Competitive cheer not a sport? Think again.


Cole Hook

Go ahead. Call me a misogynist. But until last week, I didn’t consider cheer a sport. No matter how much cheerleaders tried to convince me that lifting each other in the air, clapping, and yelling was just as much a sport as football or basketball, I wouldn’t have it. I’ve played more sports than the average kid, and I know the type of conditioning and mental preparation it took to play each. Cheerleading wasn’t more than an easy after school activity compared to major sports. Saturday, January 23, however, this all changed.

    On that Saturday, I attended a competitive cheerleading competition for the first time in my life. I expected to find a massive event full of uninteresting routines. I expected to see crazy moms, aunts, and grandmas screaming with all of their lungs for their make-up hidden daughters. I expected to hear the high voices of ladies trying to show their spirit and somehow “win”.

   Oh how wrong I was.

   Not only were my expectations completely false, but I was shocked at what competitive cheer actually entailed. After attending, here are three things that stood out about competitive cheerleading.

   Flips are not for the feint of heart. I played football from 4th grade until last year, 11th grade. Football has recently been under scrutiny for the amount of concussions and brain damage that comes from repeated blows to the head. But in all my years in this grueling sport, I’ve met zero guys who could pull off stunts like cheerleaders do. From flips to being held several feet in the air by one foot, there are many potentially dangerous aspects of cheerleading. Multiple times, the flyer (who is lifted off the ground) lost her balance and toppled downwards. Each time, I found myself having to catch my breath when her bases (who held her up) caught her. The strength of each base was also impressive. Granted, the smallest girls usually were flyers because they are the lightest; however, lifting any being up and holding them up by only one foot is impressive . Along with strength, balance is another major component of succeeding at any athletic activity. Surprisingly, cheerleading incorporates a large amount of balance as well. As previously stated, flyers have to keep their balance in the air with only one foot held by their bases. While balancing, they often lift their leg up and do what an ignorant guy like myself would call “the splits sideways”. I would bet very few other varsity athletes at WO could do that.

   Fans at a competitive cheer competition have just as much enthusiasm – if not more – than the cheerleaders themselves. Cheerleading parents are the real deal. I have never seen parents be so overly excited and interactive with the team that they are supporting. At the one tournament I went to, I saw things such as homemade noisemakers, fat heads of each cheerleader that parents held up, and a cowbell. Each group of parents from a school formed what might be called an adult student section for their school. Most parents sported shirts or sweatshirts proudly displaying “Sarah’s Mom” or “Gina’s Dad” on the back. Not only that, but the parents also started their own chants in support of their girls. Sometimes, the parents were even louder than the eardrum crushing sound of the cheerleaders. Overall, the enthusiasm and intensity of the parents at cheerleading competitions is extreme, but something that a lot of sports could benefit from.

   Round 2 of cheerleading competitions is like synchronized swimming on land… flips included. Most sports not characterized by individual success make the importance of working together as a team a main focus. No team, however, is required and judged by how well they do the splits or tricks such as what an outsider as myself would call “a backflip in slow motion” together and in sync with one another. To score well in this round, girls need to constantly have an internal clock beating, telling them when to make the next move. The trick is making sure each person’s internal clock is ticking at the same time. The more the group moves and talks as one, the more points allotted.

   All in all, going to a competitive cheerleading competition has really opened my eyes. One must be very athletic to do the things these girls do, and their teamwork is impressive. If you ask me now, I would tell you that cheerleading is a sport.

Make sure to support WO’s competitive cheerleading teams on Friday, February 5. They will be at Hudsonville competing in the OK Red Conference final at 6 pm.