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.

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Ausin Z. said...
Feb. 26, 2015 at 3:55 pm
I'm in middle school and I play in a band and we play at our football games and we have cheerleaders on the sidelines cheering and people sat its easy but to me it looks really hard.
Maryk replied...
Mar. 4, 2015 at 9:27 am
I'am glad you have such compassion for cheerleaders. It reminds me about how hard color guards work, and yet directors and other ignorant people call them, "the shinny thing". It is very offensive and perpetuates the same stereotypes that cheerleaders are put under. By the way have you seen the show Blast?
Riaaxo said...
Feb. 12, 2015 at 9:17 am
I believe that school cheerleading is not really a competition sport, unless you compete against other school cheerleading teams. Competiton Cheer is called All - Star Cheerleading because there are levels of diffuculty unlike school cheerleader , there are levels 1- 5 in All- Star Cheerleading, the higher level team, the higher the diffuculty. All - Star Cheerleading is done at seperate gyms in cities and towns, not at schools. It is more rigorous than school cheerleading, I am a school cheerle... (more »)
Maryk replied...
Feb. 18, 2015 at 9:25 am
I really agree with you, it's the same situation with marching bands. Too much competition is hurting the creativity, choreography, and individuality of many bands and makes them single-minded and too focused on winning. Any form of art should be appreciated by the public not showed off to a bunch of judges and directors that are part of the single-minded persona that arts should be turned into sports. It cannot happen and it should not be accepted as a norm.
taylor mitchell said...
Feb. 3, 2015 at 9:30 pm
I believe that cheer is a sport but sideline cheer is to entertain, however the definition of sport is a specific diversion, usually involving a physical exercise and having a set form and body of rules. In sideline cheer you still have physical exercise, you have to practice, and you perform during halftime also in school (which is usually sideline cheer) the cheerleaders still compete so wouldn't sideline cheer still be a sport...
faithers.brown said...
Jan. 31, 2015 at 8:58 am
the only problem I have with this article is that competitive cheer isn't cheerleading. it just isnt. cheerleading is leading cheers, it's in the name, and in competitive cheer they don't lead any cheers. it is however cheer and they are in fact athletes. but that aren't cheerleaders.
Maryk replied...
Feb. 5, 2015 at 7:11 am
I disagree, but just because I disagree does not mean I'am a narcissist. I feel the same way about marching bands, that they are more of an artistic endeavor than a sport. If these forms of art become a sport then there is no choreography,creativity,and no individuality in the art form. Cheer leading is very much like the role color-guards play in marching bands or ballerinas in a ballet. Dance is a constantly changing art form but it is not a sport
justthegrmmarpolice replied...
Feb. 7 at 11:46 am
Well, ave you ever tried grammar?
Nikki2002 said...
Jan. 26, 2015 at 2:39 pm
I agree cheerleading is a sport and it is unfair that some people don't view it that way.It takes effort and determination to be a cheerleader and i think cheerleaders work as hard as any other players in any other sport.
Maryk replied...
Jan. 31, 2015 at 9:06 am
If cheer leading becomes a sport what about ballroom dancing and ballet should they become sports?
themacmonster said...
Jan. 16, 2015 at 9:04 pm
For school cheerleading, I really believe it depends on the coach that makes it a sport. I previously had a coach who wouldn't let us do ANY cool stunts and we weren't allowed to condition! WHAT? But now, I have a coach (who owns a crossfit gym) and makes us work REALLY hard! Competitive cheerleading: definitely a sport! But for school, it really depends on the coach. A lot of times, it's more than just waving your arms up and down and clapping like so many think!
Maryk replied...
Jan. 20, 2015 at 10:00 am
I agree it's the same thing with marching bands too,it all depends on the attitude and tolerance of the director. I do not like directors that push emphasis on getting it perfect and winning at compositions. No one is perfect and to expect anyone to be perfect is a total fallacy. Creating groupthink in a marching band or cheer leading culture is a terrible thing that a director or coach can do, that's why Ohio State had to fire their director who would not let his students tell anyone about is h... (more »)
thatweirdone said...
Dec. 15, 2014 at 3:30 pm
Omg finally someone gets it! (: 
Maryk replied...
Dec. 18, 2014 at 10:48 am
I do not really see this as a sport but more an art-form like all forms of dance. Just because they do it on the football field or at a basketball game does not justify it being a a sport.
taylor mitchell replied...
Feb. 3, 2015 at 9:33 pm
the definition of the word sport is a specific diversion, usually involving a physical exercise and having a set form and body of rules, cheer is a very physical activity and cheer does indeed have written rules.
Maryk replied...
Feb. 10, 2015 at 9:30 am
So does ballet and other forms of dance, you start out with your positions and then you learn the other steps. Also lots of timing is involved because you must fallow the time signature of the song or score. Imagine if they made ballet a sport,it would look and sound different than The Firebird, Nutcracker, or even The Rite of Spring. Same issue with marching bands, if you make it a sport you have to sacrifice the creativity, interpretation, and expression in the music itself to focus on points ... (more »)
Maryk said...
Nov. 7, 2014 at 10:11 am
I think that cheerleading should fall under the same leage as marching band and color-guard because it is more based in choriography and timming like ballet. Therefore, it should fall under arts because dancing is an art that has manny styles that are conected and allways changeing like cheerleading itself
pineappleprincess replied...
Nov. 20, 2014 at 2:26 pm
yes! i completely agree! i am in the color guard and winterguard and i get mad when they say its not hard work it so easy its not a sport but it is. im not a fan of spirit cheerleading but competitive is amazing!
Alexis replied...
Mar. 26, 2015 at 1:20 pm
Cheerleading is a sport and I'm talking about competitive cheerleading not the school stuff with pompoms and all that other stuff! It involves hardworking, teamwork, and skills. Until you've actually done cheerleading like being out on the floor and do it I suggest you take another look at it. Because I do competitive cheerleading so I can say something but to all the others who don't do it just say it that's wrong and I don't like those people!
byefelicia said...
Sept. 24, 2014 at 1:18 pm
Sideline cheer is the one that cheers on football players and is basically just a season of conditioning that prepares you for the following sesason of cheer known as competitive. Both types of cheer have 3 hours practices everyday plus many camps that last 4 hours or more over the summer
kinzie3 replied...
Jan. 5, 2015 at 2:53 pm
i practice 5 to 10 hours a day. at least.
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