Teacher says: Cheerleading is not a sport. And it’s pointless. She got kids mad and writing.

Yes, cheerleading is an athletic event, but it is not a sport, says this op-ed writer.

Yes, cheerleading is an athletic event, but it is not a sport, says this op-ed writer.

Even before a federal judge court ruled this week that cheerleading is not a sport, UGA doctoral student Angelyne Collins sent me this op-ed contending that cheerleading is most definitely not a sport. She says it is an athletic endeavor, just not a sport.

She used the topic to inspire her middle school language arts students who were cheerleaders to defend their position. Ms. Collins also has a fun YouTube video where she tells girls that she would rather they pick basket weaving than cheerleading. It’s well done as her real goal is to teach kids to learn how to defend their stands. (Link t0 the video is in the piece.)

I think she does a good job defending her own position as well. (Quick confession: I was captain of the cheerleaders in 8th grade; I wish I have played tennis instead.)

Here is Ms. Collins’ piece:

As a middle school Language Arts teacher, I noticed on Fridays in the fall that my eighth grade female students would wear their cheerleading outfits to school in anticipation of the upcoming weekend’s football games.  One particular Friday, I overheard some of them chattering endlessly about cheer practice, hair styles they would fashion at the game, and how cute they would look at the sports activities.

They seem to be so enthused about the weekend, but never once did I hear them say anything about how they would actually cheer on and support their fellow male classmates on the field.  It wasn’t so much that I was disturbed by the vocal omission of unified and organized support, I was just disturbed that they did not realize how little their presence actually meant to their team winning the game.

I gleefully opined as we were walking to lunch that cheerleading was not a sport and that no one would even notice if they did not attend Saturday’s game.  I actually wanted and waited for a quick retort from them.  I love to see them impassioned about issues of importance to them.

My girls, my dear girls, were suddenly upset with me asking me what kind of teacher would say such hurtful words to them.  I was supposed to be a protector, an advisor, and an avid supporter of all of their “positive” endeavors.  But, I was just being honest – cheerleading is not a sport – never was, never will be.  It is an athletic activity, but not a sport.  Does the soccer team stand on the sidelines spouting noisily, “We got the fever! Yea, Yea!”, for the football team?” No other sport organizes a cheer squad for the sole purpose of revving up the crowd except cheerleading.

Additionally, the cheerleaders don’t even face the game; they face the crowd usually ignored by spectators who are interested in the score of the game.  They are standing there looking and hoping to be noticed for their fine work on the sidelines, but they are merely detracting attention from the game.  They have no impact on the game or the players.  The crowd in the stands can do a better job pumping the players up than the squad can.

With short skirts and tight sweaters, our girls are encouraged to cheer and idolize the boys.  Clearly, 19th century gender roles of women are being negatively perpetuated for our adolescent girls to fall naively for when they can be the star of their own sports. What fulfillment, other than some sort of social stratification, are the girls really attaining?

Cheerleading is social, and possibly purports a negative portrayal of women’s roles in society, but it is definitely not a sport.

Athleticism is a skill that is required of cheerleaders as they toss each other in the air, build human pyramids, and flip seamlessly for fifty feet.  Crash collisions and broken body parts come to mind when I think this type of athletic agility.  Why not use these physical efforts to engage in volleyball, basketball, or soccer?

At one time, cheering was the only way a girl could participate in a sport, but now that is not the case. We have the Williams sisters in tennis, Rebecca Lobo in basketball, and Mia Hamm in soccer, to name a few who have carved some sort of identity based on their prowess and skills in their individual sports.

If a girl is going to risk injury, why not engage in a real sport that has an authentic competitive component, unlike a “cheer-off”, which is absolutely pointless?  Yes, pointless – cheerleading is just that.  If cheerleading is a sport, then Carmelo Anthony is a ballerina. If the cheer squad members ever think the star basketball player scored that winning shot because they shouted, “Get that ball in!”, then they are sadly delusional.

No impact on the game, dangerous, and void of real value – yup, that sums it up!  Well, not so  my students voiced their concerns vigorously and angrily.  My little informal statement on the way to lunch posed a problem – I had created quite uproar about this subject.  Aha! Yes, I had gotten them enraged and passionate about an issue that I could clearly turn into a lesson.

