BY Erica Condon
When I tell someone I am a cheerleader, I doubt that their first thought is that I am an athlete. The term ‘cheerleader’ usually sparks the stereotype of someone who just jumps around and waves their pom poms at a football game.
I’ve heard it all, the mocking “Rah Rah Go Team” or “Cheerleading is not even a sport.”
But, I am not just a girl on who wears a cute uniform and waves her poms. I am an athlete. A Division I student athlete.
Cheerleading has always been that in-between sport. Some consider it to be a sport, others consider it to be an activity or a hobby.
However, ever since I joined my first cheerleading team in 5th grade, I have considered myself an athlete. And now I am a proud athlete of the Sacred Heart University NCAA Division I Cheerleading team.
Cheerleading is complex, which is why many people may not understand why us cheerleaders are so passionate when we argue that cheerleading is a sport.
First, and most well-known, is the role we play in game days. Cheerleaders are expected to cheer on and support their university’s sports teams. Specifically at SHU, we cheer at all football home games and men’s and women’s basketball home games. We also travel for play-off games.
Cheerleaders bring spirit and excitement to the game day atmosphere. We prepare cheers, stunt sequences, and time-out routines for games. We also assist on any game day rituals like band walks, the running of flags, and T-shirt tosses.
Not only do we support athletics, but we also support the University as a whole. Cheerleaders attend events like open houses and grand openings. We proudly represent our University at any function.
Whether we are at a game or walking around campus, cheerleaders are expected to always be professional and in good spirits. As a cheerleader, you are never seen without a smile.
On top of all that, we compete nationally and locally against other university’s cheerleading teams. This is the side of cheerleading that often gets overlooked. When we are not cheering at games or attending campus events, we are training to compete.
We train year-round for this competition, our season starts in the summer and we compete in January. Cheerleading competitions consists of a 2 minute and 30 second routine. About 7-8 months of practice goes into this 2 minute and 30 second routine.
Aside from showcasing parts of our routine during half-times at basketball games, nobody outside of the cheerleading world really witnesses the competition side of things.
Our routines are jam packed with dynamic stunt sequences, tumbling, and intricate pyramids. Not only are these routines exhausting, but they are dangerous. Bodies are being thrown and twisted and caught high in the air at a very fast pace.
Our typical week consists of 6 to 7 practices, 2 workouts with our athletic trainer, and cheering in either football or basketball games. We also practice over the summer, move in to school a month early for preason, and practice all throughout winter break.
Our schedule is just as demanding as any other sport. We work out and practice like any other sport. And we compete against other teams just like any other sport.
But, what sets cheerleading apart, is that we not only practice for ourselves, we also practice to support our football and basketball teams, and we represent our University.
So I would argue that cheerleading is not just a sport, it is more than a sport.