Cheerleading competitions didn't always require official judges, as they weren't considered a big event. However, as competitions have grown in the spotlight, judges were added into the mix a few decades ago. The duties and expectations of cheerleading judges have shifted with the expansion and growth of cheerleading. What used to be a fun weekend commitment is now an almost full-time, sometimes highly stressful and public position! There are several requirements that must be met, including scoring systems to learn and, of course, an in-depth knowledge of and passion for cheerleading.

Typically, judges are former cheerleaders, from local and professional positions. Some competitions even offer guest judge spots to current All Stars that are recognizable (due to their championship status). Maddie Gardner has frequently been a guest judge at events.

Cheerleading judges must have a background in cheerleading or a thorough understanding of the sport and the skills involved. They must be able to use the correct lingo and make quick decisions about scoring based on their own knowledge.

One of the most difficult aspects may be the actual viewing process. A judge must be able to watch the routine as a wholeand watch how all individuals cheer togetherbut also pick up on small individual mistakes. A judge can't be looking down at their notepad during a performancethey could miss a key skill! Since they need to be able to take notes AND watch the performancea judge needs to be able to take legible, sensible short hand notes.

Cheerleading judges are trained to look for specific things based on what competition they are judging. Some of the points they are watching for are: the number of tricks or stunts performed; timing and rhythm; originality; spirit; appearance; unity. Also, judges may take into consideration the overall look of the squad, which includes the cheer uniform, hair and makeup.

Many judging panels consist of three to five judges that rate teams using a general point system on a scorecard. Other judging panels appoint specific judges to score different aspects of a performancelike safety, stunting and tumbling. Some panels will include a head judge that oversees that entire routine and determines the team's overall score.

A judge should always be unbiased. He or she shouldn't have any relationship with a specific team or show favoritism. He or she should also be able to hide his or her reactions (positive and negative) to performances.

Since judges are typically former cheerleaders, there's no tricking them! They'll know if you made a mistake, even if you act like you didn't. However, part of their judging and scoring will include how well you recover from a mistake, so don't freak yourself out too much! Remember, since judges have cheered before, they know it's impossible to be perfect. They want to see a team perform a spirited routine and show their best stunts and moves. 

Would you ever want to be a cheerleading judge? What do you think are important traits a competition judge should have?