While I stood by my stance of the non-sport status of cheerleading, I created an atmosphere ripe for persuasive writing.  My pupils had to pass the obligatory 8th Grade Writing Assessment anyway, and I was eager to purpose their writing in creative environments to allow them to hone their writing skills. Each student seemed to have an opinion about the sport vs. non-sport topic, so I struck while the iron was hot.

We all, including myself, wrote in our journals that afternoon using persuasive arguments to plead our cases.  Never before had I seen students so eager to write – I felt joyous as they didn’t even realize it was an assignment (until they had to turn it into a formal essay).

There truly is power in the spoken word and written text as my students indicated as we actively engaged in dialogue in the classroom about concerns of power of the spectators and the players, identity in sports and social settings, and images in society that shape our thoughts about sports.  My students also submitted some the best writing they had done all school year that captured that “voice” that teachers are always looking for in students’ writings.

To illustrate my point further of the futile rank of cheerleading, I created a video  to visually appeal my point of view, as well as aid students in their writing skills – utilizing an unexpected beginning, sprinkling in effective adjectives for vivid descriptions, interjecting humor and personality, and highlighting at least three points to discuss in a formal essay.

So, my students learned how to write about a subject they felt strongly about, how to enact effective oral communication strategies for classroom discourse, and how to navigate the impact of vastly differing opinions.  I anticipated that this instructional unit lesson assisted them as they are embarked upon high school careers this year and hopefully beyond for many years to come.

I am certain they will always remember my opinion, however – cheerleading, while athletic, is not now, nor will it ever be, a sport.

89 comments Add your comment

You Asked

July 22nd, 2010
5:36 pm

Complaining that cheerleading perpetuates myths about women is a red flag that you have not seen many of the co-ed cheer squad competitions on ESPN. They are amazing athletic competitions that rank up there with any gymnastics event. In fact this line of argument would disqualify womens and mens gymnastics or figure skating as a sport.

Having said that cheerleading squads, marching bands and card cheering sections should not count towards title IX funding. Title IX was designed to insure female sports were funded equally with male sports at schools not to make sure the auxilliary units counterbalanced the football team.

Courtney

July 22nd, 2010
5:43 pm

Ms Collins was never an athlete and has no business trying to be an “expert” on any matter much less this one.

A different take maybe

July 22nd, 2010
5:44 pm

I think the ruling was that competitive cheerleading isn’t a sport. This article defends the idea that cheerleading isn’t a sport – there’s a huge difference between the two. Ms. Downey, do you see competitive cheerleading differently than regular Friday night at football games cheerleading?

Echo

July 22nd, 2010
5:47 pm

The argument isn’t about if cheerleading is “athletic”, it’s about if cheerleading is a “sport”. It does take a measure of athleticism to be a cheerleader (not just to stand around stomping, yelling, clapping or grinding around) but I don’t think cheerleading is a “sport”. Cheerleading has been used to “make the numbers work” for schools to get around title IX for years…I don’t really see that changing in Georgia either.

Maureen Downey

July 22nd, 2010
5:48 pm

@A Different, I can see the difference, although today’s high school cheerleading is far more acrobatic and more daring than years ago. And it is not unusual for high school cheerleaders to also be competitive cheerleaders. It is now like soccer where lots of kids play on their school team and then also compete on travel teams.
Maureen

[...] Cheerleading is not a sport and this teacher took on the squad to make pointAtlanta Journal Constitution (blog)Does the soccer team stand on the sidelines spouting noisily, “We got the fever! Yea, Yea!”, for the football team?” No other sport organizes a cheer squad …and more » [...]

Hmmm....

July 22nd, 2010
5:53 pm

Sideline cheer and competitive cheer are 2 different things. Hours of training and conditioning go into competitive cheer. If you are on a competitive squad, you have to have stamina, strength and endurance. You need tumbling skills, you need to have strength, both to lift a flyer and the flyer to be able to hold herself, etc. You have to be coordinated. When my daughter cheered competitively, she came home from practices sweaty and smelly. Also, competitive cheerleaders suffer a lot of injuries. Just ask the emergency room docs. So, is it like football or hockey? No, is it along the lines of gymnastics and maybe even weight lifting….yes.

