Cheerleading is a Sport
A point by point argument as to why cheerleading is and should be recognised as a sport.
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Having endured years of banter, snubs, and abuse from all directions including my university athletics union who demoted cheerleading to a ‘society’ from a ‘sports club’, not to mention pretty much every sports team going at the university, it’s time to put the record straight; cheerleading IS a sport.
1. The Gymnastics Element
Cheerleading is heavily reliant on gymnastics. Tumbling forms a large part of most routines and cheerleaders at the highest levels are required to perform tumbles of the standard of an elite gymnast. Gymnastics is the basic element of most stunts, even those as basic as a straddle basket toss, a stunt where the cheerleader is thrown into the air and hits a ‘straddle’ position at the peak of the throw. Such a stunt requires the same flexibility and strength as that of a gymnast but is still only at the more basic end of the stunting spectrum. Jumps also feature in most cheerleading routines, and at a high level, require the cheerleader to follow two or perhaps even three jumps with a standing tumble such as a back somersault. Having been a senior member of a cheerleading squad, I have seen firsthand that many gymnasts make very good flyers in cheerleading, and many ex-sports acrobats make some of the strongest bases. With so many links to such a widely esteemed sport as gymnastics, it is difficult to see why one should be so highly regarded in the sporting world, and the other snubbed as a ‘fun activity’.
To establish a good cheerleading routine takes many hours of practice per week. Cheerleaders at my university train for more hours per week than the American Football team or the Rowing Team. And cheerleaders train hard; a base has to lift, throw, hold and catch flyers of their own equal body weight perhaps over 30 times per training session if not more. Not forgetting the flyer who has to contort their body into various awkward positions, standing on one leg, 8 feet in the air and hold that for five seconds at a time before throwing themselves back down to the arms of the bases. And that’s just the stunting, there is also gymnastics training and general fitness training – it takes a lot to do that 6-8 times in 2minutes 30 seconds, in time with music along with jumps and an energetic dance routine. Cheerleading, just like any other sport, evidently requires committed training.
Hand in hand with all sports come injury, and cheerleading has got to come somewhere near the top of most dangerous sports. I recently heard that cheerleading was the most dangerous sport for women. With my squad, I witnessed several broken noses, broken ribs, broken ankles, broken fingers and wrists, dislocated elbows and jaws and numerous pulled muscles, torn ligaments, and sprains, and we did not even compete at the highest of levels.
The most important dates in a cheerleader’s diary are not dates with various American Football players as the stereotype would suggest, but competitions. Cheerleaders train for months in preparation for competition, just like all other sports – competition is the main driving force for many athletes, and cheerleaders are no different. Competitions in the USA are even televised.
It’s really not a debate, cheerleading is a sport and hopefully those who have previously mocked cheerleading will realise that, before we have to do a standing tuck back, just to prove it.