I remember getting the East Bay Athletic League spring season schedules and seeing there was a sport I didn’t recognize called “stunt.”
Having no idea what stunt is, my first thought was, "great, that’s all we need – another sport in the spring." It is the busiest time of the year, and another sport is going to make it even more hectic.
When “stunt” was explained to me, it certainly was intriguing. At that point, I dove in, doing my diligence on research. What came out of the exploration of stunt left me feeling that the next big sport in terms of excitement may be sitting right in front of us.
Stunt focuses on the technical and athletic aspects of cheer, including partner stunts, pyramids, basket tosses, group jumps and tumbling. Basically, it removes the crowd-leading element of cheerleading.
It has become the fastest growing female sport in the country, and with 500,000 high school cheerleaders nationwide, the pool for team members is deep.
It also helps put to rest the lingering question about cheerleading.
“It’s the answer to cheer not being a sport,” said Amador Valley stunt coach Eileen Durrey. “It’s a way to gamify it.”
Currently, all the EBAL schools have teams except Foothill. Twice a week the teams compete, with all the matches taking place at one spot.
For example, on Tuesday, April 19, the teams will all compete at Cal High. The matches are at 5, 6, 7 and 8 p.m. Amador Valley and San Ramon Valley meet in the first match, followed by Livermore against Carondelet, Dougherty Valley against California, and Granada taking on Monte Vista in the last match of the evening.
The format is four quarters, with partner stunts in the first, pyramids in the second quarter, jumps and tumbling in the third, and group routines (a combination of the first three) closing the competition.
In the first quarter, there is anywhere from four to 12 athletes on the mat. The second quarter is always 12 athletes and the third always features seven athletes.
The fourth quarter will vary from four to 12 athletes on the mat at a time.
The two teams compete at the same time in the gym, performing the same routines.
“In cheerleading we develop the creativity,” explained Durrey. “In stunt, we have no creative control. (USA Cheer) gives us the routines.”
USA Cheer provides the judges, and there is usually two judges and one referee. The team that executes the best skill wins the round and the point.
Each round in a quarter is worth one point, with teams being able to add 0-3 points per round in the fourth quarter.
If the match ends in a tie, there is an overtime period.
With stunt rapidly growing in terms of attendance and involvement, the sport has also brought in much deserved new fans and recognition.
“There is notoriety for the stunt team,” explained Durrey. “The students can attend and watch at school. There is more recognition for stunt than there is cheerleading.”
Which is a cool thing. Having watched some videos of high school matches, it is exciting to watch the two teams going at it simultaneously as the crowd gets into it as well.
It’s a very similar experience to a basketball game with the fans so close to the athletes.
After each period, the two teams anxiously wait for the decision as to who gets the point, and there is a roar when the winning team is identified.
Stunt presents a different dilemma for the coaches between competitive cheer and stunt.
“In comp, we start in early July each year, using small groups and drilling,” explained Durrey. “With stunt, we have two weeks to put everything together.”
The sport is also growing at the collegiate level, getting the added plus of counting toward Title IX numbers.
“Colleges are now recruiting,” said Durrey. “It is an up-and-coming sport.”
The EBAL tournament between the top four regular season teams will be April 26. The North Coast Section tournament takes place April 30 at Freedom High in Oakley.
There is a California Interscholastic Federation Invitational May 13-14.
There are only a couple weeks left this season of stunt, but if you get the chance, make some time to get out and watch for yourself.