Friday, July 23, 2010

Is Cheerleading a Sport?

A federal judge has ruled out competitive cheer as a sport. Athletic programs at colleges and universities across the country have been considering it as one in order to meet Title IX requirements to fund male and female sports at commensurate levels. The argument is that it is a competitive activity that requires strength and precision in the same ways that gymnastics do. Since gymnastics is a sport, so too is competitive cheer.

The suit was brought by the Quinnipiac University women's volleyball team that was cut for financial reasons and the school tried to use the cheerleading move as a fig leaf. There's no doubt that this move was slimy, but the underlying question remains. Is cheerleading a sport?

The judge in the case argued that,

"Competitive cheer may, some time in the future, qualify as a sport. Today, however, the activity is still too underdeveloped and disorganised to be treated as offering genuine varsity athletic participation opportunities for students."
A peculiar argument. Why is the development of a competitive community a defining characteristic of whether the activity is a sport? One would think that the essential properties would be internal to the activity. If synchronized swimming is a sport, then it seems, so is cheer.

But one could argue, on the other hand, that it is a physical artistic not sporting activity. No one claims that marching band competitions are athletic events, yet they are physical and competitive in similar ways. They require coordination and stamina as well as precision and creativity in ways that are quite like cheerleading.

So, is cheerleading a sport?