Why Do Cheerleaders Want Their Recreation To Be Called A Sport?

I never thought I’d have so much contact with the cheerleading community.

Well, not after I once (or twice) kissed a former cheerleader of the San Francisco 49-ers.

However, just one post about a court case has brought a constant avalanche of objections.

As if leaping from a pyramid of woe, cheerleading women and men have descended here to toss Molotov Pom-Poms in my direction.

Did I declare them unworthy of existence? Not at all. Did I suggest they were several lines short of a cheerleaders cocaine party? Perish the snort.

I merely agreed with a judge that cheerleading wasn’t a sport.

Here is the essence of the cheerleaders position (at least as I understand it):

One, they are not mere cheerleaders. They participate in competitive cheer.

Two, they train very, very hard. Harder than Mike Tyson, pre ear-lunching.

Three, they are scored by other people who seem to think that competitive cheer is a sport and have watched —  and cried over — many episodes of “Dancing With The Stars.”

There is nothing false in these passionate people’s ra-ra.

It’s just that these descriptions still don’t make it a sport.

Cheerleaders aren't happy.

Cheerleaders aren’t happy.

In competitive cheer, you still wear garb that a circus would wince at. And the fact that you train hard means everything to you and slightly less to anyone else deciding whether it’s a sport.

Competitive cheer is like new religions that keep popping up.

They might have been invented in the 1950s by a salesman in Missouri. They might have been the brainchild of a Nova Scotia fiction writer after one too many nova scotches only a couple of weeks ago.

But they want to be taken as seriously as the Catholics and the Muslims.

I am not sure it’s quite that simple.

Competitive cheer derived from the highly decorative practice of cheerleading.

Just as stuffing 43 hot dogs in your mouth in record time derived from the highly essential practice of eating.

You might see both on ESPN. That doesn’t make them sports. It makes them time-fillers.

You can rename your recreation All-Star Cheer. But those stars are only in the eyes of the ones who love this pastime.

As one astute commenter noted: Please name 5 famous cheerpersons. ‘Famous’ would encompass known by someone, anyone not in the world of cheer.

I also fancy that the old Greeks who invented Citius, Altius, Fortius might have demurred about watching competitive cheer and cheering: “Sportius! Sportius! Sportius!”

But what they, I or anyone else might think doesn’t really matter, other than as idle barroom, classroom (and, occasionally, courtroom) chatter.

The heart of the matter, surely, is why those who participate in this activity are so desperate for it to be called a sport.

Sports can often be brutal, involving nasty physical contact. They’re a symbolic epitome of fighting.

Those who practice sports are often known for their appalling behavior, appearances in court on a myriad of charges and the taking of vitamins that are a little too vital.

Those who practice sport want to grind the opponent into an alternative week in an alternative universe.

Competitive cheer is the high school equivalent of “My friends can do tricks better than yours.” So why would you want to be associated with the uncouth brutes of sport?

Competitive cheer is a little bit of showing-off, coupled with some fine acrobatics and tumbling. Cirque Du Soleil comes to mind, except that Cirque Du Soleil is art.

If you enjoy, delight in, can’t wait for and adore competitive cheer, I am extremely happy that you have found something to love. That is truly difficult in life.

If you are passionate about it, perhaps you should find a new category for it, where you can lift and kick and smile all on your own and claim this is something unique. That’s better marketing.

If, on the other hand, you want to call your recreation a sport, no one is going to stop you. But, I fear, few might so readily agree with you.

I leave the last word to a reader who will explain.

Today, she commented wisely: “It seems like the only people who think cheerleading is a sport are the cheerleaders.”

She added: “I know that and I’m twelve.”



Image: CommercialTVVId/YouTube Screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk



Write us your thoughts about this post. Be kind & Play nice.
  1. Kasara says:

    *Reposting comment here*
    Though I am pretty sure you are just a ‘troll’ as you seem very keen to ignore valid arguments against your original arguments as to why cheerleading isn’t a sport; I just couldn’t help myself and commented.

    …But dance is ‘officially’ a sport http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Association_of_IOC_Recognised_International_Sports_Federations

    And though this doesn’t affect me in Canada, in the USA, because cheerleading is not ‘officially’ considered a sport it brings up all kinds of safety issues as it is relatively unregulated in schools.

    As well those who say cheerleading isn’t a sport because winners are judged on performance and not on who has the highest score after directly scoring points in a hoop, net etc, does that then make gymnastics or figure skating not a sport either? I think the IOC and ARISF would disagree with you.

    In response to this “A bunch of ill-dressed soi-disant dancers were being presented as a legitimate alternative to people who set a ball, spike a ball and roll around on hard surfaces in an attempt to prevent that ball from hitting the ground” Us “ill-dressed soi-distant dancer” may not prevent a ball from hitting the ground but we do prevent a person from hitting the ground.

