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Is Cheer a Sport?
Written by Rayoung (Madeline) Lee | Published. 2020.04.08 12:00 | Count : 1529

Every cheerleader gets passionate when discussing the question of “Is cheer a sport?” When people think of cheerleading, the initial thoughts that come to mind are girls dressed up in matching uniforms, cheering for their team at the top of their lungs on the sidelines, and that’s about it. There are so many stereotypes associated with cheerleaders that people don’t think cheerleading requires athleticism. However, they actually know quite little about the world of cheerleading.

[SFS cheerleaders getting ready to perform at KAIAC 2019. Photo Credit: The Spirit]

Since everyone is so heated about whether cheer is a sport, let’s take a look at what a “sport” actually is. There is no clear definition of the word, but the Women’s Sports Foundation has narrowed it down to several different parts. It says, “It must be a physical activity which involves propelling a mass through space or overcoming the resistance of mass; requires “contesting” or competing against an opponent; must be governed by rules that explicitly define the time, space, and purpose of the contest and the conditions under which a winner is declared; and acknowledges that the primary purpose of the competition is a comparison of the relative skills of the participants.” Cheerleading clearly encompasses all four elements above.

First, instead of dribbling, hitting, or shooting balls, cheerleaders stunt (throw people in the air) and tumble. There are three main positions in cheerleading: flyer, base, and back spot. Flyers are the ones who are thrown in the air and perform skills on top of the bases and back spots. Bases hold the feet of the flyers, and back spots mainly hold the ankles of the flyers. This is why cheerleading requires an immense amount of exercise, practice, and teamwork, just like any other “sport.”

Second, most international schools in Korea have a varsity cheerleading team. Unlike other varsity sports that have overseas conferences, we have only one big competition in early February, KAIAC (Korean-American Interscholastic Activities Conference). Sixteen girls put their blood, sweat, and tears into preparing for one competition for the whole season.

Third, for KAIAC, there is a time limit for our routine, set size for the mat on which we perform, and also a scoring sheet. We also have to abide by strict rules presented by KAIAC during the season. For example, only 12 people are allowed to cheer in one period, and if one member doesn’t cheer for at least 90% of the games, they cannot compete at KAIAC.

Lastly, although cheerleading isn’t as well-known to the public in Korea it is in America, there are multiple national and regional competitions for competitive cheerleading. Last year, I won the title of national “champion” at a competition hosted by the Korea Cheerleading Union (KCU) with my competitive cheerleading team “Impact”. In the States, the Cheerleading Worlds is held annually in April with All-Star cheerleading clubs from all over the world competing to become World Champion, the most prestigious title in cheerleading. 

[Me after winning 1st in the KCU championship. Photo Credit: Yun Lee]

You might have seen the recent Netflix series Cheer which is a documentary series about Navarro College cheerleaders. They are 14-time national collegiate champions, and many of the athletes on the team are part of top All-Star teams who compete at the Cheerleading Worlds. The skills they perform in the air and on the floor are a result of hard work and dedication, which comes from their love for the sport. This series opened many people’s eyes to what it takes to be a cheerleader and broke many stereotypes that people had in the past. For example, it showed that cheerleading is certainly more than just chanting cheers and shaking poms. With the growing interest in the sport, cheerleading might even become an official Olympic sport in the 2028 LA Olympics. Maybe next time you see a cheerleader on the sidelines or during a half-time routine; you will secretly catch yourself answering “Yes” to the question “Is cheer a sport?”

Rayoung (Madeline) Lee
Junior (Grade 11)
Seoul Foreign School

Rayoung (Madeline) Lee  student_reporter@dherald.com

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