Magazine, website & books written by teens since 1989

Cheerleading is a Sport This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

     The New York Times states that cheerleading is the fastest growing girls’ sport, yet more than half of Americans do not believe it is a sport. In addition, they fail to distinguish between sideline cheerleaders and competitive ones. Sideline cheerleaders’ main goal is to entertain the crowd and lead them with team cheers, which should not be considered a sport. On the other hand, competitive cheerleading is a sport.

A sport, according to the Association of Cheerleading Coaches and Advisors, is a “physical activity [competition] against/with an opponent, governed by rules and conditions under which a winner is declared, and primary purpose of the competition is a comparison of the relative skills of the participants.” Because cheerleading follows these guidelines, it is a sport.

Competitive cheerleading includes lots of physical activity. Like gymnasts, cheerleaders must learn to tumble. They perform standing back flips, round flip flops, and full layout twists. Cheerleaders also perform lifts and tosses. This is where the “fliers” are thrown in the air, held by “bases” in different positions that require strength and cooperation with other teammates.

Just as basketball and football have guidelines for competitive play, so does competitive cheerleading. The whole routine has to be completed in less than three minutes and 15 seconds and the cheerleaders are required to stay within a certain area.

Competitive cheerleaders’ goal is to be the best. Just like gymnasts, they are awarded points for difficulty, technique, creativity and sharpness. The more difficult a mount or a stunt, the sharper and more in-sync the motions, the better the score. Cheerleading is a team sport so without cooperation and synchronization, first place is out of reach.

According to the National Center for Catastrophic Sport Injury Research, cheerleading is the number-one cause of serious sports injuries to women. Emergency room visits for cheerleading are five times the number than for any other sport, partially because they do not wear protective gear. While many athletes are equipped with hip pads, knee pads, shin guards or helmets, smiling cheerleaders are tossed into the air and spiral down into the arms of trusted teammates. The fliers must remain tight at all times so that their bases can catch them safely. Also, because cheerleading is not yet recognized as a sport by many schools, neither proper matting nor high enough ceilings are provided to ensure safety. Instead, the girls use whatever space is available. More recognition of competitive cheerleading as a sport would decrease the number of injuries.

So why do many Americans not think cheerleading is a sport? It cannot be because cheerleaders do not use balls or manipulate objects (if you do not count megaphones, pompoms and signs as objects). Wrestling, swimming, diving, track, cross-country, gymnastics, ice-skating and boxing are recognized sports that do not use balls. Some people argue that cheerleaders are just “flirts in skirts” with their only job to entertain the crowd, but cheerleaders today compete against other squads and work just as hard as other athletes.

Competitive cheerleading is a sport. It is a physical activity that is governed by rules under which a winner can be declared and its primary purpose is to compare the skills of participants. Hopefully, cheerleading will become as well-known a sport as football and basketball, and even appear in the Olympics since cheerleaders are just as athletic and physically fit as those involved in the more accepted sports.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

Join the Discussion

This article has 418 comments. Post your own now!

cheercoach said...
Dec. 6, 2010 at 5:27 am
I can not believe that this subject is still being debated! I began cheering for pop-warner football teams at age 6 and continued to cheer competetively through college. Now I coach a high school squad that regularly brings home trophies from regional and national competitions. Many cheerleaders are also gymnasts, who participate in cheering to keep their skills sharp throughout the year and to work on new tricks. They cheer on the sidelines, not for popularity, but because cheerleading i... (more »)
ChEeRhOtTiE105 said...
Dec. 5, 2010 at 3:33 pm
Hi ok i have been a cheerleader for ten years now, and captian for 6. It is most definitly a sport and if you don't agre than you most say that football isnt a sport. because the only difference between cheerleading and football is that we throw people n they throw balls. I get that they tackle but studies hav shown that more people get injured doing cheerleading than football. also in football you jus kinda wing it on the field but in cheer you have to know what ur doing and n... (more »)
rawash said...
Dec. 4, 2010 at 8:26 pm
My parents and I always talk about if cheerleading is a sport of not.  Cheerleading takes so much muscle stregth and energy it's not even funny! You also can't be afraid. If you're afraid of doing a tuck and falling on you head you can't really succeed in the world of cheerleading. Cheerleading isreally dangerous. And, a lot of cheerleaders have ankle problems because of so much tumbling and jumping. So in conclusion i most definatley consider it a sport!!
Swim4life said...
Dec. 4, 2010 at 5:23 pm

Cheerleading fits the textbook description for the sport, yet its the people who actually cheer who are the cause for doubt. Most (yes, most) girls who cheer in high school fit the description that are the evidence that it is not in any way a sport. It is a way of promoting the fact that looking good is more important than doing well, be it school or sports. It sends a negative image and attracts people who wish to be portrayed by that negative image.