    Lastly, I do agree with you though that the NCAA, UCA, NCA, etc. are corrupt, and because of money try to prevent cheerleading from officially being recognized as a sport.

    • admin says:

      But isn’t one of the reasons that cheerleading wants to be called a sport money too?

      • Ashlyn says:

        Cheer wants to be called a sport because we work our butt off and get no credit. I would like to see the people that claim that cheer isn’t a sport be thrown in the air (while smilng and looking graceful), hit their stunts perfectly, and do a tumble pass including front punches, back handsprings, tucks, and fulls. Maybe even a double full. Once you’ve gone through the training it takes to be able to master that, then come tell me it’s not a sport.

        • admin says:

          You get plenty of credit. As do the performers in Cirque Du Soleil, Dancing With The Stars, the Golden State Warriors halftime show, and many, many pageants across this fair land.

          I don’t see them desperate to be called a sport.

  2. Ashlyn says:

    Dance is actually a sport, that doesn’t mean the show is. Just like ESPN itself is not a sport, but the things it shows (cheer for example) are sports. So nice try. The whole “Dancing with the Stars” thing is getting a bit old. And it makes you look desperate to defend an argument that you are losing. I actually do pageants and I wouldn’t consider them a sport. I guess if you wanted to you could call them a non athletic sport. Kind of like nascar… you compete but there is no athleticism involved. But that’s irrelevant because we’re not talking about pageants. We’re talking about cheer. And since there are whole sites dedicated to debating about whether or not cheer is a sport, we obviously don’t get enough credit. I don’t see anything like that up for football. The thing I love about cheer is that it’s creative. Cheer saw all those other sports tossing around a ball, and so of course it had to one up them and toss people. The football boys actually did stunts with us one time and really loved it. They were completely serious about it and gave us credit for doing what we do because it’s not easy. People that don’t do it don’t understand how hard it is. While standing on the sidelines clapping isn’t technically a sport, the tumbling and stunts we do at games still requires athleticism. And there are also many competitions for high school teams to attend. Our cheer room is full of trophies from past competitions. And as for “ill dressed” and “garb that a circus would wince at”… the boys from my generation seem to have no complaints, and I think their opinion is more relevant than an old man’s.

    • admin says:

      There is no athleticism in NASCAR? Hmm. Interesting. Not sure Dale Jr. would agree.

      Yes, tossing people is one-upping ball sports. It’s not easy being a tosser. However, you are familiar with dwarf-tossing, aren’t you? Is that a sport?

  3. Brittany says:

    Valid arguements, but beauty is in the eye of the beholder and if one sees pride in their own athleticism, they may proceed to boast about suceeding in this “sport”. Would you say cheerleaders are not considers athletes? Athletes and sports go hand in hand and cheer requires much physical and mental endurance, just as much as any other sport if not more. Dancing, gymnastics, agility and strength, cheer is one of the most physically demanding activities of all time. They want to be called a sport because of all the negativity. Not the comments claiming cheer isnt a sport. But the stereotypes slread, and the undedicated cheerleaders that enhance and encourage the stereotypes.
    16 year old, intelligent, virgin, hardworking, proud cheerleader
    Thank you

  4. anon says:

    I would like to start in saying that some people besides just cheerleaders do consider it to be a sport. Some, but not many.
    That said, who were the majority of people who fought for the Civil rights movement? The African Americans. Who were the majority of people who fought for women’s rights? Women. Of course most of the people that believe and defend that cheerleading is a sport are cheerleaders, because the situation directly affects us and it is something we care deeply about. Why? Because once again, it affects us and it’s what we believe in.
    Why are you so instant that it is not a sport that you must post blog posts on the subject and reply to nearly every comment with your defense? Same reason we defend ourselfs. I feel like you’re being hypocritical in saying we are “desperate,” because you seem pretty desperate aswell.
    Also, how in the world does what we wear affect whether it is a sport or not? As far as I- and anyone who has done their research- is concerned, cheerleading contains all of the elements that are officially required to be considered a sport. So although you may think we look ridiculous, that in no way affects what we do, and in my opinion makes your greatest defense irrelevant. We could go out in basketball uniforms if you would like, it wouldn’t change what we do. Vise versa, basketball players could go out in cheerleading uniforms, and it wouldn’t affect what they do. The outfit that an athlete wears in no way affects whether or not something should be considered a sport.

    • admin says:

      I have now seen it all. Cheerleading mentioned in comparison to the Civil Rights Movement. Well, of course.

      • anon says:

        That was merely an example of how usually only the people who are affected care. In no way was I trying to compare the two or downgrade a historic event. Sorry if I came across that way.
        That said, maybe that can give you a little insight on how we feel when you compare cheer to algebra.