The Question is Still Up in the Air…Is Cheer a Sport?
It comes as no surprise that cheerleaders—spirit and competitive alike—take offense when they are told that cheer is not a sport. This remains a topic of debate on campus and is a point of contention among many girls.
Why are the cheerleaders so bitter about not being considered athletes? They do not have access to some equipment, uniforms, and facilities that are readily provided for official CIF sports on campus. They feel they are not being treated fairly and do not receive the respect that other athletes are given.
Even though it is not considered a sport, the varsity cheerleaders at Clairemont High can purchase patches from the athletic department. The patches, unlike official varsity letters, do not represent CIF and are merely a reward for their hard work expended during the season.
All twenty-six senior high schools in the San Diego Unified School District are aware of cheer’s lack of recognition from CIF, and only some schools award patches.
Senior cheerleader Jaclyn Keagy has been on the varsity squad since her sophomore year. She feels, “A varsity letter is a patch earned from a varsity level team, regardless of whether it is considered to be a sport or not.”
One reason CIF and the NCAA are reluctant to see cheer as a sport is that they, like rugby players, wear no protective gear. In addition to this, competitions take place during the summer when school is not in session.
The rules governing cheer are not uniform across the nation or even the state and district, which is a major factor as to why both CIF and the NCAA are hesitant to see it as a sport.
Cheerleading squads would benefit greatly if they gained recognition as a sport. In addition to receiving an official CIF varsity letter, they would pocket more funding for uniforms, qualified coaches and equipment. Uniform guidelines would be created and safety would be greatly increased.
Athletic director Gerry Knuppel states, “We certainly recognize their efforts and participation.” He adds: “We have nothing to do with the rules of CIF.”
If cheer at Clairemont would like the same recognition that sports receive, they can appeal to CIF and the NCAA. Peter Altomare, vice principal in charge of the athletics program, states that in order to make this appeal, “it would have to go through CIF and have all regulations in writing.”
The fight for recognition is not in motion as of now, but cheerleaders could start a movement to demand acknowledgment as a sport and take their safety into their own hands.