A sport is defined as ‘all forms of physical activity which, through casual or organised participation, aim at expressing or improving physical fitness and mental well-being, forming social relationships or obtaining results in competition at all levels. . Does cheerleading have the qualities to be recognised as a sport? According to the Federal Court in US, 2016, cheerleading does not yet have the organisation and rules to authorise recognition as a sport. The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found that competitive cheerleading does not yet meet the standards of a varsity sport under Title IX, the 1972 federal law that mandates equal opportunities for men and women in education and athletics. However, Cheerleading is defined as routines involving organised chanting where members of the team perform several jumps, dances and athletic skills, in order to entertain spectators and gain an enthusiastic response from audience at an event. Shouldn’t the construction of a physical routine, involving many tactical and practiced sets of intense skills, in a competitive form be classified as a sport? This essay will primarily critically evaluate the benefits and ill effects of cheerleading as a sport, why it has not been legalised as sport in United Kingdom and how it needs to be presented in order to categorise as a legal sport.
Briefly, the history of cheerleading an activity began in the 1800s, when cheerleading initiated as a male only sport and participants of the team were often referred to as ‘rooter kings’ and ‘yell leaders’. After the 1930s hit, girls and woman began pushing for inclusion. After demographic changes to the sport due to World War II, cheerleading transformed from a physical activity to a social one. After the inclusion of women within the team, professional teams observed that the sexuality attached to women being cheerleaders boosted entertainment value and economic value. Moreover, by the mid-1970s, cheerleading was an estimated 95% all girls and women. The difficulties leading to the recognition of cheerleading as a sport has been debated since the Education Amendment Acts 1972, Title IX. In 1975, the Office of Civil Rights resolved that cheerleading was an “extracurricular activity,” not a sport. Those involved within the developing “spirit industry,” who pursued expanding and gaining profit from the activity, made it more athletic by encouraging the use of acrobatic stunts and tumbling. Jeff Webb, a former collegiate cheerleader who, in 1974, founded the Universal Cheerleaders Association and the Varsity Spirit Corporation. In 1980, Varsity held the first high school cheerleading championship, which ESPN broadcast in 1983. By the 1990s, cheerleaders were athletes, and Varsity was big business. Over the year cheerleading has continued to gain popularity internationally, especially within the Chine, Columbia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom. In 2007 The Cheerleading World opened up to foreign teams, where an astonishing 38 foreign teams came from 15 countries. By Olson estimate, there are over a 100,000 more cheerleaders abroad in addition to the 1.5 million in America. This unexpected incline in participants demonstrates cheerleading’s potential reach and influence as an athletic activity within schools and communities internationally.
Cheerleading teaches critical life skills like teamwork, discipline and communication. It has always conducted several competitions conducted annually through several school sponsored and all-star competitions. The most popular all-star competition is Cheerleading Worlds which is also conducted annually. Furthermore, Cheerleading gained real international exposure when the Hollywood movie “Bring it On” was released which featured the intense competitive nature of the sport. Thus introducing and encouraging those interested to compete technically and competitively all over the world. Apart from grabbing an international reach, cheerleading has many other advantages that benefit those that participate within it. The social, mental and health benefits attached to cheerleading have been transparently observed through its ability to largely open up a student’s societal range as it is a group based activity thus, enabling children to increase their self-assurance issues and leadership abilities. Cheerleading is also known to decrease the likelihood of depression and/or anxiety. If cheerleading carries out most benefits and requirements of a sport, should it not be allowed to be considered a sport? There has been an ongoing debate on the negative effects of those who suffer injuries from cheerleading. Cheerleading injuries are becoming more and more common, and it is largely due to the fact that cheerleaders have to raise the stakes in order to beat out the competition. 