Understanding the Different Types of Cheerleaders

All Stars, Recreational, Scholastic, and Pro Cheerleaders

Scholastic cheerleaders performing
Mike Powell/Digital Vision/Getty Images

Not all cheerleaders are created equally and unless you're involved in cheerleading you may not understand the different sectors of cheerleading and the different types of cheerleaders. This article will attempt to explain cheerleading and cheerleaders to an outsider or beginner. When you hear the word cheerleader, you probably conjure up an image of a young girl hollering and jumping on the sidelines at a football game, but this is only one type of cheerleader.

Basically, cheerleading is made up of three sectors or types that consist of all stars, scholastic and recreational cheerleaders. Here is a brief explanation of each:

All Stars Cheerleaders

All star cheerleaders are normally associated with a gym that teaches tumbling, gymnastics and cheerleading. Their main objective is to compete and they are dedicated to practicing and performing. They do not cheer for another sport such as football or basketball. Thus, their cheers are a bit different, they don't use offense and defense cheers and use instead what is called competition cheers. Their skill level is usually very high as they mainly focus on competitions. In an all star gym you can find many different types of coaches such as a tumbling coach, stunting coach and a choreographer. As a whole, all star cheerleaders are skilled in many things, including but not limited to, tumbling, dance, gymnastics, and stunting.

To make it on an all star squad you will have to go through a rigorous tryout process and they usually pull their cheerleaders from their group of gym students. It is thought that all star cheerleading is the fastest growing sector of cheerleading. Most all star cheerleaders are governed by the United States All Star Federation, USASF, but not all.

All star cheerleading can be a very expensive activity considering parents have to pay for uniforms, travel, lessons and all other expenses related to competitions.

Scholastic Cheerleaders

These are the cheerleaders that the majority of people are familiar with and what comes to mind when you hear the word "cheerleader." They are associated with a school and their main focus is cheering for other sports and raising school spirit. Some scholastic cheerleaders compete, but not all of them. Their tryouts are normally held in the spring for the next school year. The tryout process can be held over a number of days or it can be that everyone that tries out makes it. The decision is left up to the coach and what she/he is looking for in cheerleaders. The tryout process can be either judged or voted on by the student body. This is also where there can be varsity and junior varsity cheerleaders depending on grade and/or skill level. Scholastic cheerleaders can range from novice to advanced levels of ability and sometimes popularity can even play a part in the selection process. Because scholastic cheerleaders represent their school their personality, leadership ability, grades and conduct are normally factored in when deciding who makes the squad.

Scholastic cheerleaders normally cheer for football, basketball and sometimes other school sports. The coaches for a scholastic cheerleading program are pulled from teachers and they can have an actual coach or an advisor.

Recreation Cheerleaders

The recreation type of cheerleader is associated with a community's recreation department, church, or the YWCA, which in turn, can be associated with a national recreational league such as Pop Warner or the American Youth Football and Cheerleading League. A lot of areas of the country have state recreational associations or regional associations too. This type of cheerleader normally makes the squad if they sign up, so no official tryouts are held. The cost to be a recreational cheerleader is minimal. Rec cheerleaders usually cheer for the other sports in the league and they can compete in cheer competitions if they so choose.

Coaches in a rec program are normally pulled from the parents or recreational program and it's usually a voluntary position. Because rec cheerleaders are very novice to begin with and are taught the fundamentals of cheerleading, they make an excellent source or feeder group for scholastic and all star programs.

Pro Cheerleaders

In the world of cheerleading, pro cheerleaders are not considered "real" cheerleaders. They are thought of as entertainers and dancers more than as cheerleaders. It's a grueling process to make a pro cheerleading squad and the number of applicants is high compared to the number that makes it on a team. They are paid very little for their performances, but have a number of opportunities to travel and do things such as appearances and calendars. Most pro cheerleaders have a full time job to offset their pro cheerleading careers and a lot of them use their experience as a pro cheerleader to further a career in the entertainment field. Exceptional looks, personalities, communication skills and dance ability all play a part in the selection process for pro cheerleaders.

Originally written by V. Ninemire

Updated by C. Mitchinson