HigherEdMorning.comIs cheerleading a sport? Why colleges hope so

Is cheerleading a sport? Why colleges hope so

July 23, 2009 by Geneva Reid
Posted in: In this week's e-newsletter, Student Life

They practice hard, and they have coaches – but is cheerleading a sport?

It probably depends on whose definition you’re using.

No doubt, most cheerleaders would tell you it’s a sport – just like gymnastics. But according to federal law, an activity can’t be considered a sport unless competition is its main goal.

And while many cheerleading squads participate in competitions, some say their primary function is supporting other athletic teams.

So here’s the interesting twist: It’s the law – specifically Title IX – that’s causing some colleges to call cheerleading a sport. Why? It’s a less expensive way of complying.

Take a look at Quinnipiac University. The Connecticut school decided to cut its women’s volleyball team this spring in an effort to save money. But controversy erupted when it proposed replacing the team by elevating cheerleading to a varsity sport.

Hard to blame the school, from a dollars and cents point of view:

  • Last season, Quinnipiac’s volleyball team had a budget of more than $70,000 for 11 players – that works out to $6,300 per team member.
  • The cheerleading squad’s budget was around $50,000 for 40 participants – about $1,250 per person.

So it still comes back to the question: Is cheerleading a sport? Or maybe, as in the case of Quinnipiac University, are schools willing to call it a sport just so they can get rid of costlier women’s teams?  

What do you think? Let us know in the comments section below.

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  • Laurie

    I have only two words in reply: “puh-leese!”

  • Patricia

    Not bloody likely.

  • http://HigherEdMorning.com Nanette

    Cheerleaders should most definately be considered a sport. They work out as hard as
    other sports and support all sports yet are never given any recognition. Their budgets are
    never sufficient to pay for the expenses incurred. Quinnipiac should be ashamed of the
    budget they have for 40 cheerleaders. As a mom of a cheerleader I know why the
    cheer budgerts are always so cheap, because it comes out of the parent’s pockets!

  • Mark

    $50,000 for a cheerleading squad are you kidding me! They don’t even have a football team.
    What do they cheer at – 15 basketball games a year. Who even watches them anymore. The student sections and their cheers provide more entertainment.

  • Alex

    Cheerleading – as its name suggest – is the act of leading the audience in cheering for a team. Cheereladers are part of the audience that cheers especially hard. Yet, cheerleaders are part of the audience, not of a team. Note that some members of the audience who are not part of a formal cheerleading team may cheer hard, too (I have done that); these people are still audience. Being part of the audience does not constitute practicing a sport :-)

  • Tori White

    Absolutely. The young women and men are athletes in every sense of the word. It’s a sport and should be recognized as one. I would want to see a football player or soccer player try to perform a stunt or complete an entire routine with exact precision.

  • Alex

    Well, dancers complete complex routines, too, but this does not mean dancing is a sport.

  • Andrea

    It absolutely is a sport. These girls AND guys practice as many hours as any varsity team. They have been underated and overlooked. The sport may have STARTED as “just cheering”, but the sport has been elevated to complex movements and local and national competitions. I also might add that it’s considered the #1 most dangerous SPORT for high schoolers now in the medical community. Don’t get me started on the cost – parents pay thousands of dollars not just for uniforms, but for outside gymnastics and dance lessons, travel, choreographers and music mixers! This is definitely a Varsity Sport!! (oh, and dancing is also a sport. Trust me, my daughter is a POM and it ain’t what it used to be. All my comments about cheer apply here)

  • Beth

    Cheerleading absolutely should be considered a sport. There are many schools that have Cheer squads solely for the purpose of competition and they bring in a lot of recognition for their school and community. The whole cheerleading industry is growing tremendously as more and more validated competitions are evolving and as mandatory skills and training are required of it’s participants. Competative cheerleading is a grueling sport that uses all muscle groups and requires strength, endurance and precision. Many other “sports” may require some, but not all. Give the young men and women who participate in this SPORT the credit they are due. Its high time they are acknowledged for their skill and team worth.

  • Ramon

    Cheerleading is not a sport… it’s a recreational activity. It’s a hobby. It *can* be a competition. But it is not a sport. A sport is directly oppositional and requires a system of scoring independent of subjective opinion of style.

    The athleticism required in cheerleading is irrelevant in the matter.

  • Pam

    Everyone seems to be missing the point that the university is using this ploy to enable them to discontinue support of a recognized, competitive women’s team sport. Give me a break! Are we going back to the 1950′s? What are you going to tell the volleyball players? “Go join the cheerleading squad”??

  • Cheerleading sucks

    If the winner is always left in the judges hand and never has the chance to be determined by the contestants it is not a sport.

  • Henry

    I think labels are not necessary. By main definition of sport, as in strictly for competition, then Cheer is not a sport, but with all the things cheerleaders do they are considered athletes. Cheerleaders workout as much as athletes do in college. They have set workouts and practices each week to help better their skills and strength. They have more on their plate as to be the face of the University. Cheerleaders get recognized just as much as other athletes do and a lot of the time they do their own fundraising to pay for expenses. Yes they do lead the crowd in cheers for their team, but they do it in style. Cheerleaders at the college level are like gymnasts. I know for a fact that our University requires cheerleaders to be able to tumble and they show it during games. I think that schools should just recognize Cheerleading as a sport but not use it to replace an existing sport. Students on the cheer squad are considered student athletes and by that fact Cheer is a sport.

