Lack of Fully Equipped Training Facilities and EquipmentA simple comparison of the average gymnastics and the average cheerleading training facility shows how poorly the average cheerleading training facility is equipped. Many cheer programs have no specialized training facility at all and many have no or minimal equipment. This makes learning cheerleading skills more difficult, dangerous and creates inconsistent skill performance.Untrained CoachesPerhaps the number one reason for the high injury level is the prevalence of untrained and inexperienced coaches. It is not that uncommon for school cheerleading programs to only be required to have a faculty advisor, with no requirement for that faculty member to have any cheerleading experience at all. This results in jr. high and high school age athletes being completely responsible for their own training – obviously an unsafe situation. Often school programs have cheer “sponsors” not cheer coaches, a verbal recognition that the program leader has no cheer coaching expertise.Coaching InexperienceEven former cheerleaders may not have enough experience to safely coach the new level of difficult skills that are being performed in cheerleading. Former cheerleaders who only performed simple to moderately difficult sideline and half-time skills are not experienced in teaching the high level competitive cheerleading skills now being done.Poor PayOne of the primary reasons for the prevalence of both untrained cheer coaches and more widely experienced coaches is the sometimes ridiculously low pay remunerating cheer coaches or sponsors. There is no financial incentive for coaches to spend their own money for training when they know they will never be able to recoup their investment.Poor SpottingInherent in certain aspects of cheerleading is that cheerleaders spot other cheerleaders. They do so in basket tosses, stunting and pyramids. One of the basic tenets of gymnastics coaching is that only professional coaches are qualified, mature and experienced enough to spot gymnasts. Cheerleading depends on athletes of the same age and experience level to take responsibility for the lives of their cheerleading teammates. This is certainly dangerous to at least some degree and that danger must be recognized. Spotting requires deep concentration, commitment and taking personal responsibility for the safety of the cheerleader being spotted. Simply assigning an increasing number of youthful spotters does not solve the problem.Lack of Necessary Conditioning and Strength TrainingThe need for adequate strength training and physical conditioning is recognized in most sports programs. It is also understood that practicing most sports does not provide sufficient strength training and physical conditioning. Too many cheer programs contribute and compound an already unsafe situation by not adequately building the strength and fitness levels of their athletes.Not Using Proper Skill ProgressionProper skill progression is a tenet of gymnastics training programs. It is only logical that basic skills be learned and mastered in safe small steps. Too many cheer programs rush through progressions or skip them entirely. Many cheerleading coaches and cheerleaders are even unaware of the progressive training steps they should be following. There are safety and skill progressions for tumbling, stunting, pyramids and basket tossing. This is definitely an area where ignorance contributes to the danger.Competing Skills That Have Not Been MasteredThe emergence of the new competitive aspects of cheerleading and the increasing numbers and importance of cheer competition hve placed pressure on cheerleaders and cheer coaches to increase the difficulty of the skills they are performing. Under the guidance (?) of inexperienced and untrained coaches/sponsors, safely learning to perform these more difficult and more dangerous skills is not surprisingly inconsistent.SummaryCheerleading has many factors that contribute to its danger factor. Some dangers are inherent in the sport as it exists. Some have to do with coaching and some have to do with the structure (or lack of it) cheer programs from the school/team level to the national association level.