August 27, 2002

In a six-day series on the 30th anniversary of Title IX gender equity requirements, the Naples Daily News asks, "Is cheerleading a sport?"

posted by rcade to general at 07:19 AM - 10 comments

After seeing a documentary where a high school cheerleader completes a performance in which her front teeth are knocked out by a teammate's elbow, I would have to say, "Yes." Damn.

posted by worldcup2002 at 10:41 AM on August 27, 2002

It's no more of a sport that figure skating is. It's an exhibition, with a subjective scoring system. I don't consider any thing that relies on the opinion of a judge to be a sport, merely an athletic exhibition.

posted by corpse at 11:01 AM on August 27, 2002

In order to answer the question, you have to define "sport." Not that this is the "one true answer," but dictionary.com says that the Ameritan Heritage dictionary defines "sport" in part as: 1. Physical activity that is governed by a set of rules or customs and often engaged in competitively. 2. An activity involving physical exertion and skill that is governed by a set of rules or customs and often undertaken competitively I guess under those definitions, it would qualify as a sport. I don't know whether I would go so far, but I also don't think anything that uses a subjective scoring system should be automatically disqualified, either. Diving comes to mind.

posted by jmpeterson at 11:47 AM on August 27, 2002

Normally, I try to avoid the "is X a sport?" question, but in this case the definition of cheerleading as a sport would have considerable benefit to sports programs at high schools and colleges. If gymnastics and diving are sports, cheerleading should be considered one also.

posted by rcade at 12:01 PM on August 27, 2002

We've been through this a couple of times, and everytime it reminds me of Ludwig Wittgenstein and his discription of the word "Games." He writes: Don't say: "There must be something common, or they would not be called 'games' " but look and see whether there is anything common to all. For if you look at them you will not see something that is common to all, but similarities, relationships, and a whole series of them at that. A longer, more complete explanation can be found here. The word "Sports" can be treated the same way in that it's almost impossible to rigidly define, but most of us just know what is and isn't a "sport" through a series of family resemblances to what we all recognize as "sports". Before I confuse myself and others, I'll just ask again that you click on the link above. Anyway, sorry about that. I promise my next comment will have something to do with a Football player taking a dump in a closet or something. And no, I don't think cheerleading is a sport.

posted by Samsonov14 at 12:33 PM on August 27, 2002

Many cheerleaders compete in regional, state, and national competitions, forming teams that have nothing to do with cheering a football or basketball team from the sidelines. A teen-ager in my neighborhood is on one of these teams, and it isn't the school's cheerleading squad at all. If we're going to exclude her activity as a sport, it gives schools one less female team to count for Title IX purposes. The ones who pay the price for this aren't just the cheerleaders; when I was in college, the men's baseball team was cut to solve a Title IX problem.

posted by rcade at 12:56 PM on August 27, 2002

At my old collge cheerleading is a club sport, just like marching band, bowling, and womens rugby. I think I would try to "solve" a Title IX problem by counting womens rugby before counting cheerleading. The thing is, there are tons of sports that are club sports at most colleges, and the folks who play them would love to be at the varsity level. Why pick cheerleading, when it could be Women's Water Polo, or Lacrosse, etc.

posted by eckeric at 04:43 PM on August 27, 2002

It depends on the circumstances at the particular school. I'll bet there are a lot of schools where this kind of cheerleading is more active and has more participants than women's rugby or one of the other alternatives, and in those cases, the school have the option of treating it as a sport. I think there are two kinds of "Is X a sport?" questions. One is whether sports fans should care about it, and in that case I would put cheerleading alongside lumberjack competitions and Magic the Gathering tournaments as crazy-ass stuff ESPN should be fined for broadcasting. However, the other is a lot more important, and I would argue that an expansive view of sport is beneficial for Title IX purposes.

posted by rcade at 09:26 PM on August 27, 2002

I love watching Magic the Gathering tournaments on espn2. Man, those kids are so serious, and the heartbreak when they lose! it's tense.

posted by corpse at 09:23 AM on August 28, 2002

and in those cases, the school have the option of treating it as a sport. True enough. I was rather shocked to see how many participants some of the high schools had. And I can see some positive points to having it as a varsity sport at the colleges where it is popular. Hell, if Syncronized Swimming is popular at a school then the administration should knock themselves out to provide support for that sport (I don't care much for the whole subjective scoring type sports, but I will say that I let myself be talked into doing a staff syncro routine when I was a lifeguard, and it is quite hard. When the articles you linked to talk about how hard the cheer squads workout, I have no doubt that it is true). My only worry is school administrations that might look at this solution and say, hey look lets just kick out some scholarships for cheer, and then we don't need to worry about how many men's scholarships get eaten by football. Oops, guess we don't need to start that womens soccer team after all. I don't know, maybe there aren't any that think like that. Some of the Athletic Directors in the article seemed to be working pretty hard to expand rather than contract sports. Anyhow, one solution that I like for the High School level is to make participating in a sport mandatory. No, really. A friend of mine went to a priviate school where that was they did instead of P.E. Sure it might be a little hard to pull off at those 3000 student high schools, but if you knew that every last student was in a sport, then there wouldn't be any problems with starting a hockey team, or keeping a wrestling team. You would just have to field a damn lot of JV basketball teams, or something.

posted by eckeric at 05:39 PM on August 28, 2002

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