Since its humble beginnings over one-hundred years ago, cheerleading has evolved not only into an important fixture at American sporting events, but into a controversial debate topic as well. Millions of people have even argued that cheerleading is its own sport. Just last year Quinnipiac University took that argument into Connecticut federal court and and lost. The Judge ruled that cheerleading is too “undeveloped and disorganized” for consideration as its own official sport. This ruling means that cheerleading will remain excluded from federal funding because it is “not an official NCAA sport”. This is shocking because gymnastics, which is very similar to cheerleading, is both an NCAA and an Olympic sport. In the minds of millions of people across the country, cheerleading is a sport. However, according to federal law it is only an activity.
Organized cheerleading began in 1898 when the University of Minnesota organized the very first cheerleading team. Six exuberant young men were chosen to lead the crowd in various cheers and chants during the varsity football games. It is quite ironic that male cheerleaders are today considered immasculine, because cheerleading was originally intended to be an all-male activity. Women actually had a tough time getting involved with cheerleading. Females did not begin joining cheerleading squads in large numbers until the 1920’s. While America is quick to forget that cheerleading started out as an all-male activity, it does seem to remember that cheerleading was born under the shadow of football. This type of selective memory is exactly what is keeping cheerleading from becoming a sport.
Cheerleading is a very difficult skill to master. Many “athletes” could not cheer if their lives depended on it. Cheerleaders perform many complicated and dangerous stunts. They exhibit incredible strength, flexibility, and balance. Cheerleading is certainly a demanding endeavor which requires a huge time commitment. However, just because something is difficult and takes up a lot of time doesn’t make it a sport. One of the fundamental arguments in disregarding cheerleading as a sport is the lack of competition. Although some cheerleading squads do cheer competitively, the vast majority do not, they merely support another team. Think about it. If football teams never played against each other would football be considered a sport? There is little doubt that it would if that were the case.
Cheerleaders are as athletically gifted, if not more than gymnasts. Yet, gymnastics is considered not only a sport, but an olympic one at that. When cheerleaders do compete, their meets are very similar to gymnastic meets. The playing surface is similar. They both perform on mats. The meets are divided into sections called “heats” in which the teams perform specific routines. Both scoring systems are subjective in that judges award points based on loosely defined categories such as “difficulty” and “execution”. Cheerleading and gymnastics are so similar that it is difficult to determine why one is a sport as opposed to the other.
Some aspects of cheerleading are indeed athletic, but the majority of it is more like an activity. Throw in the fact that many cheerleading teams do not compete head to head, and it is very difficult for some to consider cheerleading its own sport. It may not be an accurate representation of cheerleading, but it is the perspective of millions of people, and if cheerleaders want to be considered as athletes they must work on changing that.
It is understandable why cheerleaders want cheerleading to be included as a sport. They are very capable athletes. It is unfair that other athletes can get funding from the federal government while they cant. They are a very worthy group of athletes who feel they are being discriminated against by ignorant people who dont understand what they are trying to accomplish. I get it. However, those ignorant people have power. Some of those people who they think are using biased, stereotypical judgement are the same ones who govern our country. Honestly it doesn’t make sense why cheerleading isn’t a sport yet, but that doesn’t matter. What matters is that the our government refuses to acknowledge cheerleading as a sport. That means you can go to college to cheerlead, but you cant cheerlead to go to college. Is it fair? Probably not, but the rules are the rules. Cheerleading is not a sport. We love and appreciate our cheerleaders, but apparently not enough to consider them in the same class as golfers and volleyball players. Its a shame too, because cheerleaders are just as deserving, if not more.