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March 31, 2009

The art of the sport

by Rose Wynn, Online Sports Editor
Kicks fly high. Flyers soar in the air. Girls jump and move across the court with energy, beaming with smiles as wide as the poms they clutch in their hands. Many doubt that girls in skirts and smiles can participate in hard-core athletics, and the job is a lot harder than it looks. The energy exuding from their spirited movements inspires Blazer fans to cheer and applaud with enthusiasm. Some scoff at the thought that their "art" could be classified as a "real" sport. But considering the talent, effort and athleticism necessary for our performances, these two "art" forms are just as demanding as other Blair sports.

While some sports teams put only certain players on the field or court at one time, poms and cheerleading squad performances require that all members participate at once. This means that each individual girl is expected to deliver an entertaining performance with full energy for the entire routine. While other team sports allow players to transfer responsibility from one player to another by passing a ball, every individual pom and cheerleader is expected to hold our own during the entire performance.

While there is no direct man-on-man contact like in most sports, the competition for poms and cheerleading is just as intense. Girls are expected to perform constantly, enthusiastically and flawlessly for a set period of time in front of critical judges. Any slight misstep or wrong move is severely critiqued and points are deducted.

Cheerleading has been identified as the most dangerous sport for high school females - lifting and throwing teammates into the air. Flyers can fall from high heights and receive injuries that have the potential to be extremely serious. Other sports are also tough: football players tackle, ice hockey players brawl and lacrosse players are extremely physical. But these sports allow players to don extensive padding for protection; cheerleaders are expected to perform in skirts.

This is not to say that cheerleading or poms is more intense than male varsity sports, because that is probably not the case. It is simply that we may have an equal potential for injury.

There is also more to poms and cheerleading than meets the eye. Cheerleaders do not only applaud other sports teams; they do step routines within their cheers, tumbling and lifting girls with their own brute strength. Poms dances require flexibility, knowledge of a variety of dance styles and the energy to do a high-energy routine without stopping for breath. And both teams do it with brilliant smiles and charming facial expressions that make the demanding routines look like a piece of cake.

Because of this performance aspect, some claim poms and cheerleading are an "art," not a sport. Perhaps this is because the girls are able to execute their athletic movements with grace and charm, but that does not immediately indicate that their athletic capabilities do not merit a "sport" title. The ability to perform high-energy routines with a smile does not translate to only an "art."

Although their responsibilities do not correspond with those of more "conventional" sports teams, cheerleaders and poms work just as hard to perform for their supporters, and even take on another job: keeping their fans energized and enthused. We win, lose and work up a sweat just like all the other sports players. It's just that, for us, halftime is game time.



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  • Locke on April 1, 2009 at 9:03 AM
    its definitely not a sport
  • Yo on April 1, 2009 at 11:25 AM
    But dancing isn't a sport
  • jerry w (View Email) on April 1, 2009 at 1:20 PM
    Are you kidding me! You would defend cheerleading to be a sport by stating how potentially dangerous it is? The catastrophic injury potential associated with cheerleading does not make it a sport and I'm certain the participants didn't get involved to push that boundary of possibility. I'm shocked that in an age when people challenge whether kids should be performing the skills they are, with some coaches oblivious to the potential injury that could take place due to their lack of training, that you would resort to this defense of why cheerleading should be a sport. I do agree that, based on various other factors, and in the eyes of those involved, it is clearly an athletic activity. Call it a sport, or not; does that really make a difference? Will you be appreciated or loved any more or less? I'd suggest coaches stop making a case on how dangerous cheerleading can be and stick to the many positive athletic benefits it has given to so many who have elected to cheer.
  • mark on April 1, 2009 at 5:48 PM
    Are cheerleading and poms athletic? Yes, they are. Are they difficult, and do they require hours of practice? Again, yes. Is there a potential for injury? Of course.

    But that does not make them sports. There are no judges in sports. There are no "critical judges" in a sport.

    There is a clear cut winner and loser, decided by who scores more goals, who runs faster, jumps higher or lift more weight. There is no subjectivity. Nothing becomes a beauty contest, no one is critiquing you foot work, or your posture. If you win you win, if you lose you lose. It is an objective score determined solely by your athletic prowess.

