Why cheerleading is a sport
February 3, 2020
If you ask any cheerleader “is cheerleading considered a sport?” you will most likely get a very fired up response.
To be considered a sport, and activity must involve physical exertion and skill in which an individual or team competes against another or others for entertainment. Cheerleading involves throwing, catching, spinning, and flipping, which all involve physical exertion.
Cheerleaders compete in multiple competitions, including Nationals, which is where top teams from all over the nation come together to compete for the top spot. This is the competition that most, if not all, cheerleaders work towards all year, and it is when all the sweat and tears spent every day practicing in the gym finally pays off. College Nationals are held in mid-January, while High School Nationals are held at the beginning of February.
Additionally, statistics and huge organizations around the world prove the point that cheer is a sport. The IOC (International Olympic Committee) is providing funding to the International Cheer Union in the amount of about $25,000 a year, and it provides the ability to apply for further endowments. This funding puts cheerleading in the running for inclusion in the 2024 or 2028 Olympics.
Furthermore, cheerleading is a very dangerous activity. More than 30,000 cheerleaders go to the hospital each year due to their injuries. Recently, a study found that cheerleading is the most dangerous sport for females due to all of the concussions and catastrophic injuries that can leave a cheerleader permanently disabled. As many people and organizations don’t consider cheerleading a sport, there aren’t as many safety regulations as there should be, as one finds in many other, more publicly acknowledged, sports.
Cheerleading compared to other sports
Some may think cheerleading is not considered a sport because a competition routine only takes up a total of 2 minutes and 30 seconds. This belief is misguided. Cheerleading takes just as much, if not so much more, mental and physical strength as most other sports. In a football game, when your team is down after the first half, you still have another chance in the second half to work hard and make up for your mistakes made in the first half.
There are no second chances in cheerleading. There is only one shot to take the floor and hit the routine as best as can be. This is why cheerleading requires such rigorous practices. Cheerleaders work so hard to be consistent with their skills so that they know that when it’s time to perform in front of a crowd, with just that one shot, they will hit the routine as perfectly as they can.
A perfect routine won’t guarantee a victory, either. You can’t go out on the floor and say, “if we throw a good pass and make a touchdown, we can win.” After you step off the mat, victory is in the judges’ hands. All judges have their own personal preferences, so if they are in a bad mood or if they just don’t like your routine on a particular day, then your chances to win are low.
Misconceptions of cheerleading
The stereotype held around cheerleaders’ inability to “compete” against anyone causes people to believe it’s not a sport. These people believe cheerleaders’ only job is to lead the crowd on as “real” sporting events, look pretty, and support the school. During other sporting events, cheerleaders are there to cheer the teams on.
They see us shaking our pom-poms and jumping up and down while dancing to music. Spectators may believe that they can do the same thing, that it requires no effort whatsoever, and that it’s too easy. However, what these people don’t see is a cheerleader’s practice routine outside of a school function. Most schools do not promote cheerleading competitions like they do with other sporting events. Schools make flyers or social media posts for other sports so a big crowd can come out and support the teams, but that does not occur with cheerleading, but it is something that will hopefully change in the feature.
Cheerleading in the media
Recently, Netflix released a new Docuseries called Cheer. This show follows around Navarro Cheer, a junior college located in Texas that has won 14 national championships and 5 NCA National Grand Championships consecutively. The series features 6 episodes that follow the team at their practices (with Monica, the head coach), and after watching, you will understand why cheerleading is a sport. Don’t believe it? Watch the trailer here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dhXRx_lva18
Another show to watch (on Netflix and Freeform) is Cheer Squad. This show documents an all-star team, The Great White Sharks, who are located in Canada. Every year they compete in Worlds to see who is the best, and this year their head coach, Ali Moffat, wants to reclaim the gold medal. Here’s a sneak peak into the show: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9pLw5jLe_q4
Despite daily practices, early morning visits to the gym, long competition days, grueling conditioning, almost year-round commitment, and tough losses, it’s all worth it in the end. Putting in the extra time to win and to be better than yesterday is something all cheerleaders will do with smiles on their faces, and they do it for the love of their sport.