  • Michael

    If a sport is “A sport is directly oppositional and requires a system of scoring independent of subjective opinion of style.” as Raymond suggests then Gymnastics and diving are not sports either. What are they doing in the Olympics?

  • Kelly

    IF established sports are being eliminated for women due to cost and this is the proposed replacement it is unacceptable. If cheerleading is not considered a sport merely because mostly women due it in cute skirts than that is also unacceptable. Cutting out women’s teams to promote cheerleading instead sends the wrong message to our young women and is not the intention of the law nor in their best interests. Yes it is a sport but it is not an okay replacement for more established women’s competivie sports, so we must classify as not being one. If their is a way to take advantage of a situation administrations will to cut costs in this economy. The point of liberal education is a well rounded education not just a vocational track pursuit.

  • Riki

    Interesting how those who think cheerleading is a sport are mostly women, while those who think it is not are mostly men. Why is that? Do the guys feel that the realm of “sport” should be purely masculine and cheerleading is too feminine to be considered a “sport”? Why is the athleticism required in cheerleading irrelevant? It requires more strength and stamina than, say, golf, yet that is considered a “sport”. The dictionary defines sport as “an athletic activity requiring skill or physical prowess, often (but not always) of a competitive nature”. Sounds like cheerleading qualifies.

  • Autumn

    Ramon, are you familiar with cheerleading scoring systems? They function very similarly to gymnastics scoring, with precise values for difficultly, form, and incorporation of certain skills and elements. Do you then believe gymnastics should not be a sport because it is not directly “against” someone as is football or baseball? Why do you consider “games” to be sports, but not other athletic endeavors?

    I think the classification of cheerleading as a sport will help the cheerleaders in most cases to get better funding and support, so I believe it is a good idea. However, I do not think universities should get rid of other sports and then make this change to save their skins. In most situations cheerleading is co-ed anyway, so this would not help with title IX compliance.

  • Ken

    Cheerleading is a sport. My colleague’s daughter trained for years. She is very fit and talented. When she suffered an injury, her team lost the state competition. Doesn’t that sound like a sport to you?

    Cheerleading is a physical activity that takes great skill, training and physical conditioning. Many young women aspire to participate in this sport and work very hard to do so. In my experience the people who resist calling it a sport a feminists who don’t think women should engage in such traditional activities. Why should these bitter old women determine what today’s women do with their time?

  • Michelle

    Alex says: “Cheerleading – as its name suggest – is the act of leading the audience in cheering for a team. Cheereladers are part of the audience that cheers especially hard. Yet, cheerleaders are part of the audience, not of a team. Note that some members of the audience who are not part of a formal cheerleading team may cheer hard, too (I have done that); these people are still audience. Being part of the audience does not constitute practicing a sport.”
    Do you see “audience” members throwing a girl 20 feet in the air? Does the “audience” practice 4 times a week, wake up at 5:30am for morning workouts, go to every football/basketball/volleyball game and practice twice a day on top of all that (during the whole Christmas break, mind you) to compete at Nationals?? I would LOVE to see an ordinary audience member try to cheer at a game-flips and stunts included. I just hope an ambulance would be nearby…..

  • KMack

    Cheer leading requires athletic ablilty and time to practice. But the main purpose of cheering is to cheer and to support, not compete. Those who beleive cheerleading is a sport are cheer leaders and their parents. Sorry Girls/Guys. Nice try. Colleges and Universities that try to rationalize this a sport are doing just that, RATIONALIZE.!!! NICE TRY. This conversation has been going on for some time now, if it was a sport, there would be very very little conversation. It would speak for itself. Now don’t get me wrong, cheerleaders are important for some schools and sporting events. But the games still go on without them.

  • Rita

    For years as a cheerleader (through junior-high and high-school) I trained in: gymnastics, dance, flexibility/stretching, long-distance running, stunts, cheer, and weights. We won regional competitions. The training was serious and I still apply what I learned during my cheerleading days to my current lifestyle. As a 42 year old adult, I am much more fit, toned, flexible, and coordinated than most of the women (and men) my age who were into “official” sports as young adults. Cheerleading is a sport.

  • Cheerleading sucks

    Cheerleaders may be considered athletes just like a gymnast can be considered an athlete but what they do is not a sport. It can only be considered a sport when the players are allowed to determine the outcome on their own and actually are on the field, mat, ice, etc.. at the same time competing against each other.

  • Elizabeth

    As a former cheerleader and award winning coach I say that “yes” cheerleading is a sport. Squads practice as many hours as other team, have workout sessions in the weight room outside of practice and are required to have difficult stunts as part of their programs in order to be considered for competition…these stunts do not happen if your squad is in poor physical condition. Teams do determine their outcome at competitions and without the proper training, you cannot sustain the level of energy needed to win. You also much have the team bond that all teams require to be a winning squad. Not to mention that not only are squads working towards competitions, they are also cheering at games 2, 3 even 4 nights a week, depending on the season.

