Yes, Virginia, Cheerleading is a sport!

Olivia Douglas, Guest Writer

The Illinois High School Association categories "Competitive Cheerleading" as a Girls Sport. Photo courtest of IHSA
The Illinois High School Association categorizes “Competitive Cheerleading” as a Girls Sport. Photo courtesy of IHSA

It’s Tuesday and the cheerleaders are practicing. They are working hard just like any other team, but why are they put on the back burner? When asked what sport I am in, why does cheerleading get a surprised face when I respond? The cheerleading team practices and competes like many other teams, so why is it not considered a sport?

A sport by definition is an athletic activity requiring skill or physical prowess and often a competitive nature. Based on this definition of a sport, cheerleading is 100% a sport. It requires skill and physicality to compete. Cheerleaders put their bodies on the line to complete basic to extremely difficult skills. They practice for months to do a three-minute routine that requires every bit of strength and stamina a person has. A routine consists of tumbling, stunting, jumps, motions, and continual facial expressions. This can tire a person out and sometimes cause serious injury. A study held by the Journal of Pediatrics in October 2013, found that cheerleading is the most dangerous sport for females. This is due to the high risk of concussions and injuries that can result in long-term medical conditions, permanent disabilities, or a shorter life span.

Laura Jackson, who tried out for her varsity cheerleading team at 14, experienced catastrophic injury. Laura was practicing her back tuck, with a spotter, she lost her footing and hit her head hard enough on the ground that a part of her scalp ripped off. Laura has not walked since, due to her list of injuries: brain contusions, broken bones, and blunt force trauma. There are other incidents where cheerleaders have died while doing the sport they enjoyed. In 2005, a 14- year old girl was hit in her torso by another team mate trying to catch her, which cut her spleen. She passed away before her mother could make it to the hospital These are just a few instance of a serious injury that has occurred while cheering.

I will try to do everything because I don’t want to let my team down.

— Jayla

One of our very own cheerleaders at Hillcrest was recently injured while cheering in the game. While performing for halftime, Jayla was tumbling and dislocated her elbow.  She was doing her back-handspring and her elbow just popped out of place, and she walked off the field. Jayla was placed in a cast for about a month or until her arm heals. When asked if she was scared, Jayla said, “Yes, I’m very afraid to come back and do everything, but I will try to do everything because I don’t want to let my team down.” Jayla is going to be sitting out for a few weeks until her arm gets better. When she comes back, she wants to go back to cheering and try her best to get things done. This type of dedication is what makes cheerleading so great.

Cheerleading, for the most part, is a team sport. In cheerleading dedication, the desire to win, and love for the sport is what keeps a team together, and sometimes it requires a cheerleader to put their injury aside and come back for the team. This type of dedication also happens in many other sports, and can bring a team together.  

Some of the qualities that cheerleading possesses can be found in other sports. Cheerleading has the highest number of injuries for female athletes. It requires skill and dedication to complete basic skills. It can require the cheerleaders to put their bodies and trust on the line to complete a routine. To disregard cheerleading as a sport, is disregarding the definition of a sport. Cheerleading IS a sport.