Taking the ‘cheer’ out of cheerleading



’m not sure that any high school activity is as polarizing as cheerleading. So many opinions exist regarding its legitimacy and even what to classify it as…is it a sport or is it something else? 

As an organization, it is often ridiculed and not taken seriously, which is understandably offensive to those who love it. 

If you’re talking about the kind of cheerleading you see in cheer competitions and on TV, no one can deny the athleticism of those who are competing, and so by that standard I would say that it is indeed a sport. Those are elite athletes performing those stunts, plus you have to possess some rhythm and coordination to mix in the dance moves with the jumps, the throws, and the acrobatics.

I think where the issue with cheerleading comes in is the reputation it has earned over the years of squads being made up of drama-filled mean girls who are more of an annoyance than a benefit to the teams for which they are cheering.

In my opinion, in order for cheerleading to become the respected sport it could be, it needs to be treated as any other sport. Those who are the best should be chosen to make up the cheer teams, and generally, that is how it works. Girls and guys who are interested have to try out to make the team. If you can’t perform at the level of expectations for the squad, you don’t get to wear the uniform. This process is very similar to all other sports as only the top athletes get to perform at the highest level.

Last week, a school in New Jersey set the “sport” back by leaps and bounds when they changed the policy of who makes the squad because one parent complained that her daughter had not made the cut.

The new policy is that either everyone makes the team, or no one does.

I’ve seen what results when this kind of action is taken, and I have to say that it usually isn’t very pretty.

Understandably, there has been some pretty vocal backlash at the board’s decision from cheerleaders who made the squad as well as their parents.

I was happy to see that one cheerleader went to the board and made the statement that some might be afraid to voice. She said that she hadn’t worked hard for 18 months to make the squad, only to find out that anyone who wanted to could also be a part of it. 

Her talent and hard work had put her in a position to be part of a sport, but now that those who neither had the requisite skills, nor had put in the work to acquire them could just sashay their way into a uniform, the quality of the team as a whole was bound to suffer.

The decision was justified by the school, who claimed that the move was intended to make cheerleading more inclusive, but my question is should it be?

Though it is true that other high school sports may also allow any who are interested to be part of the team, those sports also only allow the top athletes to compete at the varsity level, and those who cannot make the cut at any level often do not see playing time at all.

I wonder if the school will apply that same principle to the cheer squad.

At any rate, the policy change is apparently under review at this time and there is a possibility to reverse it, but who knows what will happen in this society where participation medals are handed out like candy at a parade.


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