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Is Cheerleading a Sport?
Transcript of Is Cheerleading a Sport?
It may be surprising, but cheerleading has been around for centuries! It seems like such a brand new and upcoming activity, but it dates all the way back to 1883!
Cheerleading did not start out as advanced as you see it today. Great Britain came up with the idea of having a group of people, or a "pep" club, chant at sporting events to help the crowd get excited, and support the team to do well.
A MEN's sport?!
YES! cheerleading, or "yell squads", originally created in 1903, were for males only.
Dwight D. Eisenhower, Franklin D. Roosevelt and George W. Bush participated in these squads when they attended college!
George W. Bush
Bush was the head cheerleader at Phillips Academy in the 1960's
Women Take Over
When World War II rolled around, the draft impacted the cheerleading world tremendously. The men were mostly all drafted, and the country needed someone to support the sports teams! The women of the US swooped in and took over.
Lawrence Herkimer formed the NCA (National Cheerleading Association) in 1949. Hundreds of camps and competitions are hosted annually. He also invented the concept of the spirit stick and the "Herkie" Jump.
The first official cheer was created at Princeton University in New Jersey, in 1884. This took place at a rugby game between Rutgers and Princeton.
When men that primarily were on these "yell squads" they typically wore sweaters and pants. When women came along, they had to wear ankle length skirts and sweaters, so they didn't differ from the men so much.
Is Cheerleading a Sport?
Lawrence "Herkie" Herkimer
In the 1950's, high schools started to create cheerleading squads. The video below is at a high school basketball game, and shows what the cheerleaders wore, and did. (1:33)
Pop Warner Football/Cheerleading
Pop warner football was created in 1929 by Joseph J. Tomlin. Pop Warner, which is a non profit organization in the US, allowed girls as young as 5 join cheerleading teams that had no affiliations with a school.
in the US
registered cheerleaders around the world,
in 79 countries!
How has cheerleading evolved?
Cheerleading today is completely different than what it used to be. Now, there are mostly girls on a team, and the uniform have changed drastically!
Cheerleading has changed from only leading crowds at sporting events to having competitions strictly for 2.5 minute routines in front of many judges.
All Star Cheerleading
All Star teams came about in the 1980's, they have no school affiliation and only do competitions. The first Worlds All Star Competition by USASF was held in 2004. Teams from all around the world compete at Disney World in Orlando for the #1 international spot.
In the video below is an All Star team called Senior Elite competing at the Worlds competition. (2:30) This video demonstrates how cheerleading has changed to doing routines instead of chanting in front of a crowd.
Over the years there has been an ongoing debate on whether or not cheerleading is a sport. This is because in a sport, all teams compete. Not all cheerleading teams compete. Cheerleading teams at some high schools and colleges only do sideline cheerleading an do not participate in competitions.
Cheerleading was first televised in 1978 on ESPN, but still was not considered a sport. It wasn't until the late 1990's that ESPN declared it was indeed a sport.
After an injury in Wisconsin, the Wisconsin Supreme Court declared that cheerleading was a full-contact sport; but only in that particular state. No one in Wisconsin can sue for accidental injury.
Although there is much contact in cheerleading, such as stunting and tumbling, college cheerleading is not considered a sport.
Examples of Stunting & Tumbling:
Pictured: Male cheerleader demonstrating the herkie jump/
The New York Post published an article in 2013 stating that cheerleading is by far the most dangerous sport for females. They recorded that a study was conducted and the results showed that cheerleading alone is responsible for about 66% of injuries that cause permanent physical or mental damage. The link for this article is below.
As well as the New York Post, the New York Times also released an article on the dangers of cheerleading.They stated that injuries due to cheerleading have nearly doubled since the late 1990's, and that some neck and spinal injuries occasionally lead to death. Cheerleading teams require you to sign a medical release form when you join so the coaches etc. can't be sued for any accidental injury or even death. If you would like to read more about the dangers of cheerleading from this New York Times article the link is provided below.
Pictured below is the University of Massachusetts competing. While they were in the middle of their stunting portion of their routine, one group crumbles and the flyer falls. As you can see from the other groups that are still up, she fell from about 15 feet up.
ABC News also did a small report on the dangers of cheerleading and how there are new safety concerns for the participants. (2:13)
Well, is it a sport or not?
In my opinion, that is a very vague question. What are the characteristics of any sport? Varsity, a cheerleading company took this question into their own hands and decided to clear it up for everyone. The Women's Sport Foundation has broken down the definition of "sport" into a few basic elements.
Must be a physical activity which involves propelling a mass through space or overcoming the resistance of a mass.
which cheerleading qualifies for!
Contesting or "competing" with an opponent is required.
Must be governed by rules that explicitly define the time, space and purpose of the contest and the conditions under which a winner is declared. (time limit, mat size, score sheets, etc.)
Acknowledgement that the primary purpose of the competition is a comparison of the relative skills of the participants.
Last, the primary purpose is competition versus other teams or individuals with a competition structure comparable to other "athletic" activities.
This is where cheerleading differs from other so called 'sports'. Cheerleading's main purpose is to support other sports teams, and the competition aspect of it is secondary.
It is the reader's discretion on whether or not to believe cheerleading is a sport, although in my opinion, the evidence I have provided, which is only scratching the surface, shows that even if it is not declared an official "sport", it requires extreme endurance, strength, coordination and skill to achieve what these men, women, boys and girls have over the years.