The Student Gazette -
Student Gazette

Cheerleading a demanding, dangerous sport
Friday, May 14, 2010

Jennifer Balram is a senior at Schenectady High School

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Is cheerleading a sport? Give me a Y-E-S!

Pompoms, bubbly, school spirited.

When you think of those things, what comes to mind? First guess — cheerleading.

Most people thing cheerleading isn’t a sport. Many think cheerleaders are just popular stuck up girls with short skirts on the sidelines during a football or basketball game shouting cheers like “Go, Team, Go.”

But from my experience it’s much more. It’s a sport.

According to dictionary.com, a “sport” is an athletic activity requiring skill or physical ability and often of a competitive nature.

Cheerleading requires skill that takes time to learn. It’s no longer girls on the sideline shouting out cheers; cheerleader has become an actual competitive sport. You don’t just go out on the field or court and know what you’re doing. Girls that are thrown up in the air don’t just know how to twist down or just go up in the air and keep their balance on one foot while holding up the other.

We have over 80 cheers and three dances. We not only have to get our crowd pumped up during a game, but we also have competition routines that need to be perfected over just a few months.

ESPN voted cheerleading as a 4.5 (on a scale of 1 to 5) as the toughest high school fall sport. More than 65 percent of the catastrophic sports injuries are related to cheerleading. Not just a sprained ankle but more fatal, disabling and serious injuries.

In Wisconsin, a 16-year-old tried to sue the school because her spotter didn’t catch her but in court they ruled cheerleading as being a contact sport because you can’t sue your teammate if they fail to catch you.

When 14-year-old Laura Jackson attempted a back flip without spotters she lost her balance landing on her head. She fractured her neck and damaged her spinal cord. Laura is now paralyzed and breathes with the help of a ventilator.

Parents are now worried if cheerleading is safe for their kids. From the fall of 1982 through the spring of 2008, there were 1,116 direct catastrophic injuries relating to cheerleading in high school (905) and college sports (211), according to the National Center for Catastrophic Sports Injury Research at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Unlike other sports where if you miss the ball it’s OK, in cheerleading you have someone’s life in your hands.

At Schenectady High, cheerleading is not really considered a sport because we are not always up to the standard of what people think are the “athletes” of our school, like the football player or basketball player. But I don’t think that they can do what we have to do like catching people while they’re coming down, memorizing choreography, being super flexible.

So next time you’re at a basketball game take a look at the cheerleaders and when you see the cheers and stunts that you may think are easy, think again because they work their butts off to make it look easy.



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