Cheerleading is a relatively new kind of sport that first appeared in American colleges. Its primary purpose was to encourage team members and entertain the audience, and it was not regarded as a separate sport. With time cheerleading has evolved into an independent activity, and nowadays, it is a part of sports competitions. This activity combines some tricks from aerobics, gymnastics, and trampoline with dance elements. Despite its growing popularity, advancement in many countries, and organization of cheerleading competitions, it has not achieved recognition at the collegiate level. In this paper, I would like to prove that cheerleading deserves sport status as well as to challenge some of the stereotypes connected with this kind of movement.
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First of all, when cheerleading first appeared in the USA as a response to harsh treatment in American colleges, it was not regarded as a sport, but the situation has changed. For recent years cheerleading has transformed into a competitive athletic activity that deserves sport status. Moreover, cheerleading complies with specific requirements that all sports should meet. For example, Chu states that cheerleading “has evolved into a competitive sport that is year-round, where cheerleaders execute a routine that is timed and performed within a certain area consisting of tumbling, jumps, stunting, and pyramids” (839). This characteristic proves that cheerleading can be treated as a sport because it includes competitiveness. In addition, cheerleading implies a certain routine which is present in almost every sport. For instance, gymnastics, basketball, and football have their own routine, and it appears to be a part of these sports. Hence, these arguments seem to be sufficient to recognize cheerleading as a kind of sport.
Secondly, some researchers note that cheerleading is an esthetic kind of sport. For instance, Stroescu considers that “this kind of movement blends into a smooth and graceful exercise, resulting in a particular physical manifestation, displayed by style, elegance, and class” (59). Despite the fact that some people view cheerleading as an art and not as a sport, Stroescu highlights that it has a physical manifestation that is inherent in every sport. Moreover, an aesthetic component exists in many movements, such as gymnastics. The presence of graceful and elegant elements does not automatically include an activity in the category of art. Thus, cheerleading should be classified as a sport, and performers deserve the right to be called athletes.
Furthermore, cheerleading appears to be a challenging activity that consists of various elements. Zhang describes that “pyramid, dance movements, transitional or connected slogans” are dangerous and difficult and “require higher competitive and technical skills” (87). This statement means that cheerleading possesses skillful and competitive characteristics that are an essential part of each sport. Moreover, it has its own set of elements that demand collective work and rehearsal. Like representatives of other sports, cheer performers are required to show skills that imply hard training throughout a year. Therefore, it can be concluded that cheerleading can be viewed as a kind of sport.
Moreover, cheerleading possesses certain features that other kinds of sport have. For example, it “takes the characteristics such as fitness, contest, team cooperation, entertainment, and creation” (Zhang 88). Cheerleaders demonstrate flexion, jumping, extension, and combine gestures and poses with expressive force. Coordination and flexibility are significant indicators that show a person’s physical condition. Moreover, the participants’ strength and endurance also play a crucial role in cheerleading performance. Hence, similarly to other sports, cheerleading develops various skills and contributes to strengthening a body. In addition, this kind of movement requires cooperation between its participants in the same way as other team sports, such as basketball and football. The element of contest is present in all other sports, and cheerleading is known as a highly competitive activity. Each year cheer competitions are held not only in the USA but in other countries around the world. As such, this fact also contributes to the cheerleading’s right to be considered as a sport.
Moreover, another reason why cheerleading deserves recognition lies in the fact that it has its uniform as all kinds of sports do. However, some people argue that short skirts and tops look revealing and consider such an outfit to be inappropriate for an athlete. On the other hand, the only requirement of a uniform is to be comfortable and not hinder movements (Perez 4). Furthermore, swimmers’ uniform consists only of trunks, glasses, and a hat, but it is not regarded as inappropriate and revealing. It seems to be unfair to impose specific attire requirements on cheerleading only because its participants are primarily women. No gender stereotypes should interfere in sports, and males and females should be treated equally. Hence, that is why a cheerleading uniform should be regarded as a proper outfit for an athlete because it is comfortable for performing elements.
Besides, every sport implies various injuries, and cheerleading is no exception. According to Eckley, both the flyers and the base encounter injuries when performing various skills (2). The sport of cheerleading is based on different stunts, which may be highly dangerous. Some of the most common injuries received by performers include the neck, knee, and ankle ones (Eckley 3). In this respect, cheerleaders can be compared to figure skaters and gymnasts since they are affected by ground reaction forces and suffer from similar injuries. Consequently, if one can draw a parallel between cheerleaders and participants of other kinds of sports, it can be concluded that cheerleading deserves sport status.
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In addition, one of the crucial features of each sport is its recognition by authoritative sports organizations. Eckley suggests that “Cheerleading made a major stride in December of 2016, when the International Olympic Committee decided to officially recognize cheerleading as a sport” (1). International Olympic Committee is responsible for organizing the Olympic Games, and it appears to be a credible organization. Moreover, there are other international organizations such as the Romanian Majorettes Association (AMR) and the European Majorettes Association (EMA), whose existence serves as a certification of this movement (Stroescu 59). The fact that credible international organizations acknowledge cheerleading as a sport provides grounds to state that it deserves widespread recognition. In addition, since 1997, ESPN has been broadcasting international cheerleading competition. As a result, this also contributes to the right of cheerleading to get the official status of a sport.
All in all, cheerleading is a controversial issue because some organizations fail to acknowledge it as an official sport. There are also certain prejudices and stereotypes about this movement that are to be eliminated. It has been proven that this activity meets certain elements that constitute a sport. Cheerleading features its uniform and includes such characteristics as competitiveness, entertainment, fitness, and cooperation. Its participants suffer from injuries that are present in other kinds of sports. Furthermore, it is recognized by some authoritative organizations, and it is a part of annual sports competitions. Thus, it is evident that this kind of movement deserves sport status and respect.
Chu, Stephanie. “Cheerleading.” Sports-related Fractures, Dislocations and Trauma. Springer, 2020, pp. 839-841.
Eckley, Kacy. “The Physics of Cheerleading: Force Production of Cheerleading Stunts.” 2018.
Perez, Fatima, et al. “The Social Implications of Cheerleading.” (2016).
Stroescu, Silvia Alexandra. “Characteristics of Cheerleading as a Sport.” Discobolul, vol. 12, no. 1 (43), 2016, p. 59-63.
Zhang, LingLing. “The special characteristics and the prospect forecast of cheerleading.” Sports Engineering and Computer Science: Proceedings of the International Conference on Sport Science and Computer Science (SSCS 2014), Singapore, Vol. 1. CRC Press, 2015.