Sunday, January 29, 2012

My Soap Box - IHSA Sectionals

Yep, that’s right, I’m back up on my soap box, here it comes, my opinion of what felt like a robbery. Hey, what else do I have to write about, I still have 28 days of my forced training time off. BTW, my tailbone is feeling a little better, maybe the doctor is smarter than me after all.

If you aren’t a follower of cheerleading, which you probably aren’t if you don’t have a child in the sport, you probably don’t understand the way it is scored. So let me explain, it’s pretty simple, a number of judges, watch the routine, everyone starts out with a perfect score, but have points deducted for mistakes. Some of the areas judged are tumbling, synchronization, appearance, difficulty, etc. There is a scoring matrix that says how many points or percentages of a point to deduct for each of the mistakes. The judging is very subjective and what everyone hopes for, is to have very impartial judges. Oh, but I know what you are thinking, that’s right, judges are only human and they make errors, they miss things, both good and bad and no matter how impartial they might think they are, it’s not always the fact.

Its human nature, in the Olympics, the German judge will always score a German higher, just as an American will always score an American competitor higher. In corporate America, the most qualified person for the job doesn’t always get it, because he might not be the right race, gender or know the right person. In competitive cheerleading, the judges from the North might not score the teams from the South as high as those from the North. It’s not fair, but it’s reality.

So let me get to the point so I can climb down off my soap box, I’m afraid of heights and need to get down from here. During the IHSA sectionals, the EHS cheerleaders, had an almost flawless routine, they weren’t the best team, but pretty darn close, I would have picked them as 3rd, based on my knowledge of the sport. So when they didn’t even make the top 5 teams, I along with everyone around me was shocked and wanted to know why. When I heard what the deductions were for, I was even more shocked, because I saw the video of the routine and I had taken over 150 photos of the routine and after reviewing both found the judges were mistaken, the mistakes they noted never happened. See for yourself, they look pretty perfect to me.

Here is the very sad part, there is no formal protest process in this sport, I understand why they don’t want to have one, because every team would be protesting if they didn’t get the outcome they wanted, but I think checks and balances could be put in place to prevent this from happening. Other sports have a formal protest process, for example, in bike racing everyone is afforded the right to protest within a certain period of time after the finish of the race. If a protest is lodged, then the officials review the tape and if they find that they were incorrect the scoring is changed. So if every competition is videoed, as it usually is, then, just review the tape, if it proves to be different than the results, change the results based on the video and that is the final score. This way, unless there is data to prove the points of the protest, there is no change in scoring.

Let me make this clear, I’m not accusing the judges of being prejudicial, but come on, we are all human and whether we like it or not, we do make mistakes and we sometimes pick that which is familiar over those we don’t know. I understand that there is no cut and dry way to score this type of sport, I’m not a judge and I don’t want to be. As a judge, no matter what you do you are going to be criticized by someone. What I am saying is, I truly believe that the cheerleaders were robbed and I’m sorry for them, after working so hard all season it comes to this. I especially feel for the Seniors, because this is their last chance, they don’t have a next year.

So girls, don’t get down, this is just a lesson for the future, life is not always fair, but you can choose to take something positive away from this even though you feel cheated. You know you did the best routine of the year, it was flawless in the eyes of most people and you should be proud of yourselves. I am proud of all of you and I know I’m not the only one who feels this way.

You have two weeks to show them what you have at ICCA state. The best revenge is to show those judges just how wrong they were. Bring It Tigers! I will be there cheering you on.

To see all the photos I took, click here.


  1. The exact same thing happened to ehs 4 years ago and they were picked to win state. They had 8 seniors that were all amazing cheerleaders. It is horrible that it happened again.

  2. I totally agree with everything you have said Robin. And now here is another idea that my son Brian came up with. In track, when qualifying for state, if you make state time you go to state. If at a certain sectional no one hits that time, then the top 2 in that event go to state. So some sectionals only have 2 qualifiers for a certain event, while other sectionals have many. Maybe a certain state score for cheerleading should be set. At some sectionals (as with the one we were at this year) 8 or 9 teams might qualify. At other sectionals only 2 or 3 might qualify. But that would even things out from sectional to sectional and bring a certain fairness across the state. Just some more food for thought. I'll get down now, your soap box is probably getting crowded with me up there too! Julie

  3. I should explain that our score was higher than 3rd, 4th and 5th place finishers in 2 other sectionals.

  4. I read your previous blog about cheerleading being a sport and all and agree for the most part. Participants have to train, they have to be athletic, there is a great deal of team work involved, etc. In other words all the things that you would think of were you to define an activity as a sport, except that determining the winners in a contest is subjective. This is also true in diving, various forms of ice skating, various forms of gymnastics and synchronized swimming. That doesn't make those activities less difficult or less valuable than say a 5K running race; however, in the case of the 5K there is little doubt at the end of the event as to who won. If you are going to participate in activities/sports like cheerleading you have to accept that the subjectivity of the judging is part of the event (like balls and strikes in a baseball game). Final thought, there is no worse judge of an athletes performance in a contest than a parent. If you doubt that at the next home basketball game spend the first half on the Edwardsville side sitting with the parents and at half time move across the court and sit with the visiting parents. You would swear you were seeing two entirely different games. This is not to invalidate that the girls did not get a raw deal or to say that you are unique parent in feeling that they should have been scored higher but simply to say that your perspective is somewhat mine would be.