Cheerleading Fights to Become a Sport

For many years the stereotypes associated with cheerleaders has been either the school mean girl or school airhead. And those stereotypes have been reinforced in movies and television shows (see Glee) since the first high school movie was made. I have to admit that I bought in to those stereotypes a time or two during my own teenage years, believing that real girls choose real sports like, softball, track, swimming, volleyball, etc. I thought that cheerleading was more of a social club that’s main goal was to cheer on the boys from the sidelines.

But as I got older I realized that was not all true. Cheerleading takes as much strength, endurance, coordination, practice and talent as any other sport. Male or female. And while I did eventually make these realizations, because I still had some of my own stereotypes, I never really researched cheerleading enough to understand where it fit under the umbrella of women’s sports. And though I have always been a huge fan of Title IX and supporting women’s sports, I never stopped to ask, where are the cheerleaders? Not because I didn’t care, but because I didn’t think about it.

A recent article, Born on Sideline, Cheering Clamors to Be Sport got me really thinking about cheerleading as a sport.  There are currently two groups asking the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) to recognize a new version of cheerleading as an “emerging sport” for women. This would work as a precursor to making this form of cheerleading known as “Competitive cheer” reach full status as a championship sport.

There are two sides to the coin though. According to the article there are some women’s groups who hesitate at making cheerleading an official sport. The fear being that cheerleading is still associated with it’s stereotype of girls in short skirts and pom poms cheering for the boys and making it into an official sport could send a mixed message to girls.

This is on top of the fact that many fear that if cheerleading is made into an official sport, high schools and universities could count their female cheerleaders as athletes as a way to evade their obligation to provide opportunities for women in more traditional sports, like softball and soccer as required by Title IX.

The flip of this coin is pretty obvious. Cheerleading, especially competitive, cheer takes a great deal of athletic ability. And there is no doubt that it takes a lot of hard work dedication along with that athletic ability. So why should a stereotype bar these female athletes from calling themselves real athletes?

According to the Women’s Sports Foundation, “Research by Professor Betsey Stevenson from Wharton found that Title IX was responsible for one-fifth of the rise of female educational attainment for the generation that followed the new policy, as well as a 10% increase in women working full time and a 12% spike in women in traditionally male-dominated occupations, such as accounting, law and veterinary medicine.”

Why shouldn’t this group be open to the same benefits of Title IX and girls sports?

In my opinion, as long as the NCAA can find a way to make sure schools don’t use cheerleading as a way to evade their obligations to other women sports, I say go for it. What do you think? Is the hold up on making cheerleading a sport mainly about stereotypes?

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