Teacher#2

July 22nd, 2010
5:53 pm

OUCH!! Sounds like someone didn’t make the junior high cheerleading squad!

high school teacher

July 22nd, 2010
6:19 pm

The purpose of competitive cheering is not to support a football team; it is to compete against other squads to see who has the best and most flawless routine (hence the name). If competitive cheering isn’t a sport, then neither is gymnastics.

Angelyne Collins

July 22nd, 2010
6:20 pm

I am the writer of this article. Although, I took a decisive stand in my “piece”, I am not against cheerleading as a sport. I only tackled this issue in my classes in the past to get my kids excited about writing. If you are a teacher, you can relate to how it is imperative that we find ways to actively engage.

This is an issue that people feel strongly about, therefore it lends itself to wonderful and passionate persuasive writing. Please no hate mail -:)!!!!

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Cheer Dad

July 22nd, 2010
6:31 pm

I’m not sure collegiate cheerleading should be a Title IX deal or whatever but competition cheerleading IS a sport. I would not have said that 3 years ago because my only involvement with cheerleading was watching them occasionally from the sidelines. That being said, a good college squad is made up of some really good athletes. Now that my 9 year old daughter is on a competitive cheer squad, I see the hard work and athleticism that goes into it. I once went to a middle GA cheer competition among private Georgia schools. My daughter’s cheer squad came on at the end as entertainment while the judges did their compilations. The H.S. teams didn’t hold a candle to my little girls squad of 8-11 year olds.

Teacher

July 22nd, 2010
6:36 pm

I never understood how anyone could determine what is a ’sport.’ Why is golf a sport and not cheerleading? I would bet the average golfer is in much worse shape than the average cheerleader.

Is there some Board of Sports that determines what constitutes a sport? Why is some judge on a bench doing this with my tax dollars?

CD

July 22nd, 2010
7:02 pm

I have long believed that any “sport” that relies on subjective judging is not a sport. That includes figure skating, ice dancing (a little judging problem there at the Olympics?), freestyle skiing, snowboarding, gymnastics, diving. and the like. All are athletic pursuits but if an objective observer cannot divine who won what good is it. All require hard work, concentration, and ability as does chess and spelling bee. Another good rule of sport is it should involve a ball but at least with some “ball-less” sports such as track events, bicycle races, ski races there is a timed competition that determines a winner.

ChristieS.

July 22nd, 2010
7:12 pm

What a great writing assignment! Kudos to Ms. Collins for getting the kidlings to learn when they didn’t know they were doing it. Sneaky! My kind of middle-school teacher. :D

Larry Major

July 22nd, 2010
7:12 pm

Ms. Collins,

Taking advantage of the moment, as you did, was a stroke of genius. Teachers with your ability are sorely needed, as you may have noticed reading some of these posts.

Thank you for caring.

Another teacher

July 22nd, 2010
7:13 pm

First, I think the point of this op-ed is really NOT to talk about whether or not cheerleading is a sport, but rather to inspire teachers (and everyone) to think about opportunities for dialog and for making the “standards- based curriculum” we teachers are handcuffed to relevant, meaningful, and memorable.

Second, cheerleading– even competitive cheerleading– is not a sport. This is for the same reason that dance– even competitive dance– or colorguard, or winterguard, are not sports. Is it athletic? Yes, and the cheerleaders are athletes. Can it be a contest or competition? Sure, and in that case, there is likely a winner or a loser. It is not, however, a sport.

… and no, I am not some bitter person who never made the cheerleading squad (and frankly, I doubt that Ms. Collins is either). I was a competitive cheerleader for years, and won several competitions. I was also a majorette (NOT a sport), a softball player (yes, a sport), and a shot-put, discus, and javelin thrower in the NCAA (athletic, yes, but also not a sport).

