The Cheerleading Debate

Some say sports are what define us, but who ever said what we define as a sport? There is not one true definition of a sport because people believe that a sport can be defined in multiple ways. Cheerleading is one activity that people for many years have debated on whether or not it is a sport. I have been debating this topic for eight years now and the topic never seems to fade or go away in any group. There are different kinds of cheerleading that you would have to analyze to see which one you believe is a sport, those being competitive cheerleading and sideline cheerleading. Competitive cheerleading is much different than the version of cheerleading most of society thinks of when they hear that word, which is the version of pretty little girls cheering on a team to victory. Over time people and the sport alone evolved into something more complex and interesting. Competitive cheerleading requires strength, endurance, and teamwork to succeed as many other sports do as well.

The Characteristics of a Sport

According to Eric Van Horn, Andrew D. Jones, and Preston Findlay, the characteristics that qualify an activity as a sport would be “whether a distinct season was defined, whether state or national championships exist, whether the athletic department administers the program, and whether the activity is a competition in itself or a promotion of other athletes.” The competitive cheerleading world consists of all these things listed above. Competition season is from October-January for high school and November- April for the collegiate level; however, we practice from June-April to make sure we are absolutely ready for competitions. There are national championships for both high school and collegiate level cheerleading which you cannot participate in unless you qualify at another competition. Other people believe that there are other things that define what a sport is, and those are still relatable to what cheerleading consists of. According to The Women’s Sports Foundation, as stated on, “They have narrowed the field down of what is considered a sport to the fact that it must be a physical activity which involves propelling a mass through space or overcoming the resistance of mass.” Stunting, holding a person up in the air to do tricks and show off their skills, is a great example of overcoming the resistance of mass by resisting the weight of someone coming down on you. Also, tumbling proves that you can propel a mass through space by throwing your body in the air to do a flip and landing safely.

The Evolution of Cheerleading

Cheerleading is not a thing of the past, it is more popular now than ever because of all the new things that have been added to the cheer world. According to Brenda J. Shields and Gary A. Smith, the authors of “Cheerleading-Related Injuries in the United States: A Prospective Surveillance Study,” “Thirty years ago, cheerleading routines consisted primarily of toe-touch jumps, the splits, and claps. Today, cheerleading routines incorporate gymnastic tumbling runs and partner stunts, consisting of human pyramids, lifts, catches, and tosses.” Many back when cheerleading was nothing but woos and hoorahs, society did not take cheerleaders seriously. No one believed it was a sport or that it would ever become what it is today which is considered a sport. “When the World Cup opened, there were fewer than 50 all-star gyms nationwide, and there are now more than 4,000. The few thousand all-star cheerleaders in the early ’90s have turned into about 200,000,” according to Varsity, a leading cheerleading organization (Friedman). Cheerleading has become one of the most popular women’s sports to compete in. It gets your adrenaline pumping and you get to do what seems like the impossible to most. The fact that just 36 years ago cheerleading was mainly sideline cheers shows how much cheerleading has become popular and how much it has elaborated over time. There are competitions and acrobatics added because of an idea from gymnastics that was never in cheerleading when it first began.

Elite Pyramid and Stunts

This picture is of an elite pyramid that is only legal for higher level teams. It is called a one-one-one because there is one man at the bottom holding a girl whom is holding another girl above her head. This is a perfect example of overcoming the resistance of a mass because they are resisting the weight of another person coming down on them or to the mat.

This is a picture of a coed collegiate level stunt. Competing this skill at their level would not get them many difficulty points because according to NCAA it is a basic level stunt for their division. The fact that one man is strong enough to hold another person above them and keep them balanced to stay up there that long is impressive and shows the skill level needed for this sport.

Elite Basket Toss and Tumbling

This is a picture of an ex out full, an elite level basket toss. When starting this basket, she steps onto the top of their hands and they throw her with full force so she can gain height to do her skill after setting to gain power and even more height. This is a perfect example of propelling a mass through space because that is exactly what happens during a basket toss until she is finished with her skill, in that moment she falls gracefully into their arms.

The woman in this picture, Angel Rice, is known right now to be the best tumbler in All-Star cheer. Her tumbling passes are the highest skill level you can compete and she does them with such perfect technique and grace. This picture shows how one can propel even their own body into space by using the strength in their legs, core, and shoulders. All are examples of what cheerleaders do and is proof of how competitive cheerleading is and should be considered a sport.

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