96% of concussions are stunt related and 60% of total injuries are also stunting related Overall, cheerleading also accounts for 65% of all female sports injuries. However, adding cheerleading to the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s (NCAA’s) list of recognized sports could improve cheerleaders’ safety. It would maintain up-to-standard regulation for coaches and cheerleading squads, and bring more attention to these concerning injury statistics. Bearing in mind, the technicalities and skills required for sports, injuries are prone to occur. Another repetitive issue within cheerleading that has discouraged participants has been bullying. This creates major trust issues, not just within friendships in the team but while actually performing routines as well, as they may not trust their bases to catch them because they may intend on trying to hurt their flyer. The intimidation and/or harassment can have severe mental and occasionally even physical repercussions. Bullying is not the only concern for most parents and students who want to participate though. Cheerleading like a lot of other sport extorts a lot of expenses from routine equipment to costumes. According to a national average being part of a high school cheer team, it would cost anywhere between $915.00- $1,115.00. For a lot of students, financially keeping up with the constant upgrades and changes can get difficult. Cheerleading is an underlying activity that requires a lot more skills and abilities than most sports. Most football games are known to last over an hour and a half long, where cheerleaders are known to be active throughout (including half-times). The requirements of athleticism, strength, flexibility and coordination, promote muscle flexibility. This essentially, improving healthy muscle development which improves the heart rate, therefore decreases aches and pains and the more flexible a person is, the less the likelihood for injury for the individual. While routines are generally a few minutes long, the stamina and endurance required to consistently rehearse while doing stunts, dances and tumbles becomes an effective cardio exercise and depicts an advanced level of physical competency which requires an overall stronger cardiovascular health. Cheerleading reduces the risks of strokes and health while the lower blood pressure improves stamina. College-level training also adds strength training as an added component of practice. However, competing and practising regularly while supporting a large based social group usually deters students and parents towards the activity, as it would be too time-consuming and distracting from their education. However, According to NCA statistics “82% of cheerleaders maintain a grade point average of that equivalent to a B or higher.” Consistently obtaining good grades while being involved with several in school activities has actually seen to be beneficial, as participation offers them and opens them up to many exciting opportunities like school based trips e.g. academic trips or sport competitions, scholarships and the academic honours roll. “NCA statistics show that 82% of cheerleaders are accepted into college.”
In 2010 cheerleading was rejected from recognition by U.S. District Judge Stefan Underhill, who found that competitive cheerleading did not have the organization, post-season structure or standardized rules required to be considered a varsity sport, when trying to comply with gender-equity requirements, upholding a U.S. District Court decision against Quinnipiac University. To elaborate on Title IX, the distinction of a sport falls on whether it has coaches, practices, competitions during a defined season and a structured governing organization. The primary concern for the sport should be competing not just the support of other athletic teams. Cheerleading was attached to the idea of preparation for performances during football games and sports council emphasises on the human physical activity involved when the sporting activity takes place and not activity in preparation for it. Though, the increase of cheerleading as a competitive sport has been through the increase of competitions just focused on cheerleading itself, within America and now especially within the United Kingdom. Where there have been the largest known competitions with numerous divisions from University teams and professional teams whether they are co-ed or all girls teams for example The British Cheer Association National Championships, held in Telford, March 26-27, 2016. There has been an unusual but gradual popularity upsurge for cheerleading within the UK. “Loughborough University’s cheerleading team, Goldrush, reports that the number of members has increased by 27.3 per cent this year, and the University of Exeter’s cheerleading team, the Exeter Emeralds, have seen a whopping 85 per cent increase in membership numbers since 2011.” This is also evident from its social popularity growth as well as its involvement in schools. Many more children have considered attendance as an extracurricular sport as well as, including it being included within school curriculums. ‘The Department of Education shows that 37% of schools are now offering cheerleading in PE lessons have been greeted with scorn in the media’. The involvement of the sport within compulsory physical education lessons encourages and satisfies a lot of the stigma around cheerleading. The benefit of the promotion of cheerleading will deliver better equipment, facilities and training for coaches. The UK Cheerleading Association (UKCA) brings 200,000 girls to the programme, who are already involved with many sports covered by This Girl Can. The This Girl Can project developed by Sport England, supports female exercise and sporting activities. With the promotions of Cheer by such organisations like Sport England, enables the sport to reach a whole other range, as well as it being endorsed by ESPN.