Another Cheer Dad

July 22nd, 2010
7:13 pm

As a father of 2 daughters (10 and 6yrs of age) on competitive cheer teams, I wholeheartedly concur with the comments of “Cheer Dad” . I too did not respect it as a sport prior to 4 or 5 yrs ago. The level of athleticism, strength, and endurance that is required of the kids (boy and girls, I might add) is unbelievable. The conditioning that the cheerleaders do will rival that of most of the sports that boy traditionally participate in (baseball, football, basketball, etc..). I have friends with sons that are the same age as my daughters who participate on boys’ sports teams and their conditioning does not compare to that of some of the competitive cheer teams. I have no idea who deems activities to be a “sport” but cheer should definitely be one of them. There are many olympic “sports” that I’d love to see replaced with cheerleading.

Cheer Dad might agree with me on this one—, For those who might equate sports with physical strength, skill, etc.. I’d happily wager that my 10yr old daughter can do more sit-ups, push-ups, lunges, 6-inches, etc.. than most boys her age that participate in the traditional male only sports. Any takers! :-)

On a more serious note, does anyone know if the ruling will affect the girls who may be in college on any types of cheer scholarships? If so, that is really unfortunate.

Metro Coach

July 22nd, 2010
7:35 pm

Cheerleading is not a sport. Gymnastics, which some cheerleaders perform in their cheerleading duties, is a sport.

CRYSTAL

July 22nd, 2010
7:51 pm

CHEERLEADING IS A SPORT,YOU TRY DANCEIN,SCREAMING,JUMPING ,FLIPPING AND AND YOUR LUNGS FEEL LIKE THEY ARE ON FIRE WHILE TRYING TO STAY NSYC WITH EVERYONE ON THE SQAUD WITH THE BIGGEST SMILE ON YOUR FACE LIKE YOUR HAVEING THE TIME OF YOUR LIFE, PLEASE YOU REALLY DONT KNOW WHAT THE HELL UR TALKING ABOUT

Rich

July 22nd, 2010
7:53 pm

So what defines a sport?

jesse james

July 22nd, 2010
8:03 pm

Once again we need a dang court and judge to decide something. I agree, who are they to decide if it is a sport? If school administrators, local boards, and coaches determine it is a sport at there school , then it is a sport.

Metro Coach

July 22nd, 2010
8:03 pm

Crystal…Dancing is what it is, dancing. Jumping and flipping are athletic moves seen in gymnastics. Yelling and screaming are what you and your friends do in class while the teacher is trying to teach. Just because you incorporate gymnastic moves into your cheerleading doesn’t make it a sport. Kudos to you for typing in all caps though, it made your message that much clearer…in case you didn’t get it, that last sentence was severely sarcastic.

jesse james

July 22nd, 2010
8:05 pm

there should have been their. My fault. Also I do consider it a sport. You have to be conditioned, you are doing gymnatics, you are competing against other schools in a pressure situation and there is a score kept. Even though it is tough to judge, you do have a winner.

Teacher

July 22nd, 2010
8:17 pm

Does anyone know the answer to my question? What governing body determines what is a sport? Is there even such a governing body at all?

Why is a judge making this decision? This is not how I want my tax dollars spent!

gamom

July 22nd, 2010
8:17 pm

Most of the posters here are focusing on whether it is or is not a sport. I applaud this teacher for using this teachable moment to teach kids how to express themselves in persuasive writing. Now that is teaching. Great Job, Teach!

lynn

July 22nd, 2010
8:17 pm

I simply can not respond to your rants about cheerleading not being a sport. When and where was the last time you attended a competitive cheerleading practice, competition? I’m sure there are several world-class competition squads in the Atlanta area who would LOVE to prove you wrong – which you are!

gamom

July 22nd, 2010
8:23 pm

Oh yeah and it will be a cold day in you know what when Title IX funds will be used for a female football team! Georgia and most of the country has an awful long way to go for THAT to happen.

[...] Atlanta Journal Constitution (blog) [...]

SGaDawgette

July 22nd, 2010
8:51 pm

Way to seize that teachable moment, Ms. Collins! For the rest of you, have you never played devil’s advocate before? Get over the is/is not argument and applaud the teaching.

Involved Parent

July 22nd, 2010
8:57 pm

What a creative way to get the students engaged! I love it!

[...] Atlanta Journal Constitution (blog) [...]

