Here at Superstars we fully appreciate that sometimes a program isn't the right fit for an athlete. This could be down to a huge range of reasons such as: training days or times, coaching style, personalities, friends, age ranges, levels offered, costs, support available, working opportunities etc. We never want an athlete to be in a situation that is not beneficial for them however it is very poor practice to switch program mid-season. Please read on below for more information about how Superstars approaches program switching at the start, end or middle of the season.
Switching program at the end of the season
This means you've fulfilled your contractual and/or membership obligation to your current program until the final competition or practice and the season is now over. With any reputable program you should now be completely free to look into other programs if you wish. At Superstars we try hard to support our members and their needs - however, if an athlete does not feel we can offer what they want/require we ask that they complete a short questionnaire so we can understand their reasons for leaving. Ideally we hope they would discuss their feelings/opinions with us while they are still in the decision making process and before they have made a final decision to leave.
If you are considering switching from another program to Superstars we encourage you to fully understand who we are and what we offer prior to making your decision. We also draw your attention to our competitive team commitment where we ask that except in extreme circumstances (severe injury/illness or moving far away from the area you currently live) you honour a full season commitment to the teams you are placed on. We may also get in touch with your previous program/coach to get a fuller sense of you as an athlete and your current levels. This is also to ensure there are no outstanding issues / fees / problems with your old program. Naturally we believe any such issues should be resolved prior to joining a new program and we would be hesitant to accept an athlete with any such negative issues outstanding. (We will also provide such information to other programs upon their contact for an athlete moving to their program).
Switching program at the beginning of the season
This is defined as essentially returning to your previous program where you have historically competed for the first month or so and through tryouts and team placements...then decided to leave and go somewhere else. Sadly this is typically motivated by wanted to be on a different team or level or in a different stunt position. It's very disappointing when an athlete/parent decides that they know better than the professional coaching staff in terms of what is best for them. We hope in circumstances like this that athletes/parents will discuss their feelings with program staff and come to understand the reasons for and intentions behind the coaches' decisions - and then accept them. In limited exceptions there may be valid reason for athletes/parents to question team placements - see below under exceptions.
Superstars is deeply disappointed in any athlete who chooses to leave us for these reasons. In our recent history - almost every athlete that left at the start of season for another program was placed on the exact same level and age category thereby affirming the accuracy of our original decision. Should a Superstars athlete wish to leave at this point for another program - we will often be in touch with that program with details of your departure. Should they contact us - we will provide full information of your previous placement and any outstanding issues.
As this timing on a program switch typically indicates a lack of respect for the coaching staffs' professionalism we rarely consider accepting athletes at this time. If we do consider accepting an athlete they must fulfil everything described below about switching mid-season.
Switching program mid-season
This can be the most devastating type of switch. An athlete is already committed to a program and competitive team (or teams). They have already been choreographed into the routine (or routines). Then they leave. For the program being left this can cause a vast upset and require hours and hours of coaches and athletes time to fix (not to mention the cost of all those hours re-working or extra practices required to fix the problems left behind). In extreme circumstances, teams may even have to pull out of competition altogether.
In the majority of circumstances this is a deeply troubling thing to do. Professional coaches/programs should not accept athletes who are committed to competitive teams without that programs' sign off of athlete release. To accept (or worse target recruit) athletes who are already committed to a program teaches our athletes terrible morals regarding commitment, honour, honestly and openness and integrity. A coach or program that succeeds by damaging others - rather than building up strength, skills and trust from their own grass-roots athletes is not one that you should want to be part of ... irrelevant of results, discounts or perks promised. A huge part of our sport is supporting and nurturing the whole athlete, beyond purely their physical capabilities. It is about their social, emotional, societal and heuristic development. Teaching them to quit when they don't agree with the coach or abandon team mates is an awful lesson. Rather - if there is dissatisfaction with their current position/placement - a mature meeting or discussion should take place to air and address concerns on both sides.
At Superstars we will only provide an athlete release to another program in extreme circumstances or following the conclusion of that athlete's competitive commitment. Therefore any Superstars athlete switching programs mid-season is doing so to another program that does not care about how it will affect us or your team mates.
Should an athlete from another program attempt to switch to Superstars mid-season we will always require their current coach provide a written sign off of athlete release (including details of any outstanding issues). If this is not received, we will not accept an athlete at that time. If we find an athlete has lied in joining us (pretending to have no current affiliations but we then discover they were in fact committed to a team) it is grounds for immediate dismissal from the program without warning or refund. I'd imagine other programs might be similar.
There are again however a handful of exceptions. Please see details below.
Exceptions around switching programs away from Superstars
There are of course certain circumstances when our approach to mid-season switching differs from the standard policies outlined above. Should an athlete suffer from a severe illness or injury which prevents their attending we may release them from their contract commitment - however this would be so they can recover and rest rather than join another program.
If an athlete and/or their family is required to move far from their current home (and thereby making the travel to/from training unworkable) we may release them and we will also usually connect them with another program near where they now live.
If a family is the victim of serious financial misfortune i.e. both parents made redundant, losing their home etc. We would first try to work with that family on a payment plan or training schedule reduction to support their continuation. Should this be impossible to manage we may release an athlete mid-season. Again this would be only to stop cheerleading completely - not switch to another program.
There may be other examples of exceptions in which we would release an athlete which can't each be specified here - but please know that this is typically the exception and not the rule.
Exceptions around switching programs to Superstars
Everything listed above regarding who we would and wouldn't accept and under what circumstances assumes a basic level of professionalism, safeguarding and safety at the athletes' current program. One situation where we might accept an athlete would be if their current coach or training environment is unsafe or unprofessional. This could include but is not limited to: dangerous training environment without suitable safety equipment for the skills being taught, abusive coaching, dangerous levels/skills being attempted (too far outside athletes' abilities), low or poor knowledge of USASF levels and safety rules, poor customer service or extremely poor financial management. We would not want an athlete in an unsafe situation.
While it is somewhat common for teams to evolve and change levels throughout the season - this would usually only be by 1 level either up or down based on skill development and/or progressions. I.e. A team may have been pushing for L3 skills but find after a few months they don't have the quantities needed and go down to L2. Something that would be an indication of potentially poor coaching or management decision making would be a team having to drop multiple levels mid-season. This would only be as a result of accepting athletes in the first place that should not have been placed at that level. If an athlete joins a team following tryouts and is told they are L5 - and later in the season the whole team drops to L4 for the good of the teams' overall competitiveness - this should be accepted. If however they are taken onto a L5 team and later in the season are on a L1 team...this should set off warning bells. In these circumstances an athlete may question their position and we might be open to switching discussions.
If an athlete tries out for another program and is placed on a level far too high for them - they may re-consider the suitability or professionalism of that program and consider switching. This is something we may entertain.
If an athlete re-located mid season to our area we would of course consider adding them to our program. We'd hope their previous coach would help put them in touch with us prior to their move in this case.
Again there are likely further exceptions not listed here but you get the picture.
Competitive cheer is a commitment and teaching athletes to honour their commitments is an important life lesson.
Switching programs mid-season is generally a very negative thing to do and should be avoided in the majority of cases. Steps and actions should be taken prior to this extreme step to help rectify any less-than-ideal situations as best as possible.
Athletes should be encouraged to be open, honest and quite simply brave in their approach to conflict, struggle or negative feelings. Any good coach out there would respond to these qualities and behaviours in a similar way and help find a resolution or at least provide an explanation.
Athletes should never be left in an unsafe or abusive sporting environment.
Where you choose to spend a year of your sporting life is a big decision. Don't make it lightly. Measure and consider everything you can in making your decision...but once you've made it - honour it.