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April 21, 2010

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I live in northwestern part of the US, and i am a cheerleader. In no way shape or form do we "shake our butts", we don't wear mid-drifting uniforms, and we are athletes! We work our butt off all year long for what 2 minutes for a routine? Also why do people always say negative things about cheerleaders? There is just as much negative stuff about other sports. As cheerleaders we are role models and we do A LOT of community work to help out. Have you not heard of the Spartan Sparkles in Iowa? These high school girls took it upon themselves to create a squad for special needs kids. If thats not being a good citizen, then i don't know what is...

My 12 yr old daughter has played hockey since she was 3 and is one of the best players in her age group. She is walking away from hockey to be a JV cheerleader at the high school this year. As much as it kills me to watch her leave a sport she has such a natural talent for, I need to let her give cheer a try because it is something she want to do.

I cheered in high school and can say without a doubt in my home town there was nothing true to the typical stereotypes. Yeah, we cheered and did spirit fingers, but we also worked our butts off, lifted weights and trained with the football team, ran stairs and had tumbling instructors. Cheer is one of the longest seasons of all high school athletics, and under a good coach, requires all the same discipline and ability of any other high school sport. There was nothing sexual or inappropriate about what we were doing, and we all did it just because we loved it. AND, we cheered for girls sports just as much as boys. For every football game, there were three girls volleyball games.

I'm pretty damn liberal and take womens' equality seriously. But cheer is not something people need to be worried about. Any activity a parent pressures a child to do is problematic, whether it is football, cheer, art, or something else. And don't even get me started on three year olds in beauty pageants. That's something to rant about.

The outfits are so incredibly skimpy these days. Probably it makes it easier to do the basket toss when you're mostly naked?

I went to art school for high school. We didn't have any athletics, but we did have musicals, gallery openings, dance performances and choral competitions. I loved it. But then I saw Glee. Those cheerleaders are so damn cool, with their ponytails and vapid commentary...

Mmm, my inclination is to agree with your statement about why not PLAY the sport rather than cheer for it? But the issue for me runs deeper than who is choosing, parents or child - my problem is with the culture of cheerleading, the discourses around it, the tacitly understood ideologies around what it means to be a cheerleader (complete with early sexualization, performative sexuality, narrow performances of gender, troubling notions of inclusion and exclusion in group dynamics, etc.), despite the fact that it may be dynamically evolving. It's still got a certain history and certain connotations that I am uncomfortable with.

Oh my god the stereotypes here are ridiculous. From the big hair, slutty outfits, non-sport to even the Oregon comment (Sprague high school, Nationals, 1989 and into the 90s). Come see my teenager throw a 135 pound girl in the air, execute a back tuck, while wearing her long sleeves. When she ties her hair back into a sleek ponytail and contemplates her UT scholarship (cheer and academic) I'll give her a good laugh with this post.

Good grief.

I wrote a similar post a few years ago and took a similar stance and I got a LOT of heat for it. But, I did say that if cheering was what my kid ultimately wanted to do, I would try to shut my yap and be supportive (as long as it's not stripper/booty dancing being done under the guise of cheering).

Well, that day has come. My daughter asked to cheer this year in lieu of other athletic activities. And I conceded. It hasn't started yet so I have no idea how right or wrong I was when I wrote that post.

Hi! Just stumbled upon your blog. :) I enjoyed reading your post. I did not know that Cheerleading started as an all-male activity!

Speaking of stereotypes, do all cheerleaders really have to be wearing their cheerleading outfits all the time, wherever they go, with ponytails?!

-- Ms B

Dance is defiantly an athletic sport- so is cheer. Both require body conditioning, hours of practice, and team commitment. My daughter is a dancer, she has shown no intrest in cheer, I asked her about it, and she says it's just not her thing, however she is on a competitive dance company north of Atlanta in Suwanee. I've watched those kids work theri butts off and would never say what they do is not a sport!
Cheer is ok..I'd back my kid up if she wanted it. It's not all about the skirts and poms!

I don't doubt for one second that cheerleaders aren't athletes. My question is why parents wouldn't want their kids to channel that ability into something that wasn't basically rallying crowds at mostly male sporting events.

I get all the positives about it - and all the abilities required to be a contender. But instead of starting your 3 year old in cheerleading, why not a sport or dance, etc.

And as for uniforms getting smaller and tighter for tricks, I can see one side of that, but I'm pretty sure there's aesthetics and "appeal" happening. I don't see the dallas cowboy cheerleaders doing tricks that require those skimpy outfits.

Also, big hair - kind of gets in the way of tricks.

Most H.S. in my area require an extensive background in gymnastics to be a cheerleader. Girls have to have be able to do backhand springs at the tryouts. And it helps to have a background in dance because of the dance routines. They are most definitely athletes.

Also, I've never seen a school team with revealing uniforms. However, in my neck of the woods...most gymnastic studios also have competitive cheerleading squads. Only the best can be on the squads and those girls do wear skimpy uniforms. Which is why, when my very bendy 5 year old was offered a spot on the squad at her gymnastics studio, her father and I said no. However, if you don't start 'em early, they have zero chance of making a school cheerleader.

