On January 18, 2017 located in a decently sized classroom in the Nelson Physical Activity Center, our Sports Reporters class had a debate on whether or not cheerleading is a sport. Now, this is a discussion that has been going on for years so I was very interested to see what the thoughts of my fellow classmates were.
Growing up, sports have always had a huge impact on my life. Ever since I can remember, Friday nights were like national holidays in the O’Boyle home. Every Friday, you come home from school and start to prepare what you want to wear/bring with you to the football game because you know once you’ve left the house, you can’t go back. When my family lived in Georgia, my dad was the football coach for Hiram High School. My three oldest siblings were all “given” (more like required to have) a job on the sidelines. Patrick and Danny were the ball boys while Emily on the other hand was the water girl. They all were given old football jerseys to wear to signify that they too meant a lot to the football team, just as the super star quarterback “Eddie ‘Spaghetti’ Burns” did. I, however, was not yet old enough to don a purple and gold football jersey. You could find me in the stands wearing a different type of uniform. I wore a custom made Hiram Hornet cheer uniform that my mom made herself. If you would have asked me back in the day what I wanted to be when I grew up, my answer would have been a cheerleader. I loved it. My siblings were all the sports gurus, and I wanted nothing to do with them. I wanted to be the cheerleader on the sidelines.
Eventually, I grew out of that stage. I started playing basketball as soon as my dad found out I wanted to be a cheerleader. Not only was he the high school football coach, but he also was the head girls basketball coach at Hiram. He made me attend every single camp that his team put on. We bought a basketball hoop and put it at the end of our driveway and I always had to shoot and make 10 free-throws before I could come inside. I even was the only girl on my league basketball team when I was seven years old. Slowly, my days of pom poms and high kicks were being traded for jump shots and fast breaks.
When I moved to Nebraska, sports became my life. It always seemed like I never really had an “offseason.” During the fall, I played volleyball. During the winter, I played basketball. During the spring, I suffered through track season. And during the summertime I played softball. If you would have asked me to reconsider my thoughts on wanting to become a cheerleader, I would have laughed in your face. At my high school, the cheerleaders were not the most liked bunch of the school. They were the type to stand on the side and hoot and holler, but not one person would really bat an eye at them. In Nebraska, it is illegal for high school cheerleaders to perform any stunting routines unless the cheer coach has their license to allow their team to stunt. So, our team was very boring to watch. They also thought that people would attend games just to watch their halftime performances. Which gave a lot of us students another reason to dislike them.
When I came to college at CSC, my opinion of cheerleaders changed completely. They actually were a team full of flips and stunts rather than a team that was full of hoots and hollers and simple half time dances. My first year of college, I played basketball for the women’s team at CSC. Once my sophomore year came, the cheer team gunned for me to become a member of the squad. I really was hesitant about it because of my past opinion on the whole cheerleader life. But, they somehow talked me into attending one open gym session. While I was there, I was practicing at the base position. Let me tell you this, I thought I was strong from playing college sports. Boy, was I wrong! Lifting someone up in the air and then catching them when they come down requires a lot of arm strength, as well as leg strength. A major thing that also comes with being a cheerleader is having flexibility. I deserve an award for being the least flexible person on the planet. It was very difficult for me to try and do toe touches and high kicks. But, trying on the uniform was actually pretty fun.
The next day, I could barely walk I was so sore. And to answer your question, I did not join the team…even though I do look adorable in the uniform. 🙂
When it comes down to the question of whether or not cheerleading is a sport, I would say that sideline cheerleading is not a sport. Although college cheer teams across the U.S. are full of some of the most athletic people, cheerleading in general should not be considered a sport. The purpose of cheerleading is to motivate a sports team during the competition. They aren’t competing for an ultimate goal. There is no winner or loser during the games between cheer squads. They are there to support their school and promote school spirit and pride to the fans in the stands. According to Alyssa Roenigk from the article “Sorry, Cheerleading is Not A Sport” she states “Although the athleticism of cheerleaders has risen dramatically since Johnny Campbell led the first cheers at a University of Minnesota football game in 1898, what hasn’t changed is the primary focus of school cheerleading: to promote school spirit, support other teams in competition and provide leadership within the school and community.” I couldn’t agree more. The athleticism has risen immensely from when cheer teams first started to appear on sidelines. However, for most squads you don’t even have to be able to do a flip, back handspring, cartwheel, or even a handstand to join the team. You don’t even have to be athletic at all. Cheerleading also does not require any specific plays or strategies. According to Valorie Delp from the article “Cheerleading is Not A Sport” she says “Many would say that cheerleading is not a sport because it does not involve a defined strategy.” There is no offense, there is no defense. You are there to cheer on your school in hopes of a victory.
Now, if you were to ask me if competition cheer is a sport, my answer to that question would be yes. Those cheerleaders have to train for months in advance to even make the team. Then they train nonstop with dance training, gymnastics training, and strength training to prepare for cheer competitions. Although I have never been to a cheer competition, I have had many friends who compete on cheer teams that go to such competitions as “Worlds.” It is absolutely insane. The main reason I believe competitive cheerleading is a sport is within the name itself. Competitive. There is a judge for teams and they rate the squad in different categories. They also have a set of rules they have to follow and boundaries they have to stay within while they compete.
Ultimately, I do not think that sideline cheerleaders are anything but athletes. I believe they put in just as much time training as members of any other collegiate sports team do. I have a lot of respect for cheerleaders at any level. It takes a lot to put yourself in front of a crowd of jam packed stands at any sporting event. I thought playing in front of a crowd was nerve wracking, but I can’t even imagine what it would be like to yell and cheer in front of a set of bleachers with all eyes on you. I still always think of what life would have been like if I would have lived out my cheerleading days. But for now, I think I’ll stick to Coaching Basketball.