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Settling the Score: Is Cheerleading a Sport?

By Tianna Yvonne Gray

Spectrum Staff Writer 

Cheerleading is a touchy topic in the world of sports, especially when the question comes up: “Is cheerleading a sport?”

Today, cheerleading is popular and taken seriously by cheerleaders who consider it a sport, "an activity that involves physical exertion and skill and in which an individual or team competes against another for entertainment."

Davon Dyson, a self-proclaimed sports fan, said cheerleading is not a sport, but an athletic activity. "You play basketball, and you play football. You don’t play boxing, and you don’t play cheerleading."

Dyson said that he didn't see a goal in cheerleading, adding that in football, basketball and other sports, you become a professional. He said that he has never heard of a profession cheerleader. “A cheerleader isn’t something people say they want to be when they grow up."

David Harrison, another avid sports fan, said held a different view. “Yes, I consider cheerleading a sport because a sport is all about competition. They’re all scored and won differently. Cheerleading has competitions and they score and win just like any other sport."

Shaneace Virgil, a Bowie State graduate and former Golden Girl, said that by any definition cheerleading is a sport.

“Cheerleading encompasses many different aspects --- from physicality to showmanship," Virgil said. "Cheerleaders are required to weight train, condition, practice and perform under time constraints just as other sports such as football basketball or track.”

Virgil emphasized the skills cheerleaders have such as routines that require one or two people to lift their body weight, if not more, in the air quickly and with precision.

According to varsity.com, in 2011, USA Cheer, the national governing body for sport  cheering in the United States, launched the sport of STUNT (click here to watch video) to create new opportunities for female athletes at the collegiate and high school levels while allowing traditional cheerleading to remain a vital and important part of a school’s spirit program.

STUNT combines all of the athletic skills from cheerleading and puts them into four quarters of head-to-head competition, in a format that was developed to meet the requirements of a sport under Title IX. In recent years, STUNT has become one of the fastest-growing sports in the nation.

"People often view cheerleading as 'less than' because at its origins it started as a hobby that support other sports," Virgil said. "It is sad that what started as something to encourage others rarely garners that same support.”