Another involved parent

July 22nd, 2010
9:24 pm

Kudos to Ms. Collins in getting the students to have a healthy debate. Who cares if cheerleading is a sport or not. The point was to engage the students in debate and writing and she achieved that in my opinion. I wish there were more teachers who believed enough in their students to play devil’s advocate to get them to enjoy writing and to also have an opinion. I may also be biased because Ms. Collins is a long time friend of mine, so there!

rigor mortis

July 22nd, 2010
9:47 pm

I say “Race to the Top” you say “rigorous curriculum.”

Race to the Top!

Rigorous curriculum!

Maureen can you please ask Matt an DOE to post some links to cheers that would promote rigor?

Rigor is very important you know.

[...] Cheerleading is not a sport and this teacher took on the squad to make pointAtlanta Journal Constitution (blog)I anticipated that this instructional unit lesson assisted them as they are embarked upon high school careers this year and hopefully beyond for many years … [...]

Sk8ing Momma

July 22nd, 2010
9:58 pm

I’m thankful that Ms. Collins is not my children’s teacher. I’d hope they’d have a teacher who is more enlightened and exposed. What a poor example of an educator ~ regardless of how worthy of an assignment. It is one thing to play devil’s advocate; it is another thing all together to actually *believe* the arguments one purports for the sake of argument.

If sport is an activity that requires exertion and skill by an individual or team and competition against others for the sake of entertainment, then cheerleading (particularly competitive cheer) is by all means a sport.

Cheer on girls (and boys!)

level 5 cheerleader

July 22nd, 2010
10:25 pm

definition of a sport: an athletic activity requiring skill or physical prowess and often of a competitive nature, that would also be the definition of cheerleading, and im not talking about sideline. Im talking about competiton cheerleading. We work just as hard as football players, and we sweat just as much. Dont say it isnt a sport unless you have done it.

6th grade teacher

July 22nd, 2010
10:38 pm

I love this! I also teach Lang. Arts and have found that playing devil’s advocate is a great way to engage students in writing activities.

Teacher

July 22nd, 2010
10:54 pm

I believe people would notice if cheerleaders were suddenly absent from high school/college games. I also don’t believe cheerleading portrays women in a negative light at all. It’s a tradition. It’s part of the experience and I think cheerleaders should be proud of what they do.

plc

July 22nd, 2010
11:13 pm

@Sk8ting Momma,

So you’d only have your children with teachers who believe the same as you? That’s ridiculous and will only encourage your kids to NOT have a mind of their own. Kudos to this teacher for getting the students to back up their opinions, whatever they were. Too many kids only repeat what they’ve heard from their friends or parents or worse, TV, without thinking at all. To me, whether or not the teacher truly believes it is irrelevant.

I love the assignment and how she got the kids thinking and writing – a relevant and authentic assignment, which are the 2 biggest pieces needed to foster intrinsic motivation!

Cheerleader of 9 years.

July 22nd, 2010
11:17 pm

I have been a competitive cheerleader for nine years now and it makes me angry to see people judging us about something they have no idea about. There is so much more to cheerleading than yelling “go team!” First of all, it takes a lot of coordination to do the motions correctly and memorize all the different cheers with completely different motion sequences for each. Second, cheering on the sidelines is only one type of cheerleading. There are allstar cheer teams, same as an allstar soccer or baseball team. There are several very prestigous competitions, like gymnastics that the allstar teams can go to. Competitive cheerleading is a year round sport, from April or May until March or April of the next year. It takes lots of practice and hard work to become a high level cheerleader. It is not fair for people to walk around making false accusations about cheerleaders and their talents. I’m sure none of the people who say cheerleading is not a sport has participated at the competition level. Hopefully, now you will at least do some research about what you are saying, and not making yourself look like an idiot by talking about something simply based on stereotypes. We work hard. Cheerleading is a sport.

Cheerleader of 9 years.

July 22nd, 2010
11:19 pm

Thank you “level 5 cheerleader.” I agree completely.

Former Cheerleader

July 22nd, 2010
11:28 pm

Actually, cheerleaders started out as men in the late 19th century, not as women; therefore, the argument that it was created to perpetuate female stereotypes is incorrect. As earlier posts have stated, a sport is “an athletic activity requiring skill or physical prowess and often of a competitive nature.” By that definition, I’m certain that competitive cheerleading fits!