All in all, one may say it's ... (more »)

dancer1097<3 said...
Dec. 4, 2010 at 1:36 pm
i think cheerleading is a sport because it looks like it's a lot of work. It probaly takes a practice and endurance like any other sport.
ilovecheer said...
Dec. 3, 2010 at 4:12 pm
haha, any idiot who doesnt think its a sport can get their lazy ass out there and do it. how flexible do you have to be to play football? -not very. it requires a lot of leg power to jump. and stunting is very exhausting. cheerleaders throw people in the air.. not a ball. :) so.. grow one and suck it up. hehehe. welllll this stuff only applies if the cheerleaders are good.. crappy ones just look dumb. hahaha.
no name replied...
Jan. 23, 2011 at 6:07 pm
hahahahahaha yeah right cheerleading is anything but a sport....all u do is throw people up in the air and dance theres nothing to it... even my grandma can do
LexieBoo! :D replied...
Mar. 21, 2011 at 10:39 am
Umm I would like to see yu throw girls over yur head and catch them, Or to be able to do everything with sharp moves and it has to look good, We just dont throw a ball around and run after it or tackle the person with the ball!
cheer is amazing(: replied...
May 10, 2011 at 8:26 am

cheerleading is def. a sport, you don't just throw people in the air, dance, and throw your arms in the air like people think. you actually have to have some sort of muscle. you use leg muscle to jump in the air, tumble ect. Cheerleading is a physical activity i believe... its NOT what everyone thinks it is...



just saying.

Metallxrose said...
Dec. 3, 2010 at 3:50 pm
I do not believe cheerleading is a sport. Any girl can easily 'cheer' for her teammates, like at a volleyball game, just by sitting on the sidelines. Why don't you just do gymnastics then? Cheering can be done by anyone at any age. You don't do anything diffiuclt that with a little practice, any one else can do easily ona  trampoline and such.
thecheer1990 replied...
Dec. 11, 2010 at 12:51 pm
cheer is so a sport we dont just cheer u have to be strong and u have to be the best  
blossom replied...
Jan. 23, 2011 at 6:09 pm
LexiLou10 replied...
Mar. 9, 2011 at 11:33 pm
Hey, just to break it to you... all sports start out at any age. and more often than not, the team sucks when they are that young. Cheerleading isn't JUST about yelling loud for the team. Plus, a trampoline and a hardwood floor are 2 completely different things.
PirateQueen791 said...
Dec. 3, 2010 at 11:27 am
Excuse me, but if cheerleading is just like gymnastics, then I don't understand why cheerleaders don't just DO gymnastics. Gymnastics is a definite sport, and according to this article it's safer anyway, not to mention that its background doesn't concern the concept that girls are meant to cheer for guys. I could NEVER be a cheerleader (not that I remotely have the personality anyway) for that reason. 
LexiLou10 replied...
Mar. 9, 2011 at 11:36 pm
I was both a gymnast and a cheerleader... and they are quite different. The main similarity is the tumbling skills required. Cheerleaders do what they do for the rush or adrenaline, the accomplishment of learning new stunts. Gymnastics is all for one and one for all. Cheerleading, you have a team to back you up or drag you down.
cheerleader09 said...
Dec. 3, 2010 at 11:19 am
Okay so first of all if you're going to be rude and talk crap about cheerleading at least spell the word right because all you're doing is making yourself look stupid. Second of all I'm a cheerleader and have been for the past 6 years I know firsthand that cheer is a lot harder than most sports. I’d like to see all the people saying cheer is stupid to go try and lift a 100+ lb. girl in the air and attempt to do the tumbling skills we do. At my high school we have football players... (more »)
Crash. said...
Dec. 3, 2010 at 6:37 am
It is a sport physicality but not mentally. You have the work and its hard yes but, the whole reason why is BS and a little rude.  
Sarah R. replied...
Dec. 3, 2010 at 7:11 pm

ok. cheerleading is for sure a sport we don't tumble on trampolines we tumble/cheer on either gym floors or spring mats there's a huge difference and crash thank you for saying physically its a sport but not mentally but it most deffinately is a sport mentally because you can't be scared to do the skills even if you've hurt yourself on them before and you have to rely on your team mates and remember where to go

and Thanks whoever wrote this article sorry I didn't look but I find it gre... (more »)

Crash. replied...
Dec. 5, 2010 at 1:49 pm
I know you have to do them if you got hurt before, I am an athlete. But the whole idea of why seems a little crazy, at least at my school they say "I only do it so the boys will date me." So maybe thats why I feel it is messed up that girls will risk just about anything for a boy.  
a8787 replied...
Aug. 26, 2011 at 7:36 pm
ok first of all you have to be metally strong to be able to throw people in the air and stay there to catch them even if they are going to fall on your face ,you have to trust the people on your team to do the right tjing at the right time and to give 110% everytime even if theyre tired , sore,and if they dont want to be at practice at that time
Site Feedback