Kids Sports News Network

Is Cheer A Sport?

2, 4, 6, 8 — Enough with the “is cheerleading a sport debate.”

Nothing sets a cheerleader off faster than the age-old argument of whether or not cheer is sport. Antagonizing cheerleaders on the legitimacy of their sport seems to be America’s favorite second favorite past time. But the days of cheerleaders having to tirelessly defend their craft is coming to an end.

As of the 2017-2018 school year, competitive cheer is now recognized as a sport under the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF). In 2015 Jerry Brown signed Bill 949 into law. The bill officially recognizes cheerleaders as student-athletes, and required the CIF develop regulations and guidelines for the sport with the start of the 2017 academic year.

But it doesn’t stop there.

In 2016, the International Olympics’ committee voted in favor of recognizing cheerleading as a sport. Although we won’t plan on seeing cheerleading in the 2020 Olympics, the official recognition allows more funding to be allotted to the International Cheer Union. This recognition is one small step for the sport, and one large leap for cheerleaders across the globe.

“I know for the girls it’s nice to be recognized,” said Amy McKeever, a cheer coach at Sunny Hills High in an interview with the OC Register. “They put in the same amount of hours, if not more, than other athletes.”

“It’s about time, “said Grace Park, a junior cheerleader at Fullerton’s Sunny Hills High. “People think what we do is just dancing and yelling, but we bleed, we get sprains.”

It needs to be clarified that there are types of cheerleading: sideline cheer and competitive cheer. Sideline is the side of cheer that most people are exposed to, and why so many people fail to understand how Bill 949 could have possibly been signed into law. It’s the girls at the games chanting and shaking pom-poms to pump up the crowd, and boost the team’s morale.

That is not being recognized as a sport.

It’s the competitive side of cheer that is gaining recognition with the passing of Bill 949. The 15+ hours of grueling practice a week, and the endless conditioning to train your body to perform the strenuous moves required. All done with the hopes of perfecting a 2.5-minute routine filled with stunts, jumps and tumbling in front of a panel of judges.

“We work hard. It’s a team sport and you can’t let the team down,” said Lexie Reynolds, a member of the El Dorado cheer squad in an interview with the OC Register. “You still have to push through even if you are sick or injured.”

Officials also hope that the new regulations and guidelines put into place by CIF will help to reduce the number of injuries that occur.

Per the American Association of Neurological Surgeons, cheerleading ranks amongst the top 20 sports with the highest rate of head injuries. Head injuries accounting for more than 36 percent of the injuries occurring in the sport.

Coaches for competitive cheer teams must complete education classes that address safety requirements and regulations to help eliminate the risk of injury on the mat. Practices are also being limited to no more than 18 hours a week, in an attempt to avoid over-exhaustion and give the team a chance to rest and recover.

Only time will tell if the new regulations put into place by the CIF will have a positive effect on the new sport. Even if naysayers can’t agree with Bill 949’s recognition of competition cheer as an official sport, hopefully everyone can get behind the movement to reduce injuries in our youth-athletes.

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