by Teighlyr Sullivan and Shane Womack
Cheerleading is competitive. Cheerleading is difficult. Cheerleading is unpredictable.
That’s why it’s time to recognize that this sport will give back as much as you put into it. Athletes all over the globe become ‘obsessed’ with the sport because it’s challenging, inspiring, and constantly evolving. Seasoned cheerleaders would also agree it’s one of the few sports that you actually have to come together as a team to be truly successful. All these reasons are exactly the reason why it was recently recognized with potential Olympic sport status.
That’s right – Cheerleading in the Olympics. It may not happen until 2024, 2028, or even 2032, but competitive cheerleading has finally received recognition from the International Olympic Committee for all the hard work that our industry leaders, coaches, athletes and parents have put into it.
In 2007, the International Cheer Union (ICU) formed to enhance efforts in supporting national federation & continental confederation development, as well as to support the safe development of cheerleading around the world. This includes World Championships for national teams and world recognition efforts by international sports authorities. The ICU has now grown to 110 member nations and Team USA has found some competition. Many nations attending the ICU World Championship have quickly become comparable to Team USA competitively both in overall complexity of routines and getting more and more difficult each year. There’s a clear reason why our sport deserves the Olympic status and it’s place on the world stage in the near future.
Unlike other sports, cheerleading is easily regarded as being just as challenging and time consuming as competitive gymnastics. Skills aren’t attained easily, and if you want to be the Simone Biles of gymnastics for cheerleading, then you have to put in the work. In addition, you don’t win World Championships as an individual. You have to be just as good (or better) than the other 19-35 members of your team who have also been working just has hard on the skills to remain a top team in this sport. That’s exactly what makes this sport so unique.
While there have been some athletes in the sport that have stood out among others (deemed ‘Cheerlebrities’ by their peers), it’s not as common for an athlete in competitive cheerleading to be regarded or compared to others as Lebron James is in the NBA. Cheerleading truly is a team sport and you love the complexity of the team more than an individual athlete.
As a sport, competitive cheerleading is very new when compared to other team sports. All Star Cheerleading didn’t become a “thing” until 1989, when it was clear that club teams didn’t belong in the same divisions as high school teams. It’s been quite the ride to watch all star cheerleading grow and now attract millions of viewers annually on ESPN for each broadcast of the Cheerleading Worlds Championship each year.
While most of the public still doesn’t understand the complexity of cheerleading, it’s not hard to get their attention in just a few seconds once you show them what an athlete is capable of on nine panels of mats in only two minutes and thirty seconds.
Is competitive cheerleading worth it? Absolutely. As with most any sport or extracurricular activity, competitive (or even sideline) cheerleading requires dedication, passion, commitment, blood, sweat and even tears for you to be recognized as a legitimate athlete.
If you don’t believe in the power of competitive cheerleading, then I challenge you with one request: try it. You won’t regret it.