower level team, then I don’t come out of pocket. The point is, large gyms are usually in control when deciding crossovers while small gyms are usually at the mercy of their customers. Letting your customers have control and when they know they have control can be a train wreck if at some point in the season, the customer decides they do not like a decision you make.
Let it be on the record that I am not suggesting that we abolish crossovers. I am just stating that in the current system, crossovers are being misused. I do not think that the USASF is at a point where they can create crossover rules or police teams and make them accountable for breaking any crossover rule that could possibly be created and voted into being. I am simply asking that coaches and gym owners, especially USASF members, use good judgment when deciding on how they use crossovers. Is it fun to have a team that dominates and wins every event that it attends? Sure it is, but the costs are far greater (and I’m not talking about the finances). It inhibits true competition, it is disrespectful to teams who are playing up to their level, it stifles teams that are trying their best to be successful by pushing their own abilities and limits, and it is sending the wrong message to our youth that winning is more important than playing games fairly and ethically. It is also plain ol’ taking advantage of a rule that is supposed to help our sport be more competitive. Until we get athlete membership with the USASF and all teams can be recorded and tracked, it is up to us coaches to hold each other accountable and to make decisions that make our sport more legitimate.