    In an athletic event, which is what cheerleading/poms would be it is about finesse, it is about looking good while you do it. In a sport finesse has nothing to do with it, all you need to do is win.
    • Disagree (View Email) on April 2, 2009 at 5:44 PM
      gymnastics and ice skating both have judges and they are considered to be sports . . .
    • re: mark on April 3, 2009 at 12:10 AM
      so, according to your logic, gymnastics, diving, and figure skating aren't sports either? These activities are assessed by judges and there's no, as you think of it, "clear cut" winner. And yet, they're featured in the Olympic games...hmm, how about that?

      And speaking objectivism, you can never be TRULY objective in any sport event.
  • dancer on April 1, 2009 at 8:05 PM
    as far as i'm concerned, anything that involves intense athletic activity and competition is a sport. since these girls compete, i'd say that cheerleading and poms do count as sports. just because you look pretty while doing it doesn't negate it's athletic merit. also i love you rose!
  • Seriously on April 1, 2009 at 8:19 PM
    a) Having equal potential for injury doesn't make you a sport.

    b) "While other team sports allow players to transfer responsibility from one player to another by passing a ball"

    Are you joking? Have you ever played a sport? One single person doesn't carry the responsibility EVER. The time it takes for this "transfer" of responsibility isn't always a minute or even 2. Sometimes it is a split second and in that split second if you aren't doing you job then you can mess up the entire outcome. In baseball if someone hits a solid outside pitch really well it wasn't the pitcher's fault, but the right side of the field better be paying attention and make that out or else a runner on third could potentially score the game winning run.
  • cyndi on April 1, 2009 at 10:22 PM
    As an athlete and coach of many different sports including cheer I can tell you that cheerleading is definitely a sport! We compete against other teams to take home championships and win bids to the next level of competition. And the reason it makes a difference, to be called a sport or not, is due to the need for it to be regulated so that coaches need to be certified and safety can be made a priority. There are many coaches out there who should not be coaching cheer. But there are also thoes of us who know how important it is to identify cheerleading as a sport so that all cheer coaches can be educated and in turn our children will be safer. As it stands now (in many places) cheer teams are put on the same level as chess teams. I can't beleive that anyone could disagree that someone untrained should be teaching these kids to toss eachother up in the air. This is why the focus on how dangerous the sport can be is so important. There has been some progress with coaching certification programs available, but these (in my opinion) should be manditory! The use of mats during stunts and tumbling should not be an option. These are the equipment we use to stay safe, much like the football players need there equipment. Unfortunately if cheer is not seen as a sport it won't get the attention necessary to make the changes needed for the saftey of the athletes involved. That is a good enough reason for me to call it a sport!!
  • Cheermom (View Email) on April 2, 2009 at 7:39 AM
    My older son who was a cheerleader from 2002-2006 often commented to those who said it was NOT a sport -- try lifting a 140 pound girl straight in the air with one arm, move to a tumbling back flip tumbling run, throw same 130 pound girl 30 feet in the air, catch her while running to move into formation, serve as base for pyramid formation balancing multiple teammates, repeat. This is not just girls in skirts yelling with pom poms. These students practice with coaches and work out in the gyms and review safety continually. Cheering is just as much a sport as gymnastics is, requiring the same strength, agility, and coordination but also TEAM work and coordination because you don't compete individually. I think the author of this article did not do their homework. If you wanted to defend cheerleading as a sport, use some of the skills required -- not it's danger. Interview the coaches and students involved.
  • asdff on April 2, 2009 at 8:32 PM
    The real question is, who cares?
  • not a sport on April 13, 2009 at 2:27 PM
    the point of cheerleading is to CHEER ON the real sports at their games..... not a sport sorry
  • lolwhatever. (View Email) on April 15, 2009 at 6:14 PM
    imho really depends on the cheerleading squad/team that's performing.

    competitive cheer a la bring it on = sport
    mbhs cheer = not so much. :\
    • Disagree on April 17, 2009 at 4:52 PM
      Obviously you've never been to the Cheer competition?
  • C on May 14, 2009 at 9:15 PM
    http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/sport

    sport
    –noun
    1. an athletic activity requiring skill or physical prowess and often of a competitive nature, as racing, baseball, tennis, golf, bowling, wrestling, boxing, hunting, fishing, etc.

    ------------------------------------------------------------

    Skill: Yes
    Physical Prowess: Yes
    Competitive Nature: Yes


    By definition poms/cheer leading is a sport.
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