During the early 1980s, cheerleading squads not associated with a school or sports leagues, whose main objective was competition, began to emerge. All-star teams competing prior to 1987 were placed into the same divisions as teams that represented schools and sports leagues. In 1986, the National Cheerleaders Association (NCA) addressed this situation by creating a separate division for teams lacking a sponsoring school or athletic association, calling it the All-Star Division and debuting it at their 1987 competitions. As the popularity of this type of team grew, more and more of them were formed, attending competitions sponsored by many different organizations and companies, each using its own set of rules, regulations and divisions.
The USASF was formed in 2003 by the competition companies to act as the national governing body for all star cheerleading and to create a standard set of rules and judging standards to be followed by all competitions sanctioned by the Federation, ultimately leading to the Cheerleading Worlds.
As of 2012 all-star cheerleading as sanctioned by the USASF involves a squad of 6–36 females and/or males. The squad prepares year-round for many different competition appearances, but they only actually perform for up to 2½ minutes during their team’s routines. The numbers of competitions a team participates in varies from team to team, but generally, most teams tend to participate in eight to twelve competitions a year. These competitions include locals, which are normally taken place in school gymnasiums or local venues, nationals, hosted in big venues all around the U.S. with national champions. During a competition routine, a squad performs carefully choreographed stunting, tumbling, jumping, and dancing to their own custom music. Teams create their routines to an eight-count system and apply that to the music so that the team members execute the elements with precise timing and synchronization.
Judges at the competition watch closely for illegal moves from the group or any individual member. Here, an illegal move is something that is not allowed in that division due to difficulty and/or safety restrictions. They look out for deductions, or things that go wrong, such as a dropped stunt. They also look for touch downs in tumbling for deductions. More generally, judges look at the difficulty and execution of jumps, stunts and tumbling, synchronization, creativity, the sharpness of the motions, showmanship, and overall routine execution.
All Star cheerleaders are placed into divisions, which are grouped based upon age, size of the team, gender of participants, and ability level. The age levels vary from 3 years of age (for tiny novice teams) up to 18 years and over (for senior and open teams.) The divisions used by the USASF/IASF are currently Tiny, Mini, Youth, Junior, Senior, and Open International.