The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a sport as "a contest or game in which people do certain physical activities according to a specific set of rules and then compete against each other."
Most people wouldn’t place cheerleading in this category, though, and it’s a bunch of BS.
Beyond the shouting and jumping around with pom-poms in the air, which most people observe at sporting events, the training required to become a competitive cheerleader is extreme.
For most girls and guys, it commonly starts with a lifetime of fundamental training that stems from a full spectrum of physical activities, like gymnastics, ballet and full-on contact sports.
I think of cheerleading as one big sports melting pot, as my college team was full of ex-football players, wrestlers and competitive gymnasts.
Cheerleading attracts ex-athletes from the aforementioned “real sports" due to the regimented workouts and extensive practices that keep cheerleaders in killer shape.
Cheerleaders are so much more than just hot chicks in skirts on the sidelines trying to keep up the crowd's spirits. They compete in national competitions that require serious skills and can take nearly eight months to prepare for.
I understand the judgment from those who have never taken part in cheerleading and are blissfully uninformed, but here are the facts that people who think cheerleading isn't a sport need to realize:
1. You have to be a master of many crafts.
Cheerleaders are gymnasts, motivational speakers, dancers, power lifters, optimists and acrobats.
It’s not easy to vigorously work every muscle in your body while maintaining a smile on your face the entire time.
It’s hard enough for me to do that while walking down the street.
2. Cheerleaders train with other sports during the offseason.
Many cheerleaders use track as a training tool to keep themselves on a routine workout schedule during the offseason.
I attempted this once... until the day my coach tried to make me do suicides. Everyone can tell who didn’t work out over the summer once you see who’s walking mid-lap of the first mile.
3. You must embrace the fact that you will likely break a major bone during your tenure.
Girls are tossed 20 feet in the air while other people are jumping and flipping over one another.
There is constant risk, which sometimes ends in serious injuries. I’ve seen more people pop knees, get concussions and dislocate shoulders in cheerleading than I’ve ever seen on any basketball court.
4. It’s all about strength, body awareness and endurance.
After a few minutes of the constant yelling, dancing, running, jumping, lifting and flipping that make up a competitive cheerleading routine, I bet most “athletes” would be puking their brains out from exhaustion.
Beyond the physicality of it, cheerleading is extremely mental. There are 500 different things you must remember to do perfectly, or you’ll have some Sparky Polastri-type (see: "Bring It On") coming your way.
5. Being a male cheerleader requires just as much strength and technique as any other sport.
Have you ever tried to throw a 100-something-pound girl in the air and keep her up there without moving or dropping her? Try it and let me know how it goes.
It may look easy to strong guys who can bench press 400 pounds, but without the proper technique, that chick will fall right on your face with no remorse.
6. Cheerleaders have 6 am workouts, too, y’all.
Cheerleaders have early-morning workouts and post-practice conditioning, just like every other sport. You can’t just show up to this party empty-handed, after all.
Yes, looking pretty and having a good body is part of the persona, but you have to have the skills to back it up (back, back, back it up).
7. Many colleges offer cheerleading scholarships, and even full rides!
Many colleges consider cheerleading a sport whether or not NCAA validates it. A ton of universities with well-esteemed programs offer full rides, too.