    Bottom line with this question is that it will forever be debated. Unfortunately because of the way teams like the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders are portrayed, it has become a “sex symbol” sport…that is shameful on the part of those people that can’t see the talent behind the glamor that makes a cheerleader an athlete.

  • Pat

    If cheerleading is a “sport”, then so is marching band. Band members must practice their routines, like cheerleaders. Bands cheer on the team and fire up the spectators, like cheerleaders. Bands perform in competitions, and bands also entertain. Band practice and performances, whether competition or not, are grueling – those of you that laugh at this try carrying(gracefully) a tuba or bass drum on a hot afternoon, while playing a song that you had to learn (no music sheets allowed), while also performing the choreography that you had to memorize. Doesn’t sound so easy now, does it?

    I don’t deny that cheerleading is an extremely athletic endeavour, and its participants are dedicated and deserving of recognition for that. I feel that “sports” denotes activities where competition is the main thrust.

  • Michelle

    Gymnastics is a sport, but judges determine the outcome…It’s the same way with cheerleading. Skills are awarded certain point values and if you are good, you will win, plain and simple.

  • Corey

    Cheerleading should definetely be considered a sport. They put in the same hours of practice and the same time commitment during the competitions as the competitive athletes. I admit that it is not as competitive as some other sports, or as physically demanding as some sports, but it is also more demanding that some sports such as golf.

    Now with that all said, the most important reason that it should be considered a sport is with regards to Title IX interpretation. In the actual wording of Title IX, it states that you cannot discriminate in extracurricular activities based on gender, sex, race, etc. However, the current interpretation of this has led to the decimation of many men’s sports teams across the country. Because football teams have so many players and the head coaches command much larger salaries than other coaches, it completely disrupts the math that is used to determine whether a school is Title IX compliant or not. If you were to count cheerleading in the formula (which as an extracurricular activity it should) then this would help balance out the proportionality in the athletic department, at least in numbers of participants if not in budgets.

    The article showed an example where a school used the cheerleading team as an excuse to drop the volleyball team. I don’t feel this type of justification is right as this is the same excuse that has been used to drop hundreds of wrestling, men’s gymnastics, men’s swimming & diving, and many more teams since 1979. It isn’t right for the men’s teams to be dropped just to fit a proportionality clause, and it isn’t right for a women’s team to be dropped either. I understand that if there is no funding, then a school may have to drop teams. Fine. Let them be responsible for their own fundraising, but don’t just drop them to try and comply with a federal law that was originally created to increase opportunities for young men and women, but instead has simply punished thousands of athletes that were denied the opportunity to participate in collegiate athletics.

    Counting cheerleading as part of the criterion to meet Title IX proportionality would go a long way to easing some of the burdern felt by many men’s athletic teams, but care should be taken that schools don’t just use it as an excuse to get rid of women’s teams in the same manner.

  • Annie

    Come on. Everyone one knows the cheapeset way to deal with compliance issues is to add women’s bowling!!!!!

  • Cheerleading sucks

    Elizabeth – Your wrong is saying that the cheerleaders can determine the outcome, the Judges do. They never dtermine the outcome!

    the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders are exactly what all cheerleaders should be! Entertainment Only!

  • josh

    To me, cheerleading is a dance squad rather than a sport. I also agree with the federal law’s definition about sports. Otherwise, anything can become a sport.

  • John

    Yes, Cheerleading is a sport, and Ketchup is a vegetable!

  • Janet

    Is cheerleading a sport? Good question. I think so. Here’s why. If curling is a sport and rhythmic gymnastics is a sport, I think cheerleading should be considered a sport, too. But why stop here… let’s ask the debate team!

  • davidk

    Let’s put it to the test. Petition the International Olympic Committee to make cheerleading a sport. After they pick themselves off the floor from overwhelming laughter and ask you which sport in the Olympic repertoire is to be replaced, tell them, “Gymnastics.” That should really floor them.

    Face it. This cheerleading proposal is nothing more than Title IX compliance on the cheap that has done irreparable damage to men’s athletics and is now doing the same harm on the women’s side.

  • Ramon

    No, Miguel, you are right. Gymnastics and diving are not sports either. They’re athletic endeavors where the winners are determined by subjective interpretation of style and execution. Their inclusion in the Olympics have nothing to do with their standing as sports. They’re athletic competitions. Sports are athletic endeavors where the victors are decided by scoring systems independent of opinion (Distance, Time, Points awarded by rules- not people).

    Games – Chess, Poker
    Hobbies – Stamp Collecting
    Athletic competitions – Cheerleading, Diving, Gymnastics
    Non-Athletic competition – Pageantry
    Sports – Track, Field, Basketball, Water Polo, Tennis

  • W. Matta

    Why do some of the world’s most popular sports events not have cheerleaders? Consider soccer, baseball, hockey, track & field, and the Olympics, the last of which includes events that in some venues do include cheerleaders. It’s clear that cheerleading, apart from the question as to whether it is a sport, is indeed an important attendant activity to some sports, part of the grand spectacle to which many other participants also belong. But what about the stadium vendors and concessionaires? They need quick reflexes and conditioning to do their jobs well, and they’re part of the experience if not the spectacle. What about the security personnel? What about the fans themselves, who must endure traffic, long lines, and admission prices, and who must sit attentively in order not to miss plays that the at-home viewer may see over and over again via instant replays and recordings? Yes, cheerleaders are an important part of many sporting experiences. Does that make them athletes?

