Should Cheerleading Be Considered a Sport?

January 25, 2011
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Cheerleading was recently declared “not a sport” by U.S. Federal Judge Stefan Underhill as a result of a case brought to him by the women’s volleyball team of Quinnipiac University in Connecticut. The volleyball team sued the university when their team was cut from competing since the university thought the sport would cost too much money. Instead they put their money into the cheerleading team in the belief it would cost less money for the school. The volleyball teams argument was that cheerleading was not a true sport and that the school shouldn’t take money away from a true sport and grant it to an activity. Underhill ruled that cheerleading was not a sport because it is too disorganized and underdeveloped to qualify as a sport. He believed money shouldn’t be taken away from a sport that could lead to professional careers for some players or be featured in Olympic games. Because cheerleading would not qualify for these aspects it was declared not a sport.

This case has caused much controversy in the cheerleading world. Cheerleaders aren’t given credit for their athletic ability because of this ruling. Was Underhill correct in declaring cheerleading not a sport? Just like other sports, cheerleading includes athleticism and talent and certainly cheerleading requires intense training and countless hours of practice and dedication. What is the definition of a sport? In a dictionary the word “sport” is defined as “physical activity that is governed by a set of rules or customs and often engaged in competitively."
According to the Women's Sports Foundation the following criteria has to be met to be considered a sport:

A physical activity which involves propelling a mass through space or overcoming the resistance of a mass

A contest or competition against or with an opponent

Is governed by rules which explicitly define the time, space and purpose of the contest and
the conditions under which a winner is declared

The acknowledged primary purpose of the competition is a comparison of the relative skills of the participants

How can one say these girls aren’t talented or athletic? Some might think Cheerleading has no rules, but there are indeed rules for different levels of ability. There are numerous levels of cheerleading so there are going to be different sets of rules for each age division and level of ability, but every level has it’s own rules. For instance, High School Cheerleading and All Star Cheerleading have a different set of rules, based on the girls’ ability, but they certainly have rules.

Some people might say cheerleaders do not compete, but this could not be further from the truth. Cheerleaders train year round to compete against other teams and get a score of how good or bad their routine is. It is true that cheerleading teams do not compete against one opponent, but they do compete based on ability. The girls are “sporty” and train just as hard as girl training for other sports competitions.

One cannot say cheerleading isn’t an organized physical activity. Cheerleading calls for a lot of stamina and a high level of athletic ability among all members of the team. Cheerleading has evolved immensely over the years, becoming more competitive and requiring much more dedication and commitment from those who practice it. It is only a matter of time before people realize it should be declared a sport.

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