Dear Spirit Post: Is Cheerleading a Sport? IV

I love common sense. Yes, with my background it is very tempting to try to sound smart and savvy by citing such things as the United States Department of Education Office for Civil Right’s documented procedures on determining if an activity is a sport that meets Title IX requirements, text from Title IX of the Educational Amendments of 1972 (or officially the Patsy T. Mink Equal Opportunity in Education Act), the Women’s Sports Foundation’s definition for a sport, or the most recent Quinnipiac University trial, but that would be boring and exhausting. What Thomas Paine figured out over two centuries ago is that most folks are common and we just want things to make sense. In honor of this, I will give it a try.

I am sure every high school English teacher has read many papers stating that cheerleading is a sport. There has been much debate in many classrooms across the country about this subject, but we are talking about this today because of a trial that got national press because it questioned if cheerleading was a sport under Title IX requirements. Actually, Quinnipiac University was under fire from some members of the recently axed women’s volleyball team. The judge in the case was asked to review many supposed violations of the university. Volleyball representatives said that they did not want a traditional women’s sport (volleyball) to die because of the school’s many violations of Title IX. The school said they had met the number requirements for Title IX, but according to the volleyball team of researchers, some track athletes were triple counted and the school had various other Title IX violations. Common sense – volley ball got cut and players, coaches, alumni got mad. Solution 1 = Fire somebody and have a pool party for the cheerleaders and volleyball players. Solution 2 = If one has to be cut, poll incoming female students to see which activity they are more interested in and continue that one in respect of the whole point of Title IX. Neither of those happened.

What happened is that everyone got lawyered up and took themselves to court. This case got national press because of its Title IX implications, because Jeff Webb testified as an expert witness for the volleyball team, and because it may end years of nasty debates between cheerleading sisters and their football playing brothers.

So to the question, “Is cheerleading a sport.” Cheerleaders sweat, run, tumble, lift, throw, catch, perform, compete, win, lose, and a lot more. OK, so we all agree that cheerleaders are athletes and that they can be competitive, but I think the better question is, “Why are we asking if cheerleading is a sport?” I know the cheer industry crew is worried that sideline cheerleading will be hurt and competitive cheerleading will have regulations like seasons, competition circuits, local meets, regional meets, and state meets, and so forth placed on them by some old men in an office that have no clue what cheerleading is. To those who propose that argument I would say go into a dry wheat field with a small cup of gasoline, light it, knock it over, and now try to control it. It is not possible.

See cheerleading is like that out of control fire. Cheerleading is what it is today because of the major benefits that it gives to its participants. Years ago it was popular to be a cheerleader, but now it is so much more. It only takes a little experience in the activity before the participant gains a clear understanding of the benefits. It bears no label because it is unlike any other activity. If it is ruled a sport by some judge and requirements that we do not like are placed on it, do you think it will change or stop? No! Just like that fire, it will weave around and seem to leap over those little obstacles and keep on burning. We just will have to change the name to Yayleading and wait for the next trial when we might have to change it again.

Lance Armstrong is racing in the Tour, my friend is riding his bike in a triathlon this weekend, Jamie Bestwick won X-Games by flipping around like crazy on his bike, and my 7 year old son just rode his bike by my 3 year old neighbor who was peddling her tricycle. Is that a sport? Does it matter? I mean people have been riding them since the 1880’s. They are competing, exercising, and/or having fun. I bet a few centuries ago two old baseball players saw a couple of kids riding a bike to throw rocks in a creek and asked if that was a sport. Laughter most likely followed.

Common sense time again. Research has constantly shown that kids that are involved in groups in their schools have more confidence, are more likely to graduate, have better self-esteem, and even are less likely to abuse drugs and are more likely to avoid teenage pregnancy. Activities that require athleticism, furthermore, can reduce fat, build muscle, reduce risks of heart disease and high blood pressure, and prevent other health complications. The bottom line is that they are good for you. Cheerleading is overwhelmingly popular and therefore many kids want to get involved. It offers this benefit to millions of cheerleaders from the local YMCA to Worlds to the sidelines of pro football teams. The bottom line is that cheerleading is good for you! That’s COMMON SENSE!

I think cheerleading is cheerleading. It transcends above other activities. Sure I could call it a mere sport among other things, but that might just limit it. Let us all just be good sports and in the name of sportsmanship we can sport our cheerleading uniforms to our own and other sporting events and make a sport out of arguing the age old question, “Is cheerleading a sport?”


P.S. This is Part IV of responding to the question Is Cheerleading a Sport?