Cheerleading As A Sport

February 17, 2010
ESPN cameras all around, hundreds of screaming fans, pride and a big trophy at stake; no, the described scene is not that of a football championship. The excitement buzzing in the air escalates as the next team steps up to put all they have into a two minute and thirty second sprint to the finish. As a competitive mix of various other sports, cheerleading is a new sport on an international rise in popularity. Some may argue cheerleading should not and cannot be considered a sport, but according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary cheerleading follows the definition of a sport and therefore should be widely considered one because of its high level of physical activity, competition, and set of rules and conventions.

Cheerleading requires an especially high level of physical exertion with an equally high risk of injury. In order to even make a team, cheerleaders must participate in an extensive tryout process often taking more than a week. Athletes must also meet a series of physical requirements concerning skills and fitness. Members of the North Allegheny varsity cheerleading squad first had to run a mile in under 8 minutes and demonstrate their ability to meet the requirements for stunting, cheering, dancing, and tumbling. Cheerleaders also keep busy practice schedules in order to maintain their physical condition. The nationally ranked Villanova University cheerleading squad holds various practices at least five days a week to work on strength and skills. In addition to the high physical precedent, cheerleaders risk their lives for their sport at every practice and competition and even continue to work through their injuries. According to an report from June of 2009, cheerleading accounts for 65.2% of high school and 70.5% of college fatal or serious injuries among all female athletes. Like any other sport, cheerleading demands great physical effort.

Cheerleaders do not give up their time to practice for nothing; most teams participate in multiple competitions throughout their yearlong season. Both high school and all-star cheerleading teams are given the chance to compete. Every year high school squads can participate in one of numerous national championships while all-star squads compete against teams from all around the globe at The Cheerleading Worlds. For “Worlds”, teams come from everywhere including China, Chile, Britain, Canada, Australia, and France. Attending the Worlds or Nationals is a privilege, and teams must qualify at smaller local and regional competitions first. Along with field hockey, figure skating, and soccer, high school cheerleaders in Pennsylvania also receive the chance to compete in the Keystone State Games at Pennsylvania State University. Teammates work together and practice hard to perform their best at every competition they attend.

Although the set up of their contests may seem different, many of the same principles as other sports guide cheerleading as well. Just like any other competitive sport, cheerleading has a strict set of rules that can result in penalties if broken. Last year at the National High School Cheerleading Championship North Allegheny went only a few seconds over the time limit, which resulted in a deduction of points moving them from a meritorious fifth place to a substandard eighteenth. Judges also disqualified many other teams completely for performing illegal stunts. As well as following a set of rules, cheerleaders compete in divisions according to size and develop rivals, as do most other high school sports. Colleges recruit and give athletic scholarships to cheerleaders. Each year, Penn State University awards textbook and apparel scholarships to their cheerleaders, and returning cheerleaders acquire the opportunity to receive the $1500 Dr. Allen Scholl scholarship. Cheerleading consists of a competitive mix of gymnastics and dance as well as many other strength and cardiovascular components. The ideology behind cheerleading is the same as numerous other sports.

Even though cheerleading follows the definition of a sport in every way, skeptics argue cheerleading does not qualify as a sport. Critics argue against cheerleading as a sport because of its scoring system, which they view as subjective and unfair. A panel of judges evaluates the competing teams, assigns points according to difficulty and performance, and ranks teams by point total. Certified, trained, and experienced coaches and directors serve as judges. All judges receive identical score sheets with specific guidelines, and all scores are averaged out to ensure fairness and accuracy. Assessment of the rank of teams is a legitimate method used not only in cheerleading but in many other sports as well. Olympic sports such as diving, figure skating, and gymnastics use similar scoring systems. Athletes of these sports are much respected, and criticizing cheerleading for using a perfectly logical scoring system is unjust.

Cheerleading has risen in international popularity recently and its respect as a sport should increase as well. Cheerleading is exceptionally physically demanding as well as an internationally competitive sport that follows the same principles as many other sports. Although some argue the scoring system for cheerleading is erroneous and imprecise countless other sports follow the same scoring pattern. Before you determine whether cheerleading is a sport or not find a local cheerleading competition or look out for the next ESPN broadcast of the high school and college National Championships. The hard work and dedication of hundreds of men and women will show the moment they step onto the floor.

