Commentary: Cheerleading Is a Sport

Amber Cashins ('23), Orbit Contributor

Imagine working tirelessly, putting your all into an activity that requires immense amounts of time and hard work to build strength, teamwork, and endurance–all for someone to make an assumption based on stereotypes that degrade all of your efforts.

This is something that cheerleaders are forced to face on a daily basis.

The countless time spent defending their sport is draining, and cheerleaders deserve to be viewed as athletes competing in a sport, just like other students who participate in our school’s athletic programs.  

Most of what people see from cheerleaders is their sideline cheering at football and basketball games. Although it is an important part of cheerleading, it is not what makes it a sport. This is where many of the misconceptions about cheer come from because people neglect the competitive aspect of cheerleading. Since cheerleaders must cheer  without the safety of mats during games, they often simplify their skills to prevent injuries. They stick to the cheers and dances, adding only the occasional quick stunt and the perfected tumbling skill. This results in people coming to the conclusion that cheerleading is relatively easy and unable to cause injuries. Many ask, “How can we consider cheer a sport when the routines are only two minutes and thirty seconds?” But when compared to other sports like six-minute wrestling matches, and one-hundred-meter track races, the short timing doesn’t seem like a fair criticism. It would be dangerous to continue the amount of physical exertion cheerleaders are using, and they do not receive breaks in between.

The countless time spent defending their sport is draining…

Women’s Sports Foundation defines sport as “a physical activity that involves propelling a mass through space or overcoming the resistance of mass, competing against/with an opponent, governed by rules that explicitly define the time, space, and purpose of the contest and the conditions under which a winner is declared, and the purpose of the competition is a comparison of the relative skills of the participants.” Competitive cheerleading fits under the criteria of the defined meaning of a sport. The mass would be the flyers; and at the competitions, there are distinct rules on the criteria of the routine and how the judges score it. The competitive side of cheerleading is easily comparable to dance and gymnastics which are widely accepted as sports, leading me to believe that it is the misconceptions that are preventing cheer from being regarded as a true sport. 

Cheerleading is a unique sport in many ways. One of them is the way competitions are held. Instead of facing one town at a time like most sports, cheerleaders compete against everyone all at once. Right now in Massachusetts at the high school level, there are only three competitions the teams go to. The small number of competitions is due to the MSAA organization creating the format of the competitions. Competitions take a long time and require to use of a large gymnasium in full, making it difficult to organize competitions fairly. I would argue that the small opportunities cheerleaders have to perform their routine adds to the difficulty of the sport. The high school teams are not guaranteed to move on after even the very first competition. If a team does not score high enough, their season is over. They are only given one shot; and if mistakes are made, it could cost the whole season. 

Since cheerleading is so different from other sports, it can be easy for someone to quickly look at it and not see the skill and work that goes into it. Coupled with the newly added competitive aspects many people do not understand how it works. These athletes work constantly and deserve the same appreciation and recognition as other athletes competing in other sports.