Road Map to Starting an Exceptional Athlete Team
Playing sports at any level can be a key part of a young person’s development and have a lasting impact on their life. Among its many benefits, being involved in athletics develops friendships, independence, confidence, mental focus, and, of course, physical fitness. Sports can teach valuable lessons about grit, discipline, teamwork and, most importantly, the respect that comes with inclusion. These benefits are universal for all individuals, including those with disabilities. That’s the goal of USASF’s Exceptional Athlete Division — to empower individuals with disabilities with an “I can do” attitude.
The USASF has carefully designed the CheerABILITIES and DanceABILITIES Program for the Exceptional Athlete that:
Coaches who give so much more
The USASF provides rules, safety guidelines and specialized training for coaches and assistants of CheerABILITIES and DanceABILITIES teams. These coaches do more than help athletes learn new skills - they create opportunities for better integration in the larger community and help guide them toward self-acknowledgement.
What to expect at a competition
Individuals with disabilities have the capacity to achieve and to compete. Successful teams are those that have fun, project emotion, show excitement and demonstrate high energy throughout the routine.
At a competition, a judge considers an Exceptional Athlete Division team’s efforts to attempt various skills and scores and rewards in the following categories:
Coaches: Reach out to the Event Producer when registering for an event to communicate about accommodations (wheelchair ramps, turning off strobe lights, turning base down or up in music, etc.). Inquire if they offer the competitive Exceptional Athlete Division.
More opportunities - The USASF offers three cheer divisions to give more athletes with varied ABILITIES the opportunity to take the floor. Refer to the RULES SITE within your Coach profile for details.
Scholarships for Exceptional Athletes
Established in 2021, the USASF Exceptional Athlete Scholarship is for USASF members that are graduating seniors or graduates pursuing higher education currently participating in an All Star Exceptional Athlete Division. For full details on the application process, log into your Athlete Profile. Once logged in, click on the drop-down link beneath your profile image located in the top right of the page, select the College Scholarship Information, and then click USASF Exceptional Athlete Scholarship Information link.
Let’s get started!
Make sure your athlete has the go-ahead from his or her physician to participate in All Star Cheer and Dance. The USASF highly recommends your athlete get a physical from a physician to include a heart screening. With proper guidance, safety precautions and activity adaptations, the risk of injury to varied-abled athletes is no greater than that to athletes without disabilities.
Find the right fit
Look for an All Star program with coaches and volunteers who have experience working with individuals with disabilities. Their coaching philosophy should encourage social and emotional growth rather than just mastering skills or competing. Talk with the coach and together complete the Exceptional Athlete Assessment to make sure they are able to properly accommodate your adult’s needs.
Acknowledge not just victories, but progress on- and off-the-floor. Celebrate the little steps: the tries, the stick-with-it-ness, the social connections, the can do attitude! Every step is different for each individual.
|Self-acknowledgement comes from our own definitions of success and from what really makes us happy. It comes from that place inside us, that internal voice, that tells us “I did well”
- Coaching for Coaches by Maria Paredes