Cheerleading as a Sport

July 2, 2010

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Transforming a bubbly, ponytailed cheerleader into a red-faced ball of rage isn’t as difficult as you’d think.

Actually, the statement of a simple, five-word sentence — one we’ve all heard it before — does the trick instantly.

The trigger? “Cheerleading is not a sport.”

We saw such transformations firsthand in the past few weeks after the CEO of Varsity Brands testified in a trial against cheerleading being counted toward a school’s Title IX requirements: The backlash was quick, angry, and downright ugly. I saw some pret-ty heated comments on Facebook pages and online forums.

The five-word sentence gets such a rise out of us because we’re tired of being dismissed as something that doesn’t require athleticism — and we want to point out that just because an activity doesn’t involve a ball or a bunch of running doesn’t mean it’s easy.

But the question of cheerleading as a sport is waaaay more complicated than it seems initially. It might be considered a sport in your high school, but not by your state’s high school athletic association. It might be considered a sport in your state, but not counted toward your school’s Title IX requirements. It’s not considered a sport in the NCAA, but it is classified as a sport by some individual colleges. And the repercussions of all those various organizations changing cheerleading to an official “sport” could really change a lot about the cheerleading we know and love today.

Jeff Laber is the cheerleading coach at Cooper High School in Union, Ky. and has been active in this region’s cheerleading scene for years. In response to a Cheer Cincy editorial post that indignantly pointed out that the Varsity CEO shouldn’t have compared cheerleading to chess, he wrote:

Why is it so important to be a “sport?” A sport is a game. You play a sport for fun. Cheering is fun and athletic, but it’s much more than that. Cheering enhances a school, organization and community. Cheering is entertainment, leadership, teamwork, fellowship, and service.

I respect cheerleading way too much to call it a mere sport.

I hope in the future, if someone tries to get under your skin by saying cheering isn’t a sport, you’ll remember this post, smile at the person, and tell them, “thank you.” 🙂

For what it’s worth, my suggestion is to never engage in debate with such people. They aren’t going to listen to rational arguments. All they want to do is make someone else feel bad in order to make themselves feel better (which is really sad). The best thing to do is be confident in the fact that cheering makes you happy, keeps you healthy, and gives you lots of unique opportunities. With all of that in mind, it really doesn’t matter whether or not is happens to be called a “sport.”

All good advice, and worth keeping in mind the next time the topic comes up — as it most certainly will.

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