Points of Emphasis highlight the major rules changes and emphasize other rules
for which additional clarification may be needed.
Navigating the Spirit Rules Book – To facilitate the navigation of the NFHS Spirit
Rules Book, the following guidance is offered:
• Cheer-related sections include Rules 1, 2, and 3.
• Dance-related sections include Rules 1, 2, and 4.
When seeking information regarding a specific skill, it is helpful to identify the
section in which it is located.
Rule 3 – Cheer
Sec 1 – Apparel/Accessories Sec 6 – Suspended Stunts
Sec 2 – Stunting Personnel Sec 7 – Dismounts
Sec 3 – Inversions Sec 8 – Tumbling
Sec 4 – Non-release Stunts Sec 9 – Drops
Sec 5 – Release Stunts Sec 10 – Props as Bases
Rule 4 – Dance
Sec 1 – Apparel/Accessories Sec 7 – Dismounts
Sec 2 – Stunting Personnel Sec 8 – Tumbling
Sec 3 – Inversions Sec 9 – Drops
Sec 4 – Non Release Stunt/Lifts Sec 10 – Props as Bases
Sec 5 – Release Stunts Sec 11 – Spotting Props
Sec 6 – Suspended Stunts Sec 12 – Dismounting Props
For further assistance in understanding rules and/or skills, go to spiritrules.com.
This website is a valuable resource that offers video footage illustrating skills and
supporting the explanation of spirit rules.
Surfaces – Consideration of practice/performance surfaces are a vital component
of risk minimization. The following skills are only allowed on a mat, grass, or rubberized
a. Basket tosses, elevator/sponge tosses and other similar multi-base tosses.
b. Partner stunts in which the base uses only one arm to support the top person.
c. Twisting tumbling skills (Arabians, full twisting layouts, etc.).
EXCEPTION: Cartwheels, round-offs and aerial cartwheels are allowed on surfaces
other than a mat, grass or rubberized track.
Application of NFHS Spirit Rules Book – The spirit rules book provides rules and
safety limitations that should be followed by all cheerleading/dance/drill/pom and
other spirit teams that stunt, tumble or use props as a base. The spirit rules
should be followed while participants are in a supporting role at an interscholastic
contest and during competition. Situations and photos are provided as examples
only, and do not cover all circumstances in which the rules apply.
Education-based Athletic/Activity Programs – Interscholastic athletics/activities
shall supplement the educational environment and provide students with educational
experiences. Participation in education-based activity programs promotes
student academic achievement. Spirit teams are very visible and in a position of
great influence and therefore high standards for appearance and conduct are
essential. Coaches should ensure uniforms, costumes, music and materials are
age-appropriate and suitable for the educational environment. In addition, coaches
are expected to be advocates and models of good sportsmanship and follow
all rules as written.
Concussions – The understanding of sports-related concussions has evolved
dramatically in recent years. We have learned that young athletes are particularly
vulnerable to the effects of concussion. The majority of concussions for spirit
participants are acquired during partner stunts. An athlete who exhibits signs,
symptoms or behaviors consistent with a concussion (such as loss of consciousness,
headache, dizziness or balance problems) shall be immediately removed
from participation and shall not resume participation until cleared by an appropriate
health-care professional. Look to your state high school association and the
NFHS for education regarding prevention and treatment of concussions.
Coaches’ Responsibility: Education – Coaches have a professional responsibility
to read and fully comprehend the entire NFHS Spirit Rules Book. It is important
for coaches to read the entire rules book to fully understand all rules to correctly
teach the appropriate skills to their athletes. It is also the coaches’ responsibility
to educate their student-athletes so they are aware of the rules changes.
Coaches’ Responsibility: Minimizing Risk – Risk minimization for participants
must be the primary objective for all sprit coaches. Protecting the head, neck and
shoulders of participants during stunting must be a top priority. Participants
should be placed under the direction of a qualified and knowledgeable coach who
can recognize a squad’s particular ability level and limit their activities accordingly.
Partner stunts and other gymnastics-related activities should be taught in natural
progressions from easy to hard and low to high. Practice should focus on
risk minimization for all stunting personnel. During practices, coaches should
ensure that athletes are thoroughly trained in proper spotting techniques and
receive appropriate training before attempting any form of stunting and tumbling.
Only those skills mastered in practice and consistently executed safely should be
performed. Coaches should also provide a comprehensive conditioning and
strength-building program to ensure optimum fitness for their athletes. Overuse
injuries are a common problem characterized by irritation to a body part. Cutting
back on the intensity, duration and frequency of specific activities/skills will help
to minimize the potential for overuse injuries to athletes. A coach should be mindful
of other athletic activities in which their participants are involved and should
educate parents and participants regarding overuse injuries and over-training.