A big debate floating around the cheer world is whether or not cheerleading is safe, or if it is worth the risk to the athlete.

The cheerleading world has several organizations that work hard to protect our young daughters and sons during stunting, tumbling and performances. One of the key safety tactics in cheerleading is the use of spotters.

A spotter is a trained member of the team (or professional staff at competitions) that watches for and works to reduce hazards during stunts and tumbling. A spotter remains grounded, and keeps their eyes locked on the tumbler or flyer at all times. Should a stunt go wrong, the spotter's job is to A.) protect the stunter from injury by doing everything possible to keep them from hitting the ground or B.) do their best to minimize the impact of a tumble so the tumbler isn't hurt.

As cheerleading spread from its beginnings at colleges and became a world wide phenomena, the standard skill level continued to be raised. As that happened, the risk of cheerleading injuries also increased. Today, cheerleading is one of the top 3 sports associated with concussions with high school aged girls (learn more about cheerleading concussion from The National Cheer Safety Foundation).

As stunts and tumbling intensified and injuries increased, it was clear that precautions needed to be taken. This is how spotting became a part of cheerleading. Spotting was already a part of gymnastics, so as gymnastics was incorporated into cheerleading, spotting for tumbling carried over.

The specifics may be different, but all cheer competitions that include advanced and dangerous stunting will require a spotter. A cheerleading coach should always refer to the competition rules to make sure they are meeting the requirements.

About Cheer Spotters
  • Spotters can take a front or back position. Back spotters help flyers get up into loading stunts like elevators and extensions and stand ready during dismounts, and front spots are generally used for learning new stunts and helping the flyer balance.

  • There will be at least one spotter per stunt group.

  • Depending on the team structure and the requirements of your region and competition, spotters may be male or female.

  • Though not required, it is common for teams to prefer that their spotter is tall.

  • Additional spotters are often added for stunts that are at a very high skill level and/or require several stunt groups.

  • Intense training is required to be a spotter.

Common Training Requirements
  • Be aware at all times of what the stunt group or tumbler is doing or planning. For stunt groups, the spotter is typically in charge of calling out the beat count "“ which helps keep them focused and in control.

  • Have an advanced working knowledge of all moves that will be used. This will allow you to easily pick up on the fact that something is wrong.

  • Learn how to think fast and react efficiently in a crisis.

  • Perfect your timing.

  • Learn the proper technique for catching a flyer or tumbler so that you reduce their risk of injury, and yours.

  • Practice concentrating your focus on one point (the flyer), but also use your other senses to know what is going on all around you.

  • Get to know the proper hand placements for tumbling spotting.

  • Learn how to be close enough to help, but not so close that you are in the way.