THE

C H E E R
L E A D E R
Sideways-title-magazine
Maddie-_ajk_images-14

COMPETITIVE SCORING IS ESSENTIAL TO SPECIAL NEEDS DIVISION

Shannon Thompson

COMPETITIVE SCORING IS ESSENTIAL TO SPECIAL NEEDS DIVISION

By Shannon Thompson

Maddie Thompson is an 11 year old Special Needs child who has been cheering for Cheer Athletics Superkatz for the past eight years.  Cheer Athletics has been a blessing and an encouragement to Maddie and her Special Needs peers; providing these young athletes with the opportunity to grow and develop in ways previously not thought possible. 

These kids have embraced the value of competitive sports … transferring their natural energy and drive to an active, wholesome, and social pursuit.  They are thrilled when they master new challenges and they push themselves hard to succeed.  Measuring key accomplishments, keeping score, and healthy rivalries are all essential ingredients to the competitive nature and spirit of any sport.  Special Needs Children view this no differently than their counterparts without special needs. 

It was recently announced that the NCA (National Cheerleaders Association) decided to eliminate scoring for the Special Needs Division and will allow these kids to “perform” … rather than “compete” as in the past … for just “one” day … rather than “two” as in the past … at the NCA Cheer Championship.  The decision to move this division to “exhibition status” was devastating to Maddie and her peers, and dealt a severe blow to the value and future of the Special Needs Program.  For each of the past eight years, Maddie has competed at the NCA Championship and during this time she has always had her eye on winning the coveted NCA jacket.  As with all NCA competitors, the opportunity … regardless of how remote the possibility … to win a jacket is an incredible motivator.  For Maddie and her peers, that dream has now evaporated.

The reason given by NCA for their decision to no longer score the Special Needs Division was that “they wanted to make scoring fair,” thereby implying that their scoring hasn’t been fair in the past.  For those who have been promoting and sponsoring the Special Needs Program for nearly a decade, this was particularly disconcerting to learn.  Many parents of Special Needs Cheerleaders have viewed NCA as being circumspect and progressive in their approach to scoring, since other cheer competitions have lagged in their efforts to score the Special Needs Division.  These parents have depended on the NCA to provide leadership to other competitions in this regard, but the reverse seems to now have occurred.  Somehow, Special Olympics has developed a system for the fair scoring of competitors … and it works!  Modeling the Special Olympics approach would be a worthwhile endeavor.

The parents of most Special Needs children work hard to provide opportunities for their children where they can succeed while not being treated as different and sometimes less than we who lack that extra chromosome.  For many, cheerleading has been that venue.  Indeed, Special Needs Cheerleaders should have the opportunity to do what they love not in a lesser way; but, rather, at an appropriate level of capability.  And, that should include “competing” in their chosen sport.   The value of competitive cheerleading, regardless of capability and accomplishment level, should not be underestimated or dismissed. 

Maddie and her Special Needs peers are an inspiration to all.  They bring us joy and unconditional love.  They wow us with their work ethic, resolve, and infectious smiles.  They also bring a lot of favorable press to the sport of cheerleading.  NCA shouldn’t deny these athletes the opportunity to compete, through their unwillingness to put the time and effort into developing and implementing a “fair” scoring methodology.

Add Comment


Shannon Thompson Missing

Maddie-_ajk_images-14

COMPETITIVE SCORING IS ESSENTIAL TO SPECIAL NEEDS DIVISION

09/10/2015

SEE MORE BLOGS

Back to Blogs