  • Tyson

    Who cares? The association between big-time sports and universities constitutes just one of the many idiotic characteristics of our mediocre educational system–a system that is rapidly converting us into a second-world nation. Get rid of all the sports crap is what I say, and turn higher education into a government-provided service, as it is in more enlightened areas of the world.

  • Just Mike

    Is “Band” a sport? They have competitions, cheer on the football team at games, and even letter. I agree that the Olympics are not a litmus test for “sports” after watching “ribbon twirling” or what ever they call that.

  • TheIssue

    Cheerleaders are athletic; some might claim they are athletes, some may not – both are correct. The issue is that Federal Law has interpreted cheerleading to be an ACTIVITY, not a sport. If cheerleading would become a sport it would need to be regulated like other sports. This may not be a bad thing considering the deaths and catastrophic injuries that keep occuring from throwing people in the air over hard wood floors or 3 inch mats. Personally, I dont think its a sport, but if people are being maimed and dying from participating – to save lives, sure, lets call it a sport and REGULATE it.

    Note, in the SPORT of gymnastics, the mats have to be at least 6 inches thick, if not – more. Why? Because its REGULATED by a governing body concerned about its participants.

    As far as universities go: The NCAA has NOT declared CHEERLEADING an emerging sport. How a university can add an ACTIVITY like cheerleading and drop an established SPORT like VB and claim they comply with Title IX is not a very intelligent claim.


  • DM

    If the university requires its cheerleading squad to regularly participate in competitions, then it is as much a sport as gymnastics, diving, or ice skating.

    I don’t see anything wrong with optimizing the athletic budget while trying to satisfy Title IX requirements. Sports such as equestrian involve mostly women, but are very expensive per student. I say better to spend that on women’s soccer or field hockey, which are much cheaper per student.

  • Laurent Hodges

    I think the William Lowell Putnam Competition in math definitely counts as a sport according to the definition given in this article. It has coaches (usually math professors), teams chosen through competitive exams, and a national competition, awarding first place, etc., both for individuals and teams, all published (along with the exams and the solutions to the problems). The competition, of course, is the main and only goal of the Putnam.

  • Lynn

    Cheerleading differs from dance and gymnastics in that it simultaneously involves yelling vapid slogans, which is certainly a skill higher education wants its students to acquire. Interestingly, competitive cheerleading is divorced from actual games about which to cheer, disconnecting the vapid slogans from any connection to reality.

    Many new sports become possibilities if we accept cheerleading as a sport. For example, in trash-talk basketball points are awarded both for making baskets and for creative insults. In existential track, the winner of the 100 meter dash is the person who runs the fastest while simultaneously presenting the most entertaining re-enactment of the Myth of Sisyphus.

  • Eric

    Cheerleading should be considered a sport only if the school treats it as a sport, meaning 35 to 60 percent of its events are actively competition-based. This an extremely demanding and physical activity that in competition and sanctioned practices requires the presence of medically qualified personnel, due to the risk of injuries to the participants. If a school is treating it as a competitive sport, then they are also incurring far more expenses than a cheap $50,000. budget would ever cover. The trade-off for a competitive Volleyball team and a competitive Chearleading team should be much more even in the per team and per person categories. A school must not think highly of its sporting students if they are looking to cheat the students out of competitive equity. In regards to the personal costs that a family must bear (uniforms, training gear, doctors care for minor and major injuries, etc.) that few other “sports” participant must bear on the competitive level, competitive cheerleaders have paid and are paying their price have it qualified as a sport.

  • WeinerDog

    Cheerleading is not a sport, but eating is. Consider: competitive eating requires rigorous training, physical and mental challenge, has many different variations (hotdogs vs. donuts, for example), has cash awards, and has international competitions (won frequently and rather paradoxically by slender Japanese kids). I for one would be proud to have my alma mater represented internationally by a true athlete able to shove the greatest number of damp hot dogs down their gizzards without choking to death in 5 minutes. Truly a blood sport in my book. Further, there are no gender, ethnic, disability, or religious biases in competitive eating. All you need is a mouth and an extremely elastic stomach (trained to peak capacity of course). What could be more quintessentially American that shoving 15 apple pies down one’s pie-hole? Consider also that teams of competitive eaters would not require much in the way of equipment, uniforms (aside from a patriotic bib), and possibly augmented health insurance. Another plus: they could be supported by a really top-notch cheerleading squad when they’re not busy with “other” sports…

  • Georgia

    Working for an athletic department and dealing with all sports and their budgets I can confidently say that cheerleading is a sport. You can’t compare it to Band. These men and women have to follow the same rules as those who participate in all of the other sports programs. They have to make the grade requirement for most colleges, they have a strict workout regimen, continuous practices and the stunts that they do require a lot of skill in order to keep themselves and their teammates safe. They assume a great risk as one of the most common injuries in cheerleading is a head injury. In their sport they can tear their ACL, dislocate their shoulders or break their back just as easily as those who participate in full contact sports such as wrestling or football, only they have no protective equipment on.

