Every so often, I see a post from a parent in one of the moms’ groups that makes my jaw drop. This time, it was the question, “If your child had a season-ending injury, would you pay the exit fee and move on?” 

Wait, what?

We’re charging exit fees when someone is injured and needs the remainder of the season to recover? My first instinct was that this parent probably didn’t understand a policy and was mistaken that she’d have to pay an additional fee to sit out the rest of the season, but then comment after comment was from moms telling her to work with the gym owner to see if it could be waived. In my gym, that would be a no-brainer. You absolutely are not paying an exit fee if you’re injured and can’t finish the season. In fact, I have a policy in my parent handbook that if you’re out more than eight weeks, we also stop charging your tuition until you’re ready to return. 

Let me explain:


  1. Goodwill goes a long way. It’s not often we get an injury that lasts more than eight weeks, but when we do, it’s hard for a parent to watch their child sitting on the sideline. I’ve found that having a policy for this answers a lot of questions in advance. If an athlete is only out for 3-4 weeks, they need to be at every practice watching and memorizing adjustments to counts or adjustments to the routine so they’re fully ready to return. However, if you’re out eight weeks or more, we usually are pretty flexible on mandatory attendance until a few weeks before your return. Ultimately, most kids (even teens) have a short attention span, and watching a two-hour practice when you can’t really do anything else isn’t for everyone. The last thing I want is for you to dread coming to cheer. Think of how frequently your routines change! We probably have some sort of change every single month in our routines as we increase the difficulty and find better ways to clean. So, an athlete who is out two months or more is likely to have to re-learn the routine upon return anyway. On top of that, how much do they actually remember sitting on the side observing practice? (I’ve never had a Worlds team, so if you’re comparing your Worlds athletes to my Senior three kids, I’ll admit, there’s a different physical and mental skill level with cheerleading. I’m referring to the average kid in your gym who is probably a level 1-3 athlete.) By not charging parents tuition during this time, I’m instilling the goodwill that we realize the child isn’t returning any time soon, and charging tuition doesn’t make a ton of sense if all they’re doing is sitting on the sideline.
  2. We need to prioritize recovery. Have you ever had an athlete who insists she’s fine so she can come back? We have had ones who aren’t fully honest with their doctors, insisting they’re no longer in pain during P.E. or cheer practice. So, the doctor releases the athlete, and you get an official doctor’s release. However, practice begins, and once the stunt goes up, you see them wincing and holding back the tears. 

This has happened a few times over the years, and I can’t tell you how frustrated the athlete and parent are when we tell the athlete the doctor’s note won’t cut it. Yes, that’s right. I will sit an athlete even if she has a doctor’s note if I can tell she’s in pain. I am a firm believer in active recovery after certain types of injuries like sprains. At the same time, you are putting yourself in a liability if you’re allowing athletes to stunt, tumble, and jump when they’re in pain as the result of an injury. There are other conditioning methods that are far safer if active recovery is the goal (and not ones most cheer coaches are qualified to administer). Telling our athletes and families it’s OK to continue even if you’re still feeling the pain from an injury is showing them we care more about cheerleading than about health and well-being. That’s not a value in my gym. I 100% get “team mentality,” but we also have to remember that athletes who can’t give their 100% effort will also hurt the team (and themselves) in the long run.

  1. Exit fees just aren’t necessary with injuries. I understand they’re the “industry standard.” Many of you know how I feel about “industry standards, though…” At the end of the day, if someone is injured or uncomfortable performing a skill, they shouldn’t have to pay a fee to be released from the team. I’ve had athletes get cleared from injuries over the years and not feel comfortable returning, though the doctor says they can. I can fully respect that. You know your body. If returning to practice is going to mentally or physically put a strain on you, then you’re not ready to return. Years ago, we had an athlete get kicked during a stunt. It resulted in a concussion. Though all protocols were followed, she ended up with weeks of symptoms. Her mom, a former nurse, took it seriously. For weeks, the child wasn’t in school so that she could avoid fluorescent lighting and excessive noise. She sat in dim rooms, did nothing more than walk on a treadmill for light exercise, and stayed far away from anything that triggered headaches. Nevertheless, the symptoms didn’t subside. She ended up needing vestibular rehabilitation. A month of this therapy passed, and the athlete was cleared for P.E. and sports again. Though she no longer had headaches, she was not comfortable stunting. When she thought about tumbling or stunting, she felt stressed and afraid it would happen again. 

We fully supported her decision not to finish out the season with us. Though the stunt had been something she had done a thousand times, the time she got injured was the one she’d remember the most. It ultimately caused a sort of PTSD in her. She ended up returning the following season. She was no longer fearful and was both physically and emotionally prepared for cheerleading again. Imagine if I had charged her parents an exit fee because she wasn’t going to return once she was cleared. It definitely would have expressed the wrong mentality on injury recovery!

Catch Part 2 of this blog right here tomorrow morning: Why I Would Never Charge an Exit Fee to an Injured Athlete (or Ever for That Reason!)