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9/10/20 – Sideline and Competitive Cheer Additional Information

September 10, 2020 Cheer Blog Updates


Unfortunately, there is misinformation being spread among the cheer community that needs to be clarified. First and foremost, all coaches should be aware that the only official answers need to come from the KHSAA. Please don’t rely on outside sources for information, even though those individuals are likely well-intentioned. School administrators and personnel know that Sarah Bridenbaugh is the primary contact for cheer (both Sideline and Competitive) at the KHSAA and can be reached via email at  Other interested individuals should direct their questions through the local school.

Keep the following parameters in mind as you think about cheer (both sideline and competitive), taken from publications and websites from both USA Cheer and UCA as well as other cheer organizations.

  • Sideline cheer is generally during the fall and winter, and the primary focus is to engage with the fans and keep the spirit high during events and school sports, such as football and basketball games. Squads prepare cheer routines to perform during timeouts and half-times, but those do not involve stunts (including partner stunts). Sideline cheerleaders are enthusiastic and encourage the fans to have spirit. The NFHS has determined that Sideline Cheer is a low-risk activity. Low-risk activities are those sports and sport-activities that can be done with physical distancing or individually with no sharing of equipment or the ability to clean the equipment between uses by competitors and stunting is not allowed.
  • Competitive Cheer normally occurs during the late fall and winter seasons. It is not on the sidelines cheering on a sports team, but it’s own independent sport-activity. Competitive Cheer teams are expected to perform routines in front of judges where they are ranked on their tumbling and stunting abilities. Competitive cheerleading is when cheer squads compete against each other at a competition. At a typical cheerleading competition, teams perform a 2 and a half minute routine with music that includes stunts (including partner stunts), jumps, and tumbling (gymnastics) in a high energy routine. Teams are judged by a panel of cheerleading experts on difficulty and execution. The NFHS has determined that Competitive Cheer is a high-risk activity in its Return to Play Documents. High-risk activities are those sports and sport-activities that involve close sustained contact between participants, lack of significant protective barriers, and the high probability that respiratory particles will be transmitted between participants. 

In Kentucky, competitive cheer is a sanctioned sport-activity and includes all six divisions for championships including All-Girls small, medium, large and super-large, Coed, and Game Day competition. Stunting (and current restrictions on such) includes all of the activities listed in the two “greater contact focuses” from the USA Cheer returning to competition information at Those stunting activities include partner stunts in set units/group pods, physically distanced from other stunt units with no mixing of stunt personnel between groups. Activity in that return to play matrix then progresses to participating in all skills including pyramids and allowing stunt groups to mix. All of these types of stunting activities are currently not permitted by Kentucky high schools, regardless of competitive cheer division or sideline cheer activity.

Game Day is a competitive cheer division and as such, is restricted from these stunting activities as of now. Being on the sideline does not in and of itself mean that suddenly the restrictions go away and it can be called “Game Day” and stunting allowed.

The NFHS is expected to release additional information regarding an aerosol study (respiratory particle transmission) very soon, and we remain hopeful that this study will allow science to continue to lead everyone to a satisfactory path. We are also well aware that many of the briefings in the last few weeks with our school administrators regarding public health data have focused on ventilation needs in indoor spaces and our schools are making every effort to strike a balance between the need to allow a level of participation, and the demands of in-person learning on facilities, particularly indoor spaces.

At its meeting on September 16, the Board of Control will consider a recommendation from the Commissioner for a return timeline for Competitive Cheer activities along with the rest of winter sports and sport-activities. This consideration will include a phase-in of stunting for competitive cheer. All of these factors will be considered when a return to play schedule is finalized. What is adopted will likely be congruent with the USA Cheer return to play guidance referenced above including phasing in of stunting.

After their meeting, we will issue additional guidance and hopefully, be ready to issue final communication to start the competitive cheer season.



About the Kentucky High School Athletic Association

The Kentucky High School Athletic Association was organized in 1917 and is the agency designated by the Kentucky Department of Education to manage high school athletics in the Commonwealth. The Association is a voluntary nonprofit 501(c)3 organization made up of 280 member schools both public and non-public. The KHSAA awards 215 state championships to 51 teams and 164 individuals in 13 sports and 6 sport-activities, funds catastrophic insurance coverage for its more than 106,000 rostered member school student-athletes, provides coaching education and sports safety programs for more than 12,000 coaches, and licenses and facilitates the distribution of training material for over 4,000 contest officials.

The KHSAA staff routinely publishes blog posts to better communicate with its various constituencies and the public. For a list of those blogs, go to


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