In order for Cheerleading to be recognised as a sport, the National Governing Body (NGB) must complete certain requirements set out within the Sports Councils’ Recognition Policy 2017. It becomes obligatory for candidates to first read the Applicant Guidance and then complete a pre-application form. The pre-application was created to ensure the potential organisation meets its basic criteria prior to progressing to full application stage. However, even before they are able to apply, they need to make sure they are maintaining all four pre-application and application requirements. Firstly, the leading pre-application criteria for an NGB is there to be operational for a minimum of two years, which is properly certified or signed off accounts for the past two financial years. Having a NGB for longer than two years, can enable time to maintain all requirements and create reputation within the sporting society, which is a vital requirement in the pre application criteria. Each NGB must also maintain their constitutional structure and therefore each separate NGB should have a document or constitution relevant to their specific jurisdiction (e.g. England or Wales). Thirdly is, the requirement for a NGB to validate its association to its jurisdiction, to the UK NGB’s as well as the international governing bodies for the sport. Lastly, the NGB would have to sustain influence, in order to demonstrate its capabilities in sporting activities in relation to their jurisdictions. As well as the influence, they would need to sustain relationships with other organisations within its sport by working in co-operation with others. This becomes vital during organisation in sporting competitions and several alliances in order to promote the popularity and preservation of the sport. If pre-application criteria is achieved and the application is approved, cheerleading would be invited to attend a briefing meeting to discuss the full application process. This will be with the UK Recognition Panel for UK or GB NGBs. For NGBs applying for recognition in one of the Home Country jurisdictions the meeting will be with only the Home Country Sports Council and not the full Recognition Panel. The full application form will be provided in this meeting. Fill in and send full application form to Home Country Sports Council where headquarters or registered office is located. The full application permits organisations to demonstrate why they should be recognised in a more detailed form of the application process containing its own criteria. The four primary criteria’s for the full application, is relevant to pre application conditions but in a more organised and detailed structure. Firstly, the conservation of governance structure. The governance structure refers to the construction and retainment of the sport legally. The minimum governance standards are mandatory for NGBs, as well as the ability to provide legitimate statements on anti-doping, equality and conflicts of interest that are relevant to their Home Countries specific sporting jurisdiction. All appropriate measures should be taken during sporting activities, in order to prevent the risk of injury, by creating measures to minimise and control risk to participants and this must be applied to the appropriate policies in order to manage the risk. Secondly, the development of a sport must be obvious within the increasing international competing levels. NGBs would have to specifically create a plan depicting a way to achieve maximum success in terms of participation levels and concentration on the sport itself including its development however containing attention on membership base but focusing on the actual sport itself. The intention of this plan is to ensure transparency for the goals and development of not just the organisation but for the benefit of its participants, officials, coaches and volunteers. Additionally, with the sporting development, the organisation vision and development become detrimental in the progress of these organisations into recognised sports. The visions and developments required are firstly the maintenance of its structure to promote its effectiveness. As well as, the demonstration of a clearly defined strategy for the development of its organisation. Again, to maintain the relevant regulations and preserve utmost effectiveness. Lastly, the sport must be novel, this means the activity cannot contain characteristics of any existing sports combined or one itself. There may be exceptions to sports that are similar to another but have gained enough detached recognition to be recognised without correlation. Moreover, if they have reached that standard of acknowledgment, they are more likely to apply to sports that are already legally recognised. Then, if all the criteria is completed and sustained the NGB would apply recognition in a Home Country jurisdiction the assessment and decision is completed by the Home Country Sports Council for that jurisdiction. The Home Country Sports Council evaluates all applications for NGB’s for the UK, GB, Olympic or Paralympic NGB’s. A recommendation is then sent to the UK Recognition Panel, who make another recommendation on the decision, to each appropriate board depending on jurisdiction of the applying organisation. If the application criteria is therefore fully successful it ’becomes listed as the recognised NGB and subject Appeal to conditions of recognition.’ However, if as a NGB is refused at any point of the application process, you are able to reapply after a certain time period which is determined by the UK Recognition Panel. Occasionally, there are exceptions where an application does not meet all of the conditions to complete the full application but is accepted on the terms of its completion before the end of the process.
...(download the rest of the essay above)