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Cheerleading Is and Is Not a Sport

Depending on who you are talking to, cheerleading is and is not a sport. I’ve been having these conversations for 17 years.

I remember one conversation very clearly that I had at the supermarket with Mrs. B. ~the mother of one of Becky’s former elementary school classmates~ left me feeling both amused and redeemed.

Our daughters had been in the same homeroom, went to the same birthday parties, attended the same church groups and were both coached by their fathers on rival softball teams when Becky’s team beat her daughter’s team in the playoffs to end their perfect undefeated season.

But our daughters went to different middle and high schools and lost touch, though after six years it was fun to catch up with Mrs. B.

If you are a regular CHEERMaD reader, you know that Becky was an outstanding softball player who walked away from the popular sport for the lesser-known activity of Allstar cheerleading.

And nearly every day since (or so it seems) we’ve had to explain to someone what competitive cheerleading was all about.

“She’s a cheerleader, but doesn’t cheer for another team.”

“The cheerleading is the sport, not a support system for another sport.”

“She doesn’t cheer at any games.”

“It doesn’t have one season, it’s year round.”

“It’s a lot like dancing and gymnastics all rolled up into one.”

“No, they don’t have any cheers.”

So I felt both amused and redeemed when she said “You know that competitive cheerleading Becky used to do, it’s really catching on.”

Amused that she said it as if this was news when I’ve known it for ten years, and redeemed because she knew enough about it to call it “competitive cheerleading.”

Apparently, one of her daughter’s friends who had never cheered before but “was an outstanding athlete in high school” was going to try out for her college cheerleading squad this winter.

As more and more people discover what we CHEERMaDs have always known, we watch cheerleading grow in popularity as more and more athletes discover the excitement, the thrill, the on-the-edge-of-chaos-but-always-controlled, adrenaline rush that is Allstars.

The fact of the matter is, “Is it or isn’t cheer a sport?” isn’t a sport issue at all. It’s a civil law issue because it was left behind when Title IX was made law 44-years ago. Title IX states that: No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance (for more information go to Title IX and Sex Discrimination - US Department of Education


Back in 1972 when Title IX was established, most agree that cheerleading was indeed NOT a sport. So when "women's sports" were being designated softball, field hockey, volleyball, basketball and others made the cut. I've seen the interviews of former committee members, women saying that the pom-pom and megaphone sideline cheerleaders were participating in an activity at best, but cheerleading was clearly not a sport. But today cheer clearly and its athletes feel disrespected when they hear "cheer is not a sport."

There are lots of reasons change hasn’t happened, mostly motivated by money issues in my opinion (there's insurance to consider and there's also control issues of the $4 billion cheer industry). But for now, the state California is the only one that has legally established that cheerleading is a sport.

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