Is Cheerleading a Sport?


Christina Cannady, Staff Writer

People often question which activities may be defined as “sport.” Some are a strong yes, some are a strong no, but a few fall somewhere in the middle, like cheerleading.  The question of if cheerleading is a sport or not cannot be answered with one word. There are different factors that balance out both of the sides, like the history of cheerleading.

Cheerleading originated in the 1880’s when an all-male group at Princeton University formed a “pep club” for their football team. Thomas Peebles, a Princeton graduate, took the cheers to University of Minnesota, and in 1898. When the University of Minnesota was on a losing streak, they assembled a group to cheer up the crowd and team and the University of Minnesota won the game. 

The group continued to grow, but it wasn’t until  1923 that women were allowed to join. At this time tumbling, acrobatics, and many more cheers were being added. In 1948, a Southern Methodist University cheerleader by the name of Lawrence Herkimer held the first cheerleading clinic. In 1961, he incorporated the National Cheerleaders Association (NCA).

The history of cheerleading shows that it was never intended to be a sport. It was a fun activity that was created by a group of guys that wanted their football team to win. However, it started to evolve over time. Cheerleading became very popular in the 1960’s and could be found in almost every school in the country along with youth leagues outside of school. But when the Universal Cheerleaders Association (UCA) was created, students were taught more complicated routines, stunts and jumps, rather than chants to hype up the crowd. This turned into All Star cheerleading. All Star Cheerleading focused more on competition and athletic training, while entertainment cheerleading focused on leadership and spirit.

There are certain qualifications for something to be a sport. The definition of a sport is: An active diversion requiring physical exertion and competition. Cheerleading is all physical exertion. Cheerleaders carry, flip, throw, and hold other cheerleaders in stunts, while others are doing backflips, layouts, roundoffs and more. Cheerleaders choreograph a routine full of  runs, jumps, flips, stunts, and dances. These routines aren’t easy either. Caden, a competition Cheerleader at Forsyth Central said, “It’s a lot. I never thought it would be that much. You always have to be thinking of the next thing to do.” If one person is missing, the whole routine could be ruined. Teamwork is very important in cheerleading.

Cheerleading also includes competition. Cheerleaders work almost every day to practice cheers, stunts, and routines. Competition Cheerleaders do extremely difficult routines in about two minutes that are hopefully difficult enough to win, but not too difficult that the cheerleaders can’t do it. Kendall, a competition Cheerleader at Forsyth Central said, “It’s like a routine. It’s kind of like memorization, like you have to have a routine down… It’s physically demanding.” Competitions are a lot of work, but are really fun and rewarding in the end.

Cheerleading is by definition a sport. Cheerleading requires so much effort and hardwork to achieve success.  It’s history and complexity make it stand out and make people question it’s ability to be a sport. But it is a hard, challenging sport that deserves the official title of being a sport.