The Popular Perception of Cheerleading Proven Wrong

Sabrina Dorronsoro

This year our beloved Rebel Football Team went on to the super bowl ending a perfect season with an easy win over Mansfield.  Alongside them through their whole journey was a Walpole sports team that is often overlooked: The Rebel Cheerleaders.  Regardless of the numerous first place wins and trophies this squad of girls have obtained, the sport they commit the majority of their time to is still under question by skeptics.  The old age question of whether or not cheerleading is a sport is like a slap in the face to anybody who puts in the long hours that being a cheerleader requires.

The common perception of cheerleaders -to anyone who hasn’t had hands on experience with the sport- is a group of girls who stand on the sidelines at football games chanting redundant cheers such as “go team go.”  If this was the “sport” under questioning no one with any logic would even fight for it – however, this is not the case: Cheerleading today is so much more than it used to be.  Competitive cheerleading is a mix of advanced gymnastics, dance, and – arguably the most dangerous of all – stunting.  These combined skills add up to make the difficult and meticulous sport of cheerleading.

A recent study done by showed that Cheerleading was accountable for 65.1 percent of all women athletes’ injuries – being the most dangerous sport by a landslide.  During intense stunting sequences a girl is held up in the air (the flier) -most times on one leg while doing some pose which tests flexibility and concentration – by three other girls (a back spot and two bases).  These stunting sequences can last anywhere from four counts to twenty and the only thing preventing this girl from hitting the floor is her three teammates.  As her teammates fight to keep her up at all costs they end up with relentless bumps and bruises that are obtained by thrusting their bodies in front of their flyer in order to prevent her from falling to the ground.   The blows obtained during these sequences may not be as hard as a tackle in football but are taken without pads or any protective gear – ultimately resulting in equivalent if not more chance of injury.

Some skeptics may also argue that cheerleading has so many features unlike a run-of-the-mill sport that there is no way it could be qualified.  Some of these qualifications consist of – lack of contact with other teams, no real judging system, no point system, and lack of real physical activity.  All these accusations can be disproved if you take a look deeper into competitive cheerleading. The lack of contact with other teams is true; however, sports such as golf, swimming and gymnastics have no direct contact with other teams other than the pure fact that they know they are competing against each other to win.  No matter what league, standard cheerleading competitions no all have a standard set of rules and regulations.  Just like in any other sport you can be penalized for not following this standard set of rules.  The point system, involved in every competition awards points for things such as stunting, enthusiasm, formation, overall effect, motions and so on.  Each category is judged carefully by a panel of judges who are well experienced cheerleaders or choreographers.  As for the lack of physical activity cheerleaders take part in stunting -which is stressed in every good squad- and you are expected to go over your sequence at least twenty times every practice to make sure it is perfect.  That in itself is a workout but cheerleaders are expected to work on advanced gymnastics and dance routines as well.  As the practice comes to an end the physical activity is still not over because you are expected to do at least fifteen minutes of conditioning – usually consisting of abdominal workouts, jump drills, Indian runs, wall sits, and suicides.  This combined physical activity without a doubt should earn the credibility of a real sport.

The Walpole Rebel Cheerleaders and all the cheerleaders across the country put in the same amount of hours as any other sport and yet are still not given the full respect that the football or basketball team receives.  This injustice can be proven wrong if people take the time to look deeper into what this sport is all about.  Cheerleaders work, sweat and bruise the same as any other athlete it is only fair that they be labeled as one.