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Opinion

Not only is it a sport, cheerleading is the only sport worth writing about

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April 19, 2007

I started writing articles for my high school paper during my senior year. One of my first stories was about whether or not cheerleading is a sport. In the business, we call that hard news. I figured that I should have one of my final school-related pieces re-address this issue, but with a much more mature take on the subject.

The opinion I formulated in high school is that it doesn’t matter if cheerleading is considered a sport or not. Being a “sport” is just a label. This was before I knew about things like funding and how, if cheerleading was considered a sport, it would receive more school support.

Four years later, I am looking at cheerleading through a more worldly set of eyes. I am now an adult and have to look at things without a childish bias toward the team sports I played when I was younger. By doing so, I’ve finally learned the truth: cheerleading is the most physically challenging and competitive sport of them all. Not only is cheerleading a sport, I would rank it as the number one sport for anyone to get their son or daughter involved in.

First off, it is physically taxing. Think it’s not? You try standing for an entire football game. What? You do stand for entire football games? Well, try doing that with one-fourth pound pompoms in each hand, doing shoulder presses for 50 cheers at 12-15 reps per cheer. And just when you think you’ve had enough, your team scores a touchdown and you have to do push-ups while spelling out the name of your team. Spelling and exercising at the same time? No, this is not the United States trying to create some sort of super intelligent army. This is the sport of cheerleading.

I took in a cheerleading game earlier this year and was amazed at how I could have been so blind when I was younger. These people are warriors. They started the game the way they start every game, with the national anthem. Almost immediately after its conclusion, we were under way. No matter how many times I hear “Let’s go team!” my heart still races with excitement. All the while, the pompoms are waving defiantly in the air, as if to say “Take that, gravity!” Just when I was about to achieve nirvana, the cheerleading game reached halftime. The halftime show was a 30-minute snoozefest, featuring two teams playing a football game. I’m going to go get something to eat; let me know when the real game’s back on.

Finally halftime was over and the cheerleaders came back onto the field. The cheerleaders’ football team was trailing by 17 points at this time, and yet they still chanted “We’re number one!” Why? Because they were making a statement. It doesn’t matter what happens in the football game. They are talking about themselves when they say “We’re number one!”

The game ended abruptly when one of the cheerleaders fell and landed on her neck. It was a pretty brutal fall. The girl was put on a stretcher and carted off the field, but not without leading a cheer with the limited range of movement she had on the cart. Name another sport in which you’ve seen anyone motion to the crowd after being put on a stretcher. Baseball? Funny stuff. I said name a “sport.”

Anyway, cheerleading is a sport that teaches a lot of life skills, such as leadership and clapping ability. Teamwork is established, as well as problem-solving abilities. When a sign with the word “FIGHT” written on it is upside down, you learn to turn it the correct way. Where else would you learn things like this? And I would dare you to find someone who can spell “victory” faster than a cheerleader can.

So, next time you see a cheerleader on television, don’t just look at them for their skimpy outfits and suggestive dances. Don’t look at them for their layers of makeup or global warming-causing hairstyles. Especially don’t mock their confusion when they cheer because they didn’t know what was going on, and don’t laugh when one of them spins the wrong way. These are errors for the coach to correct the next week in practice, as the team prepares for the next cheerleading game. So instead of being critical, remember the things I’ve just enlightened you to. Next time you hear a group of cheerleaders chanting “We’re number one,” just smile and politely say, “We know you are.”

Paul Winkels is a student at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls.