Giving Cheerleading the Credit It Deserves

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( — February 21, 2017) — “Cheerleading isn’t a sport!” Have you heard someone say this? Surprisingly, it’s a fairly common sentiment among people who have no familiarity with the sport. But what they fail to recognize is that cheer is just as much a sport as football, baseball, or basketball. In fact, when you take all facets of cheer into account, it may be one of the most demanding and competitive sports out there.

Three Reasons Why Cheer is Great

According to a Reddit poll that asked people to identify which activities they consider “sports,” less than 40 percent counted cheerleading. For perspective, more people considered darts, billiards, bocce ball, paintball, and croquet to be sports than cheer. Not only is that offensive to cheerleaders, but it speaks to the fact that most of the general public is misinformed regarding what the sport of cheer entails.

Here’s how competitive cheerleading is defined in The Sport of Cheer, a curated photography book on the sport: “Athletes who exhibit the ability that requires the strength of weightlifting, the balance and agility of gymnastics, the grace, coordination and showmanship of dance, and the mental stamina present in the most competitive sports.”

When you put it like that, it’s pretty evident that cheer doesn’t get the proper credit. But what, specifically, makes cheer so great?

1. Improves Physical Strength and Stamina

While football players spend a lot of time in the weight room building muscle mass, cheerleaders spend their time improving physical strength and stamina through repetition. If you get the chance to meet any successful cheerleaders, you’ll notice that they have incredible flexibility, strength, and endurance. Specifically, they have amazing core strength.

2. Builds Self Esteem

“Life is tough — kids need as much inner strength as they can get to stand up to everything they will face,” says one mom. “I want to help empower my kids as much as I can. And when it comes to cheer, I can literally watch as mastering new skills builds my daughter’s self esteem as much as it builds her muscles.”

Whereas most sports build physical stamina and perhaps teach discipline, cheer has the unique ability to build confidence and self esteem. That’s something that you can’t replace.

3. Reveals the Importance of Teamwork

“Cheerleading is unlike any other sport or activity in the world,” says Shane Womack, founder and owner of Cheer Media. “While the sport has it’s individual skillset, the sport is just one big puzzle piece that links together athletes within a two minute and thirty second routine, a group dance or even a sideline cheer.”

As they say, there’s no “I” in team. Cheer certainly backs this point up. In order for a routine to work, every single individual must be in sync the whole time. Unlike other sports that focus on the individual – such as golf or track and field – cheer requires everyone to be fully invested in the outcome.

Don’t Discredit Cheer

It’s time for people to start respecting cheer. Not only is it physically demanding, but it teaches a variety of valuable life lessons that can be leveraged for years after they stop competitively cheering.

There’s something about the convergence of finesse and raw athletic ability that makes cheerleading both an athletic endeavor and an art form. If that’s not the definition of sport, then the general public needs to reevaluate what we’re looking for in athletics.