Is cheerleading a sport?

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Cheerleader in motion
Someone catch me, PLEASE!
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Cheerleading as a sport is a subject of ongoing controversy

Some issues, like being pregnant for example, are clearly black or white. You can't be a little bit or somewhat or mostly pregnant. Other issues carry the color gray (both pearl and charcoal) as acceptable ranges for that which is in abeyance or otherwise undecided. Is cheerleading a sport is one of those questions for which there are many answers that follow the spectrum of colors from black to white and coming back to land on gray again.

Most people would agree that cheerleaders are trained athletes, but does that make cheerleading a sport? Participants are organizers, skilled performers of a team who wear special cheerleading uniforms, wave spirit flags and twirl batons, but are they participating in an activity or a sport? As cheerleading gains in popularity, the "sports" controversy rages on.

What is the definition of a sport?

Most dictionaries define sport as a "physical activity that is governed by a set of rules or customs and often engaged in competitively." It is the part of the definition concerning "engaged in competitively" that is the source of the difficulty in determining whether or not cheerleading is a sport. According to the Women's Sports Foundation, the following criteria has to be met to be considered a sport:

1- physical activity involving propelling a mass through space or overcoming the resistance of a mass
2- a contest or competition involving an opponent or opposing team
3- an activity governed by an agenda, which explicitly defines the time, space and purpose of the contest and the conditions under which a winner is declared
4- the primary purpose of the competition involves a comparison of the relative skills of the participants

Is cheerleading a sport by the above definition?

The answer to the question, is cheerleading a sport has to be no, as the majority of cheerleading squads do not participate in any competitions. Their sole purpose is to entertain, motivate and unite spectators. This does not alter the fact that as many as 20 state high school organizations say cheerleading is a sport. Whether or not the above criteria apply, one thing is certain; cheerleading is a lucrative business.

Cheerleading is a uniquely American unselfish expression of earnest enthusiasm for a cause. Participants may not tackle their opponents to the ground, but they do work and practice just as intensely as "real athletes." They make flying through the air and catching those who fall as if they were feathers look easy.

Truth be told, mastery of the techniques that comprise effective cheerleading takes just as much dedication and skill as any other sport and sometimes, maybe more. To perform their activities, they must be as strong as any football player, as poised as any dancer and as flexible as the best gymnasts. Cheerleaders are athletes by every definition of the word.

What is the future of cheerleading as a sport or otherwise?

While it isn't likely that cheerleading will be officially recognized as a sport, there is no question that cheerleaders are top-notch athletes. College and high school cheerleaders compete for national championships. They risk terrible injury and are often recruited for college scholarships. In some instances,they put in more practice hours than the football team. Cheerleaders always require special physical education equipment and team sports products.

Is cheerleading a sport? Well, in the end, does it really matter how it is technically defined?

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