  • Eric Paul Ewen

    I definitely believe that cheerleading is a sport. In fact, it is a very dangerous sport. Over the past 30 years or so, cheerleading has led to more deaths and catastrophic injuries among college athletes than any other sport. Gynmastics–a close relative of cheerleading–is a close second in that regard. Especially after watching collegiate cheerleading competitions on TV, I have acquired a profound respect for the hard work, practice, dedication, natural athleticism, imagination and courage required of cheerleaders to perform their daring and complicated routines. I say God bless ‘em.

  • Rich

    If you watch any sport related television, you will find that Poker Tournaments as well as Competitive Eating Tournaments are considered sports. So, why not cheerleading?!? Its more athletic than poker and eating!!!!!!

  • http://internet Janice

    I agree & disagree with some of the comments it all depends on how you look at cheerleaders, some think that they are hairheaded girls according to the sterotypes out there who have label them as such & a lot as to do with movies that we see keep in mind that some of these girls do act out the name label that’s given to them. But this is not the cheerleaders of today they are made up of both girls & boys (yes boys & these boys are all men). I do strongly believe that it should be considered a sport because they work very hard training, they get injured & they spent long hours perfecting their work because majority do attend intsense competions so they deserve to be recognized in the sports arena as such ” sport team”.

  • http://www.osuit.edu Bubbette

    Women’s Bowling and Competitive Eating do make better sense for meeting Title IX requirements and saves a lot more money.
    But I really think, to end this controversy, let’s make the new sport of Swim-Tackle Cheerleading.
    Cheerleaders perform their competitive routines/stunts, while running down a football field and trying to avoid getting tackled by women swimmers in bikinis. They gain points every 10 yards or 30 seconds without being tackled or by thowing the perfect “10″ body block to a swimmer without dropping the point girl who is also carrying a football. Of course there would be no protective gear, as in cheerleading right now.
    I could even see it in the Olympics, some day, or at least as another Vince McMann SPORT (he’s the billionaire Pro-Wrestling magnate).

  • Laurie

    I have read all of the comments. If we defined cheerleading as a sport then anyone could stretch the point and make anything a sport. The bottom line is that the term “sport” denotes “gaming”, “head to head”, “person to person”, “team to team” DIRECT competition–a CONTEST–with points, rules and a drive to win. Why can’t the university just categorize cheerleading as an athletic activity whose “prime directive” is to enhance the spirit of the CONTEST (GAME) and provide entertainment at the university’s SPORTING events. There are plenty of activities that require physical strength, endurance, practice, hours, uniforms, money, etc., etc., etc. Hot dog eating can be considered a sport because it is a CONTEST. Bottom line: “SPORT” = “CONTEST”. No “CONTEST” – No “SPORT” Cheerleading is NOT a sport.

  • GetThePoint

    The original article is quite clear about the motivations behind redefining cheerleading as a “sport”: to spend less money on women’s sports. That undermines the original intention of Title IX, which was invented to give women an equal opportunity to participate in sports: universities have long preferred to continue with the practice of spending lavishly on men’s sports, partly to bring in money from alums; traditionally women don’t make as much money as men anyway, so from a fundraising perspective, that has just made sense, and though of course times have changed, those who would be just as glad if they didn’t are going to cling to the old ways and try to conceal the need for continuing improvement in gender equality. Cheerleading might be best defined as a set of public rituals and spectacles supporting MALE dominance in sports, and involving various acrobatic stunts, traditionally and most frequently performed by women deemed to be highly attractive in patriarchal terms, in the interest of expressing symbolic support for men. To call that a “sport,” to sneak it in under the radar of Title IX, is utterly wrong under the original intention of that act because its ultimate purpose is to provide an excuse to continue the traditional valuation of gender in sport: males dominant, females subordinate.

  • lefty

    Doing a backflip or two or throwing someone in the air and catching them does not qualify you as a gymnast and anyone comparing cheerleading to gymnastics is a fool. Any 8-year-old Level 8 competitive gymnast can tumble circles around any completitive cheerleader with her eyes closed, while on a beam or parallel bar.

  • Laurie

    The definition is the definition. Facts are facts. The sky is blue, the grass is green no matter what kind of SPIN you put on it. Facts are NOT maleable. Facts stand alone. We are a spin culture. We no longer know what a fact even is.

  • Norman

    Allowing cheerleading to be defined as a sport, in order to get around Title IX will cause a great harm to the advancement of women’s sport. I wonder what the cost per player for men’s basketball, volleyball or other sports (not sure if Quinnipiac has a football team) are. Are the women’s volleyball costs per player seen as out of whack with comparable men’s sports.

    This is a transparent attempt at abrogating Title IX taken in the name of fiscal responsibility. Colleges and University have had to be forced by law to support women’s sports, and as a result women’s sports have found audiences and supporters.

    Let me be clear that I do consider cheerleaders to be athletes, but I also consider dancers to be athletes. Being an athlete does not mean that you are participating in a sport.

  • Mark

    You’re just making the question difficult, in terms of semantics.

    Cheerleading, as it’s name implies, and as was earlier pointed out, does not refer to a sport.
    Many of the arguments that say it is a sport could be applied to the marching band equally,
    but when performing for the audience, it is a performance, but not a sport.

    WHEN THEY ARE COMPETING, then it is a sport.
    WHEN THEY ARE COMPETING, they may well have cheerleaders of their own on the sidelines.
    For both a Cheering Squad and a band, when they are competing, they are in front of judges, much like gymnastics.

    So, sometimes it is, and sometimes it isn’t. And a school can definitely treat the one part of the activity as a sport it is supporting and competing in and budgeting for.

  • Didi

    Aren’t most cheer teams co-ed? Would only women be allowed to be on the cheer team? Or would only the women on the cheer team be eligible for scholarships? That seems discriminatory, too.

    Cheer team members are certainly athletes, but being an athlete and being part of a qualified sports team are two different things. A sport is an organized athletic event with regularly scheduled games or matches that are overseen by a conference or similar entity. Intramural teams would not meet this requirement, and neither would cheerleading unless there were regular competitions, scoring, etc. supervised by the NCAA, a conference or similar entity. And any team that is or has the potential of becoming a co-ed team should not be a replacement for a male or female team sport.

  • Response to “Get the Point”

    What is “subordinate” about women’s sports? Its true their budgets are small, like all non-revenue sports, but whose fault is that?

    If every feminist who says she or he supports women’s sport and complains bitterly about its funding actually bought a ticket, they would sell out every game. In fact these people almost never attend any sporting events female or male.

    How many women’s athletic events have you actually bought a ticket to in the last year?

    I am a season women’s basketball ticket holder and regularly pay to attend women’s soccer and volley ball games AND I contribute to support the Cheerleaders becasue they are great athletes and work hard.

  • GetThePoint

    In response to “Response to”: Your ad feminam argument is incorrectly guessed. If I weren’t personally involved in women’s sports, I would have little interest in commenting on this topic. But what I do, or any other individual does, is not the point except insofar as blaming the feminist is a popular strategy a la Rush Limbaugh. I wish I thought you were right when you say that if every feminist who “complains bitterly” attended sports events the financial problem would be solved, but instead it seems likelier that attacks on feminism have the opposite effect on potential audience members for women’s sports. Who wants to be involved with anything contaminated by “bitter complainers”? Those with season tickets or those without?

    At any rate, here is a position statement on cheerleading (and drill teams etc.) as “sports” from the Women’s Sports Foundation.


    Note that this statement correctly describes cheerleading and other such elements as “secondary” and unnecessary to the actual competition itself–unless the MAIN function of such teams is competition among themselves, which removes the subordination effect, i.e. that they are on the playing field not to play but to elicit support for those who do.

  • KMack

    After reading the responses, I still hold the opinion that most who believe that cheerleading is a sport are current/former cheerleaders/coaches/parents. School officials, that have finacial/political motives to make cheerleading a sport is ok with me, then call it what it is. Ulterior Motives!! That I am ok with. Again, if it were a sport, we would not have all this dialogue. It would speak for it’s self. Is a Spelling Bee a sport?

  • Response to “Get the Point”

    My point is sound. If women were interested in and supported women’s sports, they would easily pay for themselves. Tickets to our school’s women’s events are at most $4 a game. Very few women will even spend that little amount to attend.

    You may be involved in women’s sports, but I’ll note you did not say how many tickets you actually purchased. Not very many I’ll bet. Let’s complain some more about how women’s sports are second class.

  • Laurie

    Dear KMack, If spelling bee were a sport then I don’t think you would qualify to be on the team. “Itself” NOT “It’s self” !!!!!!!!!!!

  • GetThePoint

    To “Response”: This is not a discussion about women’s sports being “second class.” This is a discussion about universities attempting to ratchet down expectations, and funding, for women by defining cheerleading AS a sport. The “second-class” status of the cheerleader on the field is obvious and intentional: the function of the cheerleader is to support the team and to elicit support for the team, which makes the team primary and the cheerleader secondary. I didn’t make it that way. If you read the statement from the Women’s Sports Foundation, you will see the language and the reasoning there as well. Pointing out the obvious is not the source of the problem, attacking the messenger is not the remedy, and fixating on consumers is a narrow and ineffective view of the reasons OR remedies for inequality.

  • Response to “Get the Point”

    My point exactly. This is NOT a discussion about women’s sports being second class, so why did YOU bring it up and suggest that this is the “point” we should “get?”

    The real point is that cheerleading is a valuable sport that takes real practice and dedication. If young women and men want to do it, we should support them and subsidize them the way we do other sports. The fact that you don’t value it is irrelevant. Many skilled young people DO value it and it is their efforts we should aid.