(by the way...the skirts have gotten shorter and the uniforms tighter because the stunts have gotten more complicated..and loose material gets in the way and can be dangerous)

once being the pimply, awkward ugly duckling who was the butt of the cheerleaders' jokes i never imagined that i would ever encourage any of my girls to take that up. i never did. but one of my darling daughters did take it up all on her own and will be cheering again next year for her high school senior year. i (admittedly grudgingly) backed her up all the way as long as she promised to NOT be the girls i feared and disliked. the funny thing is i found that she was much too busy with crazy physical 30-day shred-like physical conditioning, dance classes, gymnastic classes, fund-raising, community events and cheering for football and basketball games...oh, and she had to perform well in school (my expectation and the school's). along the way i have come to realize that cheerleaders are a lot more than their poms and cutesy outfits which at my kids' school are NOT revealing any bellies, cleavage or ass and they are pretty amazing young people...my kid included.
i'm glad i didn't push her into this or any other thing instead letting her choose her own AND i am glad that i said yes and backed her up.

I always thought it was kind of ridiculous that the private school my friend went to for jr high had uniforms and the rule that the skirt could be no more than 2 inches above the knee (and they would measure them to make sure...) but then you could join the cheer squad and walk around in spanky pants and a pleated belt, i mean skirt...

Debs - That's the best saying ever.

They started my kids early at it. The good news is that both of mine outgrew the need for poms after shaking them a year or two. Better yet, all the cheerleaders at our school played basketball and volleyball in other seasons. It was just one more activity to them.

I usually just lurk your site, and love your writing, but today I had to say something. My daughter took cheerleading for years, by her choice. By the time she reached high school level, the summer practices are all week, except Sunday, 7:30 - 4. They have to run miles of laps, do push ups, pull ups, weight training and pilates.
My daughter has recently joined a tackle rugby girls team, and she commented that the practices were easier than cheerleading.
I'm not a fan of the uniforms for cheerleading at all, but I am also not of fan of the claim that it isn't athletic. After all, cheerleaders don't throw balls, they throw people. ;)

Im in gwinnett (north atlanta) and have a close friend whose daughter cheers. While I didnt think it was a bad thing I could not believe how much it cost per season- close to $800! If I am going to spend that kind of money then I would rather my daughter take dance or gymnastics- where skills are taught- not just routines!

Back when I was in 2nd grade and a cheerleader, we wore shorts, a turtle neck and sweater. As I got older we wore leotard turtle necks under our skirts and then also had bloomers over top. I consider cheerleading a sport. Where I am from, it is very competitive. We ran, practiced all of the time during and throughout the summer, went to competitions, cheerleading camps, etc. Cheerleading teaches you to work together and to trust your team. I was always on top of the pyramid, so I had to trust they would catch me. It kept me out of trouble having to be at practice all of the time and we had to maintain a C average or above to participate. It also taught me a strong work ethic; you have to work hard to achieve your goals. I was really shocked to see Julie say she didn't see cheerleading as athletic. It's very athletic! It takes a lot of practice to perform jumps, be in sync with your team, learn routines, building pyramids, learning to tumble, etc. I'm used to people judging me as a "dumb cheerleader." I agree with not wearing mid-drift, slutty outfits totally! Not all squads are in skimpy outfits. In fact, our high school dance team had skimpier outfits than cheerleaders. I say don't knock it until you try it. When you can do the splits, do a standing tuck and do and a scorpion in a stunt and you still think it's not athletic, then you might consider the sport differently.

Again, I am so glad I don't have girls. Well, I guess my guy could want to be a cheerleader but not as likely. thank goodness. :)

Also, there are a lot of things that require athletic ability that I wouldn't qualify as a sport.

Is dancing a sport? Eh, I'm a dancer and I don't really think so.

Now don't ask me to define the differences, but I think music and interpretation of some that said music seem to be one of the differentiating factors.

@Angela in Ohio - If that was the case, I'm afraid to hear what the called the cheerleading squad :)

Are we in the South? New Orleans, LA? Hell, who knew the Saints had cheerleaders until they went to the Superbowl? HA! Okay, I knew, but couldn't tell you what they wore or who they were. Then again we are not football fans in the traditional sense, just in showing pride in our city. I just don't see this over here. Maybe I haven't hit it, yet.

My 7 yr old has expressed interest in cheerleading and I told her to practice her dance and gymnastics and maybe some day she can try out. She has, also, expressed interest in beauty pageants, which I told her never in a million years. Mainly, because I am lazy and cheap.

Some have a problem with dance classes, like my friends who have said absolutely no dance classes for their daughter. I don't see anything wrong with it and no we are not required to do all the make-up. I have had some questions about the costumes but she was well covered. The dance recitals are mostly for the parents.

I guess I just don't see the point in saying no to anything before the child even has an interest.

You make a lot of good points. I agree that forcing your kids into cheerleading (or anything) seems wrong, and that the outfits could be a LOT less revealing...

But I do think cheerleading counts as "athletics." I was a cheerleader for three years in high school, which, granted, was a long time ago. But we had to be just as disciplined as any other sport, running several miles a week, doing lots of bodyweight exercises and strength training, practicing every day after school, attending training camps in the summer... We also had to maintain a certain GPA and preserve our reputations as "ambassadors" of the school in order to keep our spots on the squad.

And at our school, at least, we were required to cheer for an equal number of boys' and girls' sports.

This is not to say that cheerleading doesn't have lots of "image" problems. And I know my experience probably isn't representative of every cheerleading squad across the nation. But I wanted to provide a different perspective.

I was a cheerleader all throughout high school for GIRLS basketball. I know you think they only do boy sports but we did both girls and boys. I consider cheerleading a sport because you have to have