Many cheerleaders, coaches and others involved in cheerleading become offended by this question. They know that
what cheerleaders do is as challenging as the tasks of any athlete. Moreover, they do not feel they have to prove it to anyone.
The truth about cheerleading and deserve the respect given to other athletes, comes in this article.
So, the question, is cheerleading a sport? To answer this question let us first figure what the definition a
sport is. Generally, a sport is a physical activity or athletic game. This does not tell us much; we know that a sport must
have more than just physical activity. The word 'game' implies that there is some structure and purpose. Thus, a sport is
a structured physical activity. Finally, sports require physical demands. Therefore, the definition seems to be a sport is
a structured activity requiring uncommon physical abilities.
It is assumed that competition is necessary to be a sport. Many activities defined as sports do not have head-to-head
competition as football and basketball do. Rather, each competitor performs on their own and is then compared to other competitors
to determine a winner.
Anyone who has participated on a cheerleading team knows the extent of the physical requirements. Some of the
traits of a good cheerleader include strength for stunts and pyramids, and flexibility and coordination for tumbling. Jumps,
dancing and cheers also require physical skills. Remember that our definition notes the need for uncommon physical abilities.
It is with these abilities that one excels and succeeds at a true sport. As a coach, I looked for athleticism, more so than
experience, in the people trying out for my squads. I had no doubt that I could make a great cheerleader out of a good athlete
with a positive attitude.
Categorizing Sports and Activities
It is often necessary for organizations (such as schools) to categorize clubs and activities for administrative
purposes. Often, sports are in a distinct category and include most athletic programs. Traditionally, cheerleading is included
with clubs and activities. This is just a categorization and does not reflect the true nature of an activity. This categorization
may not help gain respect for cheerleading it can be an advantage at times. For instance, college athletics are governed by
many NCAA requirements, which only apply to designated sports. Therefore, cheerleading programs that are excluded may not
be subject to such complicated and burdensome rules. Some may say that if cheerleading were truly a sport then it would have
been included with other sports long ago. However, we know that there are reasons why cheerleading developed this way. These
reasons include: 1) Cheerleading's roots and continuing role as a spirit, pep or support organization, 2) Bias against cheerleaders
and stereotypes which have no basis in fact yet continue, and 3) A lack of recognition of the significant changes cheerleading
has seen over the years. Therefore, the inclusion or exclusion of cheerleading as a sport for administrative reasons has no
significance in determining if it is truly a sport.
While we know, for these and many other reasons, that cheerleading is a sport it is found that it can be very
hard to change peoples minds when they disagree on this subject. True understanding often times only comes with participation.
It is time to respect and appreciate the people who can see the challenges that cheerleaders face, both on and off the playing
field. However, the most important thing is not the beliefs of others; it is the excitement, exercise, and accomplishments
that we get from our sport.