Not a sport.
I have gotten into this debate multiple times in life, and was reminded of it this evening when eating at Cici’s Pizza and there was a table next to us full of girls and guys who appeared to be on some sort of athletic team together. I could easily guess this much as I had grown up being a member of countless sports teams and with them all being in athletic attire I figured it was a safe to assume that they had just gotten out of practice and decided to all go out to eat together. I did struggle at first though, trying to guess in my mind what kind of team they were on. They were much too old to be in some sort of little kid’s coed league (soccer, baseball, etc) where the boys and girls play with and against one another, so my next thought was track. Track was “my sport” in high school and I just didn’t get the track vibe from this group.
I feel you can usually sense athletes of the same sport that you spent the most time competing in without anything to go off of other than gut instinct. Bryan would recognize soccer players, my sister would recognize basketball players and I would recognize it if these people were the members of a track team. I didn’t and I was right. It wasn’t long before a few of the girls had stood up and were walking through a cheer move/routine/sequence/thing with counts of “one, two, three, four, five, six, seeeven, eight.” This became annoying in a big, fat hurry. This annoyance quickly reminded me of the countless debates that I mentioned above.
Cheerleading. is. not. a. sport.
(NB: Before I continue I would like it to be noted that my spell check doesn’t even recognize “cheerleading” as a word, which I think is a good sign for this post.)
Whenever I have encountered these discussions over whether or not cheerleading should be considered a sport the opponents primary argument has been that cheerleading requires athletic skill and is a competition. For those of you that don’t know, it is indeed true that there are cheerleading competitions. So before I dive into my three main points for my side of the argument I would like it to be known that I recognize that it requires athletic skill and yes there are competitions held to see which group is best at those skills. However I would like it also to be recognized that the children’s game of ‘tag’ requires athletic skill and is in itself a competition, yet is not a sport.
My first of three main points is something that I have already alluded to, which is that cheerleading has coed competition. There are no other sports where this element exists on serious levels of competition. Of course little kid leagues and your local amateur softball leagues are all coed. There are no high school, collegiate, semi-pro, or professional leagues that are primarily coed, and anytime it has been attempted it was without success. (See: Michelle Wie) Even sports, like track, that have one team compiled of both men and women are technically divided into two separate teams when it comes to the team scoring aspect of the competitions and are also obviously separated for the individual competitions for the different events as well. Thus, the fact that in cheerleading competitions both males and females compete alongside one another as one team, one unit and against other groups that are also comprised the same way is one clear distinction separating it from all actual sports.
The second of my three main points is even more substantial than the first. Cheerleading quite simply has no professional league of any sort. There is no semi-pro league, no double-A or triple-A equivalent, or farm league or minor league equivalent at all. The only professional cheerleaders you hear of are typically the ones for NFL and NBA teams (like the Laker Girls or my Cheerleader of the Year for the 2009 NFL season – pictured below) and even cheerleaders themselves will admit that those aren’t actual cheerleaders, they are more-so dance teams, and either way that’s not the aspect of cheerleading that this discussion is about. The cheerleaders you goggle at during the timeouts at those NFL and NBA games do not compete. Even sports like schleuderball have semi-pro leagues in Germany. I don’t know of ANY cheerleading organization that could even be debated as a professional league of any sort.
Finally, the most essential part for my trio of points. Point blank, the NCAA does not recognize cheerleading or dance teams as a sport. I know this because the University of Tennessee has a total of 23 National Championships. Eight in women’s basketball, six in football, four in Men’s Track & Field, three in Women’s Track & Field, and Men’s Cross Country and Men’s Swimming and Diving have one each. That totals 23. The problem is that the Cheerleading team has four National Championships that I know of (possibly more) and the dance team has three that I know of (probably more) which would give Tennessee at least a total of 28 National Championships. The NCAA, however, only recognizes the Championships that have come in real sports.
If a sport has men and women competing with and against each other, doesn’t have some level of professional league, and isn’t recognized by the NCAA when totaling a school’s National Championships then it’s certainly not a sport. Something would need to have at least one of those three qualifications before I would even begin thinking about considering it as a sport.
If anyone has any disagreements or qualms with this post I will be more than happy to discuss this further with you in the comment section below. The debate will commence when you leave a comment making your point to which I will respond, then just make sure you come back to read that comment and we will continue from there. I look forward to it.