Is Cheerleading a Sport? Don’t Answer Too Quickly

25 11 2009

In keeping with the sports-is-to-politics foul play analogy of my last post: Is cheerleading a sport and why should it matter?

And can we adults think that through logically and meaningfully, answer with integrity and fairness to all students both boys and girls, cheerleaders and football players or not, instead of competing like warlords to score the most money never mind the human or social costs, as the insurance companies do? My state’s high school athletic association apparently can’t —

. . .Cheerleading, you see, is deeply embroiled in gender politics, and given the demographics of college attendance, cheerleading is surely going to remain a flashpoint.

It all traces back to Title IX, the 1972 law which mandates that, in sports, athletic representation on campus must mirror student enrollment. . .

. . . the Florida High School Athletic Association wanted to make substantial reductions in all sports except two: football and cheerleading. . . by claiming that football, like cheerleading, was a co-ed sport because, of the thousands of football players in the state, three were girls.

Not surprisingly, this bizarre logic didn’t fly. A federal lawsuit forced the association to accept a settlement to apply cuts equally across the board to all sports. Most cheerleaders, of course, are female.
. . .two-thirds of all catastrophic injuries to females in high school and college occur in cheerleading.

And so, if cheerleading can be accepted as a legitimate sport instead of just as an “activity,” then colleges can eliminate another, more traditional, more expensive women’s sport. In this way, male-dominated athletic departments can — for at least a while longer — put off the inevitable addition of women’s sports.

This has put women’s sports leaders on the spot. On the one hand, they don’t want to denigrate cheerleaders. On the other hand, as Nancy Hogshead-Makar, a former head of the Women’s Sports Foundation, told me: “We can’t allow schools to recast cheerleading as a sport in name only so as to allow schools to provide fewer athletic opportunities for girls.”



9 responses

25 11 2009
Daryl P Cobranchi

Nope, not a sport because it’s normally not competitive and there are no rules. The cheerleading competitions don’t count any more than dance competitions would make dance a “sport.”

25 11 2009

True — and right on the same football field is another example. Marching band competitions don’t make that a sport either.

25 11 2009

OTOH, it’s actually called the Florida High School ACTIVITIES Association rather than SPORTS association, presumably to include athletic/physically demanding activities with uniforms and coaches that might not technically be sports, in the funding and interschool competitions?

25 11 2009

Well, I’ve been here a long time, since the 60s and I played high school intramural sports, then worked in school administration for many years. I could swear the first A in FHSAA stood for activities all that time, but Google just sent to the “Florida High School ATHLETIC Association” hmmm . . .

25 11 2009
25 11 2009

Thank the FSM for wikipedia — I was right, for the decades I remember, plus this shows the organization doesn’t quite know what’s in its OWN name, much less in any activity’s status as sport or not:

The first Constitution limited membership to public schools. However, in 1930, it was amended to open membership to private and parochial schools as well.

In 1951, the member schools voted to change the word “athletic” to “activities” in the organization name so that non-athletic activities such as music and student council programs would also receive proper supervision at the state level.

The Association was incorporated in 1962.

The FHSAA, in 1996, adopted regulations permitting students enrolled in home education programs to participate in interscholastic activities.

In May 1997, the Florida Legislature recognized in statute the FHSAA as the governing body for interscholastic athletics in Florida, provided the Association comply with the provisions of a legislatively mandated revamping of its governmental structure.

The name was changed back to Florida High School Athletic Association in 2002. As of August 2007, the FHSAA has a membership of 748 schools.

25 11 2009
Crimson Wife

There’s dance-y cheerleading and aerial gymnastics cheerleading. The latter is athletically demanding enough to count as a sport in my mind. Just because there are routines doesn’t mean something is not a sport- just look at figure skating.

30 11 2009

Hmmm, which kind of cheerleading is all the following then? Good for our girls as part of a well-rounded education?


Over the weekend I saw a couple of pieces casting Sarah Palin as the stereotypical high school “cheerleader” of our political scene (she actually played girls’ basketball but “cheerleader costume” does form-fit the public image she’s offered up for public consumption. Ask Dick Armey!)

As VP nominee she cast herself as head cheerleader for the flyboy fighter-adventurer team. (Is it now a one-woman show, Sarah Palin starring as captain, coach and candidate for both players and cheerleaders, plus costume designer, writer, reviewer, fact-checker, smack-talker, fanbase figurehead AND little woman at home nurturing the kids and humbly praying for her own men to win by killing the other team?)

Palin’s words, “I want people to read my book so they can read unfiltered what my values are, what my record is, what my accomplishments are…” Based on the book, her overriding moral code seems to be, “I’m going to look good at all cost, even if it means throwing everyone else under the bus.”

[What a sport!]

. . .Palin will probably issue another book blaming her current ghostwriter and her publisher for distorting everything she actually meant to say in Going Rogue.

Free to tell her own story absolutely any way she wants without anyone to ask her hard questions or outperform her on the same stage, she quotes basketball coach John Wooden in her new best-selling book about herself, apparently to make some patriotic point that from sports, people learn to die for their country so war is a game she can win, or something like that:

But as usual she’s MISquoting, getting even her own story wrong as she so cheerfully confuses basketball John Wooden with native American John Wooden Legs, whose people really did die defending their lands and freedoms and culture from the expansionist aggression of hotheaded, ruthless, historically stupid and careless fiddle-dee-dee aggressors who play war like sport (more like Palin than she can comprehend through her own idiotically self-confident ignorance of well, the whole world and all human knowledge.)

I thought I’d save the former Governor (can you imagine what Wooden thought about her quitting?!) a little bit of time, and here are five actual Wooden quotes, courtesy of the Christian Science Monitor, that she might want to take to heart:

1. It’s the little details that are vital. Little things make big things happen.

2. Failure is not fatal but failure to change might be.

3. What you are as a person is far more important that what you are as a basketball player.

4. Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.

5. Never mistake activity for achievement.

Good life lessons that could make any player a better person, transform anyone’s sportsmanship in any Game for the better.

She was healthy, headstrong, unrefined, a minimally educated young woman with a very sharp tongue, getting by with her natural resources — breathtaking beauty and carefully cultivated feminine wiles. . .

Living large the unexamined life, as it wreaks havoc on everyone else’s life. Fiddle-dee-dee. She was the still most popular girl in three counties.

Scarlett was fictional but that doesn’t mean her story is a lie. . . . It’s Power of Story and we already know Palin’s story by heart.

30 11 2009

Looks like things will devolve further and get even meaner and more nation-dividing, before they can get better? My local newspaper this afternoon here in Florida’s capital city:
Limbaugh Praises [extremists] Palin, Rubio on Radio

Rush Limbaugh says Gov. Charlie Crist ought to take a lesson from Sarah Palin’s popularity. . .

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