For years, people have been picking sides on the great cheer debate. Some will consider the game of chess a sport, but the performing of stunts, tumbling, and high-energy routines to be the opposite. There is no doubt that cheerleading takes a great deal of extreme perseverance, flexibility, endurance, and both physical and mental skill – so why is it such a controversial topic?
Cheer is far more than standing on the sidelines of football games. Cheerleaders spend practice after practice rehearsing routines that include various stunts, jumping, tumbling, and dancing all wrapped into two minutes and 30 seconds on the blue mats in order to win competitions. The physical activity is extreme, proving that not just anybody can be a cheerleader.
One of the most difficult aspects of cheerleading is tumbling. Skills that are similar to, if not the same, as those performed by gymnastics athletes are also a big part of cheerleading. Handsprings, tucks and fulls, both front and backwards, are among the skills that cheerleaders practice and incorporate into routines.
“[Cheer] pushes you to limits you have both physically and mentally. Most of the time it’s mind over matter in hopes that you will land on your feet,” says Eisenhower senior Alyssa Minturn. Minturn cheers at Rockstar Athletics and previously cheered on the Eisenhower high school team.
Another main portion of cheer is stunting, which is often the most impressive and most difficult for teams to perform. Tossing flyers into the air as they kick, twist, and land safely is no walk in the park. Tricks like tic tocs, kick doubles, double down from libs, and 360 ups take repeated practice and perseverance. The safety risks are high, and the difficulty is pushed every year by teams who want to go the extra mile for the win.
“Cheer takes a lot of practice and tests your abilities,” says Ali Walek of Rockstar Athletics. “Both mental and physical energy is used for the sport.”
All-star teams like Rockstar spend their entire seasons practicing routines, increasing the difficulty of their stunts and skills, and competing at as many as ten or more competitions each season.
In terms, a sport is defined as this: an activity involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or team competes against another or others for entertainment. Both high school and all-star cheerleading fit this definition to a T, and should be more widely accepted as a sport, not only in America, but across the world.
“There are hours of dedication, hours of sweat, and hours of tears being poured into the sport just to perfect two minutes and thirty seconds,” says Teresa Cicirello of New Berlin West Varsity cheer. “The justice of being a cheerleader is not about standing on the sidelines looking pretty, but of how hard that they work and showing it in those two minutes and thirty seconds.”