Levels are broken down by age and skill level. You will hear terms like tiny, mini, youth, junior, and senior to describe levels; as well as numbers (1-7). These terms and numbers describe the age range and legal skills thrown on each team.
Athletes (and parents!) should not focus on these… Meaning, do not stress about whether your athlete is on a Junior or Senior team – there is no benefit/disadvantage to either. The separation between Junior and senior is simply based on age. Cheer has one of the largest age groups of sports. This is one of the great things about cheerleading and also one of the challenges. Because there is no difference between a Junior 3 and Senior 3 in regard to skill’s thrown, or even athletic challenge, we factor in a number of considerations. We start by considering athletes for the youngest age eligible team they can participate on. From there we look at athletes of similar age, skill level, and stunting positions and determine if that would make a successful team. Our goal in determining teams is to find a team for EVERY athlete in the program where they can feel like an important part of the team.
Levels are what determine what tumbling and stunting skills can be thrown in a routine. The levels that exist are Level 1, Level 2, Level 3, Level 4, Level 4.2, Level 5, Level 6 and Level 7. Below is a VERY basic breakdown of each level.
Level 1 – Back walkover and front walkover skills, Waist level and prep level stunts w/limited release options in dismounts, no tosses
Level 2 – Back Handspring skills (Standing and running), Extended 2 footed stunts and prep level 1 leg stunts w/very limited release skills (half twisting stunts max), straight ride tosses.
Level 3 – Standing handspring series and running tuck skills, Extended 1 foot stunts w/ some twisting skills to prep level and some releases to prep level, full twisting baskets and dismounts – Some flipping pyramid skills while braced to the ground.
Level 4 – Standing tumbling to tucks and running tumbling to layouts and combined flip flip skills, twisting to extended stunts and released stunts to extended level, 1 and 1 half twisting allowed to prep level, kick full and double twist baskets and dismounts. Flipping pyramid skills while braced to two preps.
Level 4.2 – Level 4 stunting, level 2 tumbling
Level 5 – Standing tumbling to layout and running full twist, variety of extended releases and twists allowed, 2 trick one twist baskets, flipping pyramid skills.
Level 6 – Standing tumbling to full twist and double full twist, speciality skill to running full and running double full, released and twisting skills at and two extended level, multiple twists to extended, double twisting dismounts, Kick Double baskets and 2 trick 2 twist baskets, flipping and twisting pyramids.
Level 7 – College level stunts
Many factors are considered when determining what level team to place an athlete. Ideally athletes have one or multiple skills mastered in tumbling and stunting at their level. However we always are looking to build the WHOLE team meaning sometimes athletes may be more of a specialist in an area.
Additionally, placing an athlete new to a skill on a leveled-up team is often not beneficial to the whole team, nor to the athlete, who may feel demotivated or defeated if he/she struggles to complete the skill with proficiency, potentially costing the team points when scored compared to other teams. At ODT, we place the athlete on the team that is best for them and their teammates, so the team as a WHOLE can succeed. This yields the greatest chance at success on the mat, and happiness and pride off the mat!
If you have questions about leveling, the best thing you can do is talk to the coach/gym owner to gain a better understanding of this process. Also, please refer to the ODT rubric, which very nicely outlines tumbling skills equivalent with the various levels.