However, I applaud this teacher for making her assignments relevant and meaningful. This is how students learn the standards!!

http://www.time.com/time/photogallery/0,29307,1950821_2018378,00.html
http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/sport

Metro Coach

July 22nd, 2010
11:30 pm

Cheerleaders use gymnastic movements in their routines. Cheerleading by definition is not a sport, Gymnastics, which is used by cheerleaders, is a sport. Why can’t some of you seperate the two?

morgan

July 22nd, 2010
11:53 pm

i really dont understand people when they say cheer leading isnt a sport and it really bothers me and i take that offensively,
i do competitive cheerleading and yes i do have to say it is wayyy different than your average school cheerleading were you just stand clap your hands and say words
but competitive cheerleading actually takes hard work and skills
i have been doing competitive cheerleading for about 3 years now and its one of the hardest things i have ever had to do in my life but also one of the greatest things.
if you look up “sport” in the dictionary
it is commonly defined as an organized, competitive, and skillful physical activity requiring commitment and fair play
cheerleading requires all of those things so should it be considered a sport?
but if you are one of those people who strongly disagree and think cheerleading is not a sport
well i just think you should try it for a day or even a week and then come back and say “its not a sport!” aha

[...] Atlanta Journal Constitution (blog) [...]

William Casey

July 23rd, 2010
12:25 am

Everyone defines “sport” differently. I don’t consider Nascar or Horseracing “sports” in the same way I consider football, basketball, or baseball to be. But, that’s just my opinion. Cheerleading began as an auxilliary to men’s sports. It had social “status” back in the day that it doesn’t now. It also has roots in gymnastics. My ex-wife, a gymnast and gymnastics coach always considered competitive cheerleading to be for the less athletic/more social girls, though there were always exceptions. Also, there was always the sexuality issue once associated with female athletes. Cheerleaders could have their cake and eat it too. Cheerleading began to mutate in the 1970’s as part of the larger Women’s Movement of that era. I’m all for teens being involved in ANY school-related activities. And kudos to the teacher for “stirring things up!”

William Casey

July 23rd, 2010
12:36 am

9-year cheerleader: “competitive” cheerleading is new, only existing for 30 or so years. At this point, I would put it in the category with skateboarding and the “X Games.” Nobody questions that competitive cheerleaders work hard (level 5 or otherwise.) So do dancers. Is dancing a sport? So do chess grandmasters. Is chess a sport? It’s a matter of individual perception. It seems to me that a “sport” is a “sport” because the vast majority of people believe it to be.

cobb mother

July 23rd, 2010
12:40 am

My daughter is 5′1″ and weighs 98 lbs she will be 16 soon. Therefore, her size which God blessed her with rules out most of the Sports the writer suggests instead of cheerleading. Since 22 months of age she has been in competitive Gymnastics and Cheerleading. She is the flyer on her team, you must have well trained core muscles to be the flyer besides being tiny. She also has the ability to be a tumbler due to her years of Gymnastics training. She is not and never will be 6′ tall and be able to play basketball, vollyball or run track. She is also better conditioned than any of these atheletes and any of the football players. She earned a Varsity letter in her freshman year and Straight A’s in Honors and AP Classes. Cheerleaders are also leaders. The ones that have skills to make a competive Cheersport team, have practiced 2-3 days a week for 2-3 hours every week for 10 plus years of their lives. That is also why my daughter has a perfect body. She is a gift from God in her petite 5′1 package. Her Sport for her Petite perfect package is Cheersport or Cheerleading and yes it is a sport. If the judge or the writer had tried it over the last 5-10 years they would see it is a sport.

I do not want teachers like this that make deragatory and sexist comments about girls. So Guys talking about getting ready for the game and all that jock prep talk is just fine. We don’t need LA teachers who put girls down, I thought it was bad when my daughters school has the male LA teacher calling girls dumb, but for a female to infer it is even more maddening it is 2010.

OTOH

July 23rd, 2010
12:55 am

The problem I have with Ms. Collin’s teaching moment is the straw man argument she used, conflating sideline cheerleading with competitive cheerleading. Leading by fallacious example?