Join the Discussion

This article has 25 comments. Post your own now!

ilovecheer3646 said...
May 23, 2016 at 11:14 am
cheerleaders have,arms of bodybuilders,legs of gymnasts,flexibility of dancers,and hearts of GOLD.
Kazzy_0202 said...
Apr. 2, 2015 at 9:05 pm
what are your sources by the way love the essay
allison146654 said...
Mar. 11, 2015 at 12:41 pm
I am a cheerleader for both all-star and high school so I can say that being a cheerleader in high school is fun and all but no one takes you seriously. and it gets difficult to be cheery to the crowd when you know that they don't take my sport seriously!
Aerica F. said...
Feb. 9, 2014 at 6:40 pm
I am a cheerleader, and at my school the athletic department does not consider it to be a sport.  We practice just as much as any other sport at our school, receive varsity letters, and compete, but we are still not considered a sport.  Last year my school told the cheerleading coaches that the only way to be considered a sport is to compete and get a trophy to put in our schools’ trophy case.  We did just that and are still not considered a sport.  We have to pay for o... (more »)
iWriteForFood said...
May 8, 2013 at 5:04 pm
I totally agree! My high school squad doesn't compete, but we work hard just the same. This is a great article! Keep it up :)
nikki_neacheer13 said...
Jan. 16, 2013 at 12:46 pm
I absolutely love this essay and admire how great you put it together. However, I'm using this as an internet source for my own essay and I need to know the authors name. Could you give it to me?
hiimhannah said...
Jan. 14, 2013 at 3:28 pm
Cheerleading is amzing!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!<3
CJ2014 said...
Feb. 20, 2012 at 8:13 pm
While I've never actually watched it on ESPN, I do believe that cheerleading is a sport. I know a couple of our school's cheerleaders and I can assure you that they work as much as any other athlete.
urbanlove17 said...
Dec. 3, 2011 at 6:52 pm
i loved this article & agree with it 100%. thanks for taking the time to show your support by writing this its completly true! ive been cheering for 6 years and i understand you perspective.
Pumpkinscout said...
Sept. 21, 2011 at 5:32 am
I know I could never be a cheerleader... I'm not flexible or anything
Anna said...
Jun. 24, 2011 at 5:19 pm
I copied and paste this and printed and if I make team captian *fingers crossed* im going to read this to them
ohsnapitsrose replied...
Jun. 26, 2011 at 9:08 am
Awesome! Thanks for reading and good luck to you :)
aventura fan said...
May 19, 2011 at 1:07 am
cheerleaders arent just girls with skirts without the the teams would only be a team no spirit around them :D
ohsnapitsrose replied...
May 22, 2011 at 8:37 am
I'm glad to hear you're one of the few people that has respect for sideline cheerleaders! Thank you :)
laxbrohollah said...
Feb. 11, 2011 at 10:07 am
laxtitutex3 replied...
Feb. 11, 2011 at 10:09 am
i <3 lax
laxbrohollah replied...
Feb. 11, 2011 at 10:10 am
O M G!! samee!!!!! its tha bomb. im glad someone else shares my interest!!! cheerleading seems cool too, thats why i read this article!!!
Bree AbeMg' replied...
Mar. 25, 2011 at 12:50 pm

Cheerleading is simply the BEST !

I was cheer leading captain for my little league team , Columbus Cowboys, It was really a Blast ! ! !

&nd iCant wait until high school starts up so ican join the team : )

softly_sleeping said...
Apr. 3, 2010 at 6:50 pm
This is so great!! It's really convincing and seems like you feel really strongly about cheerleading being a sport :D
allisonn replied...
Sept. 29, 2012 at 1:02 pm
HEYY!!! cheerleading is a very hard sportt those girls have to put all there time into getting fit and learn all those cheers i really enjoy watching cheerleaders the have a bond that no one will ever understand... im glad that i can have so many friends that enjoy cheering it is very imorant to themm. ((: ~ AD
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