Put away the pom-poms

Sideline cheerleading does not identify as a sport

By Chris Skarnulis, Arts & Entertainment Editor

Whether individuals choose to believe it or not, there’s a sharp distinction between sideline cheerleading and competitive cheerleading on the grounds of being a sport. Competitive cheerleading, a sport popular among primarily young females but males as well, involves competition among teams with the goal of scoring points based on the cheers performed. Competitive cheer, without a doubt, is a sport. However, “sideline cheerleading,” both a school-sponsored and non-profit organization activity, popular mostly among teens in middle and high school, does not meet the requirements of a sport.

According to the American Association of Cheerleading Coaches and Administrators website, a sport is defined as a physical activity, which involves propelling a mass through space or overcoming the resistance of a mass, and “contesting” or competing against/with an opponent. Sideline cheerleading does not at all meet that definition, and therefore does not constitute as a sport.

What people may forget is that sports teams exist to compete, not to entertain and charm an audience of people at an athletic event or school-related function. The primary purpose of sideline (school-sponsored) cheerleading is to promote school spirit, as opposed to competing against fellow cheer squads to gain either a victory or defeat.

Being a cheerleader is by no means a walk in the park from an athletic perspective.  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 as well. Practices are rigorous and require the athletes to use their mind, body and strength to perform the necessary cheers. Cheers such as stunting, cheering, dancing and tumbling require cheerleaders to demonstrate said qualities. Although cheerleading itself may not be a sport, the activity itself is still physically demanding and is arguably the activity with the highest injury-risk over all other sports in high school. Cheerleaders are definitely athletes, but it would be more appropriate to categorize them as “athletes not participating in a sport.” One can still be an athlete and not participate in a sport. Alternatively, one can also participate in a sport and not be very athletic.

For athletes who wish to participate in cheerleading solely to compete, there are private all-star teams, competitive cheer and STUNT, a new version of competitive cheer that was developed by USA Cheer, the governing body of cheerleading in the United States. The goal of STUNT is to provide a means for female cheerleaders to compete in the spring season. It is the fastest-growing high school sport and is seeking emerging sport status from the NCAA.

The great debate as to whether sideline cheerleading is a sport will continue to occur regardless of one’s stance. It’s worth noting the amount of pressure put on cheerleaders to perform exceptionally is of utmost importance. Although cheerleaders aren’t technically participating in a sport, their hard work, persistence and dedication show that they truly are athletes.