By: Mary Thurman
Hit, Hit, Hit, Pull. Louder, Sharper, Tighter! Facials! Those are just a few words going through your head as you prepare to step out on that competition floor and push yourself beyond your limits. Some critics say cheerleading is not a sport, like U.S. District Judge Stefan Underhill, who stated, “Cheerleading doesn’t really count: the activity is still too underdeveloped and disorganized to be treated as offering genuine varsity athletic participation opportunities for students.” However if they lived in the shoes of a cheerleader for just one day they may reconsider their opinion. Ask any cheerleader the question, “Is Cheerleading a Sport?” and be prepared for a fired up response. I have been cheering for 17 years and I believe competition cheerleading is a sport. It takes just as much athleticism, endurance, and individual skill as any other sport.
There are two types of cheerleading – sideline and competition. In my opinion, both are sports but on different levels. The main goal of sideline cheering is to pump up the crowds at school and sporting events and to engage with the fans. Competitive cheerleading requires more dedication and determination to achieve the common goal- winning. The definition of competition cheerleading is where different cheerleading teams compete against each other at a competition. They get judged, they compete, they have to stay conditioned, and so what could possibly make them not a part of a sport?
The dictionary definition of a sport is an athletic activity requiring skill or physical ability and often of a competitive nature. Cheerleading definitely fulfills this criterion almost even better than other activities that are called sports, such as poker. I feel many people are very judgmental when it comes to cheerleading, basing it off of a cheerleader’s looks or talking down to them like they are not athletes. Cheerleaders do not degrade other sports. I repeat we do not degrade other sports. According to Andrea Near, a former cheerleader, states, “What bothers me is when other people bash on cheerleading and say it is not a sport or even worse say that we are not athletes.” I have heard many people say to me, how is it a sport? You just stand there, jump up and down, and wave your pom-poms.
Cheerleading is a team sport. It requires an entire team effort such as is if one person is missing from practice, gets hurt, or quits, the entire team suffers. The routines are two minutes and thirty seconds of straight teamwork and every team member needs to be present or everything has to be changed. Cheerleaders work extremely hard, just like any other sport. There are endless hours of hard physical work that comes along with sweat, blood, and lots of tears. Flips, formations, tumbling, and stunting are very difficult to just pull of your first time. Cheer is not easy and it takes practice, practice, practice! I would like to see someone do the flips that we do, lift up other girls, who are your size or bigger, and hold them up while doing a full stunt sequence and not drop them?
This sport requires so much skill, determination, and drive it should be considered a sport. Additionally, cheerleading is considered the most dangerous sport. The American Medical Association states that cheerleading should be designated as a sport. Cheerleading carries the highest rate of catastrophic injury in sports, accounting for 66 percent of the injuries, Approximately 16,000 cheerleaders get injured in cheer related accidents, which is more than any other sport I believe. As a cheerleader, I have had plenty of injuries myself, which include both sprained ankles, elbowed in the face, kicked in the face, as well as being dropped from the air while your back spot mouth was open, in which her braces broke through my skin on my back.
Cheerleading is not a safe sport; it is far from it. Cheerleading is different than any other sport in one critical way: More cheerleaders are getting injured during practice than in competition. Looking at statistics, from 1982 to 2011, high school cheerleaders had 83 severe or disabling injuries according to the National Center for Catastrophic Sports Injury Research.
When it comes to stunting, you have to be able to either lift and toss or be lifted and be tossed. The ones being tossed in the air have to trust their lives with the people who are assigned to catch them and if the bases are out-of-place, a neck could easily be snapped and a life could easily be lost. I was a flyer all throughout elementary school to the first two years of high school as well as now in college I have flown for sideline the past 2 years. Being a flyer is not easy and is one of the scariest positions to ever have.
In conclusion, competitive cheerleading should not be degraded because it is just like any other sport. It requires just as much skill, determination, and drive as other widely recognized sports. According to the American Association of Cheerleading Coaches and Administrators, “If cheerleading was made an official school sport, schools would hire qualified coaches, provide uniforms, pay cheerleading coaches salaries like the other sport coaches and then the community would see cheerleaders as the athletes they are.” Higher paid coaching salaries and better uniforms should not be the parameters that define an activity as a sport. The skill, coordination, strength, physical ability, and competitive nature required are what define a sport. With that definition, cheerleading is undoubtedly a sport and deserves such recognition.