I’ll admit it–I’m a cheer mom. My daughter has been on a competitive cheering for several years and I never understood why other sports parents would argue that cheerleading isn’t a “real” sport. Competitive cheerleading is so much more than just standing on the sidelines of a football field and waving some pompoms; it’s more like gymnastics than anything and you don’t hear anyone saying that gymnasts aren’t “real” athletes! Still don’t think cheerleading is a sport? Take a look and this video and tell me these girls aren’t serious athletes!
SportsSignup is based on New York, so we always keep an ear to the ground for what’s happening in our own backyard. And according to Lohud.com, “New York has caught up with 34 other states and the District of Columbia, which had already declared competitive cheerleading a sport.” So what does being a “real sport” mean for New York cheerleaders?
Cheer teams that only root from the football and basketball sidelines won’t be impacted, but teams that participate in competitions will be subject to official New York State Public High School Athletic Association rules on issues such as length of seasons, required practice days and time between competitions. Coaches will also be subject to certification requirements.
By being labeled a “real” sport (as opposed to a club), New York cheerleaders will have to participate in strength and conditioning programs like any other sports team, practice time will be regulated, and training facilities would need to be certified as safe. Right now, there are no limits on the length of seasons or required practice days. “Since it’s not a sport, we can practice as much as we want,” said Mount Sinai cheerleader Amanda Rose, adding her team practices together about 10 months out of the year. As a sanctioned sport, high school athletes can join one team a season, can’t train together in the summer and can’t leave the state to compete in national tournaments. And as the Lohud.com article pointed out, “some people cheer in a wrestling room with no ceiling height — now that these regulations are set in place, they’ll be forced to use proper regulatory practice.”
Cheer squads also would have better access to onsite medical staff like the school’s athletic trainers. According to a study published in the Journal of Pediatrics, cheerleading carries the highest rate of catastrophic injury in sports, accounting for 66% of those injuries. Other studies have shown that 6% of cheerleading-related injuries were concussions and that 96% of those happened during stunts. What might surprise some parents is that it’s not usually the girl getting tossed 20 feet into the air who gets hurt; it’s the girl who catches her. With “real” sport status cheerleaders and cheer coaches will have the safety training, supplies and services they need to keep everyone safe.