Dispelling the Myth: Cheerleading is INDEED a SPORT!
I live in a world where girls are pushed to their limits and beyond on a daily basis. I live in a world where you are expected to tumble, stunt, cheer, dance, jump, smile, be enthusiastic, cheer on the football team by knowing 50+ cheers/chants, have great sportsmanship, and still have competitive drive. I also live in a world where no matter how hard you work, you are still told that you are NOT an athlete and what you do is NOT a SPORT.
I live in the world of CHEERLEADING!!!
Cheerleaders ARE ATHLETES, and while there has been this big debate over cheerleading being a sport or not...I say this, ask an athlete from another sport to come into our world, learn how to PROPERLY lift and throw another athlete of a VERY similar size, catch them, and smile while doing so. Or try pulling your leg above your head while standing in the hands of your teammate while remaining spirited and staying on count. I'll even give you a simpler challenge - try performing your sport of choice while shouting at the top of your lungs, in sync, and not getting out of breath! Cheerleaders ARE ATHLETES!!!
Let's see, what makes an activity a "sport?"
Wikipedia defines a sport as, "an organized, competitive, entertaining, and skillful activity requiring commitment, strategy, and fair play, in which a winner and loser can be defined by objective means. Generally speaking, a sport is a game based in physical athleticism."
Let's break it down:
Organized: YES! There are several governing bodies for cheer including Pop Warner, USASF, NACCC, and dozens more. We have rules, regulations, divisions of play, and all the fixings of any other ORGANIZED sport!
Competitive: YES! Try googling "Cheer Competitions" and you will get a VAST amount of competitions coming up. There are local, state, regional, national, international, and world competitions. We have rings, jackets, trophies, medals, and all. (I have the trophy shelf and jackets to prove it!)
Entertaining: YES! Do you like to watch "Cirque Du Soleil?" What amazes you about their show? Is it the tumbling and flipping all over the place? Is it the balancing of each other with their bodies and hands? Is it the high flying? Well, you can find all that in cheerleading. Plus, it's obviously entertaining, otherwise there would be no NFL or NBA Cheerleaders/Dancers!
Skillful Activity: YES! Not everybody is meant to cheer. Everyone cannot do a backhandspring or a roundoff back handspring back tuck step out back handspring double full. Most people don't even know what you are talking about when they read that skill list! Everyone cannot catapult a girl into the air, watch her do a reverse ball x pike basket, and catch her! Cheerleading is based on HARD CORE SKILL!!!
Commitment: YES! 10 hours a week of practice - and that's for YOUTH cheerleading. Most adults wouldn't commit that much time to something for the LOVE and SPORT of it. On the coaching side - Commitment - YES! Most cheer coaches give up this time and more with little to no financial reimbursement. That's commitment!
Strategy and Fair Play: YES! Strategizing a routine for competition to make sure you have EVERY element possible in the most creative combination takes a lot of brain activity. But, it's part of the GAME of CHEER. Fair play in cheer is a must. You work hard for what you do, and it's all fair once you step on that mat to perform your 2:30 second routine. It's between the coach and the girls to make sure that routine comes out the way it was intended to, and that it's a the highest level it can be when you finish.
A Winner and Loser can be defined by objective means: YES! They're called judges! And when you hear your name called for 1st or not called at all, you know there is a clear winner and loser. I've been on both sides. There's something to learn no matter where you land. But a clear winner is definitely chosen. It might be by a tenth of a point, but there's definitely a winner!
Physical Athleticism: YES! Conditioning, core training, tumbling, dance, jogging, stretching, jumps, kicks, squats, you name it. We do it! WE ARE ATHLETES!!!!
Looks pretty clear to me!
CHEERLEADING IS A SPORT!!! CHEERLEADERS ARE ATHLETES!!!
So next time the discussion comes up on whether or not a cheerleader is an athlete or if cheerleading is a sport, speak your mind and let the naysayer know what our world is REALLY about. If he still doesn't get it, then you can send him to my practice. I'll let him join in and change his mind, myself.
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By Rita Arens
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