Somehow we're still talking about whether cheerleading is a sport or not. Many don't seem convinced yet, including one federal appeals court which ruled in 2012 that colleges can't claim that cheerleading fulfills Title IX requirements. From bros to the bench, there are more than enough skeptics, but 400,000 high school cheerleaders and counting would be happy to prove them wrong.
If you think cheerleading isn't a sport worthy of major respect, here are six reasons why you should reconsider.
1. You prove your own worth over and over again.
Despite the acrobatics involved in cheerleading, a recent Reddit poll found that respondents considered darts and croquet to be more of a sport.
Although the methodology is questionable, the court of public opinion seems stacked against squads. Meanwhile, other sports with less physical demands are respected and eagerly watched by large audiences.
2. You build a strong physique.
Even the most common stunts in cheerleading require great balance, a solid build and flexibility, meaning most cheerleaders, much like ballerinas, have enough core strength and coordination to turn any top athlete green with envy. Even their warm-ups are intense.
That goes for all participants. Male cheerleaders who lift someone's entire body weight while holding onto just their foot are doing impressive and challenging work.
Though cheerleaders are mostly women, male cheerleaders are becoming more common throughout the country. While high school participation stands at only 3%, about half of cheerleaders in colleges and universities are men. Women aren't the only ones compelled by the athleticism and team-building of cheerleading.
3. You develop camaraderie with teammates.
Teamwork and camaraderie are central to sports across the country, and it's no different at the highest levels of cheerleading. Top cheer teams need strong cohesion, just like the best baseball or basketball teams.
Many build that bond by staying together for years. Courtney Pope, co-owner of Cheer Extreme, told CNN that some of these groups are together for "10 years."
Whether you're talking about high school or college cheerleading, there needs to be this level of trust, especially when you're doing stunts like this.
4. You constantly risk serious injury.
Earlier this year, the American Medical Association stated that cheerleading "is as rigorous as many other activities that high schools and the NCAA consider sports," according to the Washington Post.
"These girls are flipping 10, 20 feet in the air," pediatrician Samantha Rosman said during an AMA debate on the issue. "We need to stand up for what is right for our patients and demand they get the same protection as their football colleagues."
The American Academy of Pediatrics agrees. A report published in 2012 states that cheerleading "accounted for 65% of all direct catastrophic injuries to girl athletes at the high school level and 70.8% at the college level" between 1982 and 2009. Those numbers make cheerleading outpace most other sports high schoolers play, leading some to call it "more dangerous than football."
5. You train and practice for years.
While you may not be familiar with the gymnastics jargon, these moves are obviously intricate. When one whole category of evaluation is called "stunting," that should indicate some of the extreme activity going on.
None of this is possible in competitive cheerleading without a serious practice and workout regimen. Some high school cheerleaders train for years to make it to championships.
6. You face serious competition.
The National High School Cheerleading Championship is serious. Real serious. Teams from across the country gather every year at Walt Disney World to determine the best teams across a slew of categories. Cheerleading teams in colleges and universities come to the ESPN World of Sports in Orlando, Florida, with the same dreams.
These national events are the biggest ones, but there are cheerleading competitions throughout the year.
So the next time someone badmouths cheerleading, ask that person to execute a "double twist from extended one leg." More likely than not, they should sit back and watch how a cheerleader pulls it off.