OPINION: There’s a lot more to cheerleading than you think


Erin Fader

The Baldwin competitive cheerleading mat team placed third in the nation at Disney in February, the highest-ever finish for any Baldwin cheer team.

Grace Hampton, Staff Writer

In my ten years of cheerleading, I’ve learned that most people don’t know what cheer actually is. They just see a team of cheerleaders on the sidelines of a sporting event calling out cheers to get the crowd excited for the home team.  

“Cheer isn’t a sport,” they say. “You just jump around cheering for other people.”  This is a conversation I’ve had with many spectators, but the fact is, this statement couldn’t be further from the truth.  A quick Google search of cheerleading defines cheer as “a sport involving the performance of organized cheering, chanting, and dancing in support of a sports team at games.” The definition is a good start, but certainly does not do the sport justice.

There are two types of cheerleading: sideline cheer and competitive cheer.  Sideline cheer is what is displayed at other sporting events, such as football and basketball.  On top of doing the typical cheers, the performances also includes stunting and tumbling during timeouts, halftime, and breaks between quarters.  

Some argue that sideline cheer isn’t a sport because a squad is cheering for another team. But the fact is, the athletic ability needed to do the tumbling and stunts at games is unlike any other sport. Throwing flyers in the air as they spin and flip, and then safely catching them on a track or basketball court is extremely difficult. Cheerleaders just have to make it look easy.

The other type of cheerleading is competitive cheer, which is exactly what it sounds like.  Teams go head-to-head as they perform routines that are made up of stunting, tumbling, dancing, and cheering. They are scored on difficulty and execution.  This type of cheer tends to require more athletic ability, as the stunts and tumbling performed are often more difficult.

So what makes other activities a sport and not cheer? Just because cheerleaders support other teams while performing does not make it any less of a sport than, for example, football or soccer.  I’ve done it all — soccer, cross country, track, basketball, volleyball, and lacrosse — and I have never experienced anything that made me think that any of those activities are “more of a sport” than cheer.

The power needed to jump and tumble or the skill and strength needed to stunt require insane amounts of skill and work, just as any other sport.  Just like other athletes, cheerleaders fall and get hit but get back up smiling to finish a routine. You may not understand cheer, but it is not difficult to recognize the work and effort these athletes put into such a unique sport.