As our teams tirelessly prepare for their national competition that is on the horizon, the popular question of “Is cheerleading a sport?” pops up on outsiders’ minds. If you ask any cheerleader they wouldn’t hesitate to tell you “Of course it is!”, but to others that aren’t a part of the sport, it can be a difficult concept to grasp. It goes without saying that cheerleaders are certainly athletes – the hours of practice, conditioning, injuries, and teamwork are all there to back them up. But can we define it as a sport?
The Women’s Sport Foundation is one of many institutions that has narrowed down some of the commonly agreed upon elements to consider an activity a sport:
“It must be a physical activity which involves propelling a mass through space or overcoming the resistance of mass.” Stunting, anyone? These ladies and gentlemen spend an overwhelming amount of time lifting other athletes in the air – stunts, pyramids, and those high-flying baskets that are so impressive to watch all definitely require overcoming the resistance of mass. Haven’t ever tried stunting? Grab some cheerleaders and ask them to let you try it – if it’s not one of the greatest workouts you’ve ever had, then I’m not sure what to say.
“It must be an activity that involves contesting or competing against/with an opponent. “ Cheerleading is an activity that certainly isn’t short on competition! These athletes’ careers are extremely competition-centered, always preparing themselves and their routines to go up against another team’s performance.
“The activity must be governed by rules that explicitly define time, space, and purpose of the contest and conditions under which a winner is declared.” All Star cheer is governed by the United States All Star Federation (USASF) that has rules that define everything from the amount of mats that a team performs on to the time limit of a routine. They also have many other regulations concerning what skills athletes are allowed to perform as well as how many points certain skills receive when the routine is judged.
“Acknowledgement that the primary purpose of the competition is a comparison of the relative skills of the participants.” All Star cheer is broken up into levels, similar in thought to gymnastics. Each level has a set of skills that is considered “legal” to perform as well as rubric of the level of skills. Teams compete against others in their same skill level category and battle it out to have the majority of athletes perform the highest level of skills allowed. Coaches get score sheets showing not only their team’s scores but they also show how their scores stack up against those in their division.
The Women’s Sport Foundation also clearly states that “any physical activity in which relative performance can be judged or qualified can be developed into a competitive sport as long as 1) the physical activity includes the above defined elements and 2) the primary purpose is competition vs. other teams or individuals within a competition structure comparable to other athletic activities”. Well, I think it’s safe to say that All Star cheer fits all the requirements above and is definitely competitive! Hundreds of competitions with thousands of athletes in attendance, along with even more spectators doesn’t take place “just because”!
The life of a cheerleader is a competition-driven, physically and mentally exhausting one – but in the end, it’s also a fun one! A lot of team work, trust, and hard work goes into every aspect of a routine, which is sure to rival that of any other “traditional” sport. With that being said, the call is still yours but if you’re still skeptical, I challenge you to try out a cheer practice for a day and let me know how you feel after!
For more info about women and sports, visit womenssportsfoundation.org