    On YOUR suggestion that women’s sports are subordinate to men’s, I think you are clearly wrong. At my University, we spend $11 million on a losing football team because it brings in $12.5 million in revenue, not counting alumni gifts to other programs. We spend $10 million on men’s basketball because it brings in a similar $12.5 million. Only one other sport (men’s baseball) even breaks even. The $4 million we net from men’s football and basketball pays for ALL other sports, women’s and men’s. I effect, we have the efforts of the male athlete’s in football and basketball, many od whom are lower class Blacks who won’t even get a degree out of the deal, subsidizing sports for largely upper class white females. Just who is the privileged class in this equation?

    I DO love women’s sports and want to see them succeed and flourish. The US actually does very well on this count compared to any other country in the world, as evidenced by the many female athletes our colleges recruit from Europe, Canada and even Africa and as evidenced by our world dominance of almost every women’s team sport.

    What we need for women’s sports to to better is more ticket buyers. Compared with other academic programs and men’s non-revenue sports they are already lavishly subsidized, the only way to get more revenue and excitement into them is to get fans in the stands.

    I will admit it irks me that feminists are the first ones to tell us how to run women’s athletics and the LAST ones to buy a ticket. My female colleagues will get together to watch “Sex in the City,” but a women’s sporting event, forget it. I say, if you don’t buy a ticket, you can’t complain.

  • KMack

    I’m a dumb jock. Hope that helps!

  • GetThePoint

    “Response”: I think you became confused about what I said to begin with, perhaps because of your disliking for feminism. Reread my first post. It does not say that I believe women’s sports are “second class”–a statement which I would not make because it can be interpreted too many ways. What I did say is that cheerleading traditionally expresses female support for male sports, i.e. the subordination of women to men, and despite the presence of male cheerleaders at the college level, I stand by that assertion, partly because we find it almost impossible to imagine a reversed scenario, i.e. male cheerleaders chosen partly for their attractiveness performing to elicit support for women playing on the field. The idea of gender, complicated as it sometimes seems these days, still doesn’t allow that much flexibility: most people would find the spectacle of men chosen for their beauty cheering for women to be disturbing/comical/bizarre/”wrong.” Men seem “right” when they are the center of things and women are on the sidelines; cheerleading in its most common format reinforces that assumption.

    At the same time, a kind of feminist argument–a kind I personally find unsatisfying–has emerged that asserts that cheerleading is AS MUCH a sport for women as football (or whatever) is for men and thus deserves unchallenged support as a sport. This approach, while it has its merits in at least arguing for equal access to resources, ignores the function of concepts of gender in the whole dilemma: the idea of what kind of symbolism/activity reinforces traditional beliefs about which sex is secondary to which.

    You bring up a very meaningful point about the subordination of African-Americans to white interests in sports, and I agree with you there. I do think, though, that the white males who make up the most enthusiastic part of the audience for football, etc., not to mention the university administrators who finagle the budgets on all these things and who are also still primarily white male, derive as much or more privilege from the dynamic than the white females whose sports are subsidized. As for those white females being primarily upper class, I’d be interested to see the statistics on that.

    As for watching “Sex and the City” instead of women’s sports–I wonder how those feminist women feel about setting up cheerleading as a cheap pseudo-sport. It would make a certain sort of sense, since “Sex and the City” and other “chick lit” pop culture texts often seem to be a cheap substitute for women’s literature.

  • Response to “Get the Point”

    So unless you are just mincing words, you’re agreeing with me on several important points.

    First, women’s sports are not “subordinate” to men’s sports.

    Second, Black (and White) male athletes should not be exploited for others’ benefit, therefore end the subsidization across sports.

    What we seem to still disagree on is the value of cheerleading. You see it as a plot to continue the subordination of women. I see it as a healthy and entertaining sport that takes great skill and practice.

    I think the solution to your problems is for you not to be a cheerleader.

    I think the solution to the problems of young women and men who want to be cheerleaders is to listen to their own best judgment (not your efforts at social engineering) and to receive the support of their rest of the academic community in their endeavors.

    Cheerleading is a valuable sport that deserves our support.

  • Corinne

    I feel like why is it even an issue whether cheerleading is a sport or not? Why is someone taking the time to analyze this? And why do so many people get hot and bothered of whether it is or not like it really affects your life one way or the other? That is unless you were on that volleyball team that got cut. So what? One program out of thousands. And it’s the first time I have heard of it so clearly it isn’t a trend. It’s like asking if baseball is a sport. Of course it is. It is not the same type of sport but sports are so diverse. Each sport has its different way of being played. Some are mostly physical, some more mental, and some more technical. Do cheerleaders practice? Yes. Do they work out? Yes. Are they competing for something? Yes. They scream, jump, and flip for the support and dedication of the fans for their team. They are athletes too, and cheerleading is a sport.

  • Adam

    Yes, cheerleading is a sport. Cheerleading requires a large amount of physical strength and training, as well as mental ability and teamwork. They compete against other squads in addition to supporting other athletic teams. Therefore cheerleading is indeed a sport.

  • GB

    Very few people in the world could pull off the ridiculous flips, throws and gymnastic accomplishments that these cheerleaders do. They are quite possibly some of the best athletes in the world. If someone says a requirement for a sport must be physical activity or athleticism, this certainly includes that. If someone thinks competition is a necessary aspect, cheerleaders compete constantly and all over the country. If someone bashes cheerleading for relying on judges instead of actual scores, what about boxing? Or swimming and diving and gymnastics at the Olympics? Those are all Olympic SPORTS and they rely on judges.

    I could see where issues would arise when discussing the sports status of poker, spelling bees and other ridiculous “competitions” aired on ESPN2. But I fail to see how cheerleading is even in this discussion…

  • Joey Ross

    It is hard to call cheerleading a sport if they are not competing more than once a year. If there was a system the formed districts where cheerleaders could compete either individually and/or as a group, then it would be looking more like a sport. Especially if there was a playoff system.

    One thing that is not nessary in sports, but sure makes it interesting, is that at the end of the season you know who was the best. This really can’t be said for cheerleading right now. But as it is set up now, it would be like putting up musicians to compete with each other, but none or not all of the musicians compete.

    Cheerleaders may wish for cheerleading not to become a sport. Having a competition two to four or five times a year might prevent cheerleaders who participate in other athletic events from competing in cheerleading. If cheerleading is a sport, then so must band be a sport.

  • http://www.myspace.com kerminia

    cheerleading is a sport because we get black eyes form cheerleading we work out like every sport we have games will cheer at the games and we have to ran and more. cheerleading is different but still a sport thank you every much

  • http://EmoBands.info Tiffany

    LOL good stuff

  • CheerleadersSuck

    I’m pissed… are you freaking KIDDING. ME. Volleyball? Cheerleading? Anyone on my volleyball team could kick a cheerleader’s @zz, any. ****ing. I’m a volleyball player, a dancer, a fall track runner, and a figure skater. If I had to give up volleyball just for cheerleading I’d kick that head cheerleader in the face. Figure skaters can get sliced in the face with blades. Dancers get yelled at for not being expressive enough, when they’re too sad to muster up an expression. Volleyball players? You don’t even know how it feels to be forced to run until you’re going to pass out, or in track and field, the adrenaline when you get an inch away from the finish line, but the next girl behind you beats you by a second.

    What kind of IDIOT compares gymnastics to cheerleading? My best friend’s little sister, AGE 8, is a gymnast and mastered her round off back handspring last year. On a four inch beam. What kind of cheerleader can do that? Olympic gymnasts can do back tucks on beams with their eyes closed, nonstop back handsprings for minutes on, and who knows what else. Dancers can toe touch easily, figure skaters can do scorpions on ice, and weight lifting isn’t even a freaking sport.

    I’m outraged that this college is giving up volleyball for cheerleading, and even more, that nasty little pom pom girls are supporting it. Get a life, guys, no one gives a **ck about cheerleaders. I constantly go to football games and as far as I’ve seen, no one has ever come to see cheerleaders. No one I know has made an effort to come to competition cheerleader events, but almost everyone in my grade has been to a volleyball competition, an ice show, a dance event, or a soccer game. Half the school comes to track events to support the runners.

    You see? No one cares about cheerleaders. Why would you bring down a well liked SPORT for a stupid, girly pom pom ACTIVITY? Girls don’t care, and don’t even ask about guys. Everyone knows that cheerleaders couldn’t run more than five miles at every practice, like soccer players. They couldn’t bump a ball 50 yards, or heck, even kick a ball 50 yards, like real athletes. You are an idiot to compare gymnastics to cheerleading. Why do you think so little people get to be professional gymnasts, and so many to be professional cheerleaders?

    Have you ever even watched a professional volleyball game? Beautiful, and wildly interesting. You never know what will happen. How about an ball game? Who’s going to score at the last second? When are they going to score a goal? Who’s winning? How the heck did she just bump that ball across the court?

    To a person above me, who cares if you get black eyes from cheerleading? When I was younger I’d play soccer with my friends and got so many nosebleeds from being knocked around. In figure skating, there are accounts of people having parts of their face sliced off with a blade while pair skating. Dancers get high kicked in the face every practice, take it from a jazz dancer, and in volleyball my teammates would often dive to get the ball only to be knocked in the face with a ball coming at them at 20 mph. So guess how many bruises I have from all of this.

    I’m so enraged this would happen. Bring that volleyball back to court immediately.
    Cheerleading is the dumbest thing that anyone’s ever made. Stick your pom poms up your wimpy @zzes and play real sports, girls. Sports that can give you an adrenaline rush, a second to get the ball, or a millisecond to score a point. Plus, what’s the point of calling cheerleading a sport, when basically you’re just cheering on other sports? Just as I said, call up anyone from my ice rink, my track team, my volleyball team, or my dance studio. Be prepared to get kicked in the face.

    Sports: Synchronized swimming, running, basketball, soccer, softball, baseball, football, volleyball, swimming, gymnastics, figure skating, and lacrosse.

    Not sports: Just cheerleading. It was actually just recently officially declared not a sport. Search it up.

    Bring any cheerleading argument up. Any argument. I’ll just bring you down.

    P.S. If you’re wondering how I know cheerleading is nothing compared to my sports, I can tell you that in dance camp, we did a cheerleading week, and stunting is the easiest **it I’ve ever done. Being flexible is easy for any dancer and same with tumbling. Cheering, now that is something I could handle, simply because I’m too much of an athlete to cheer for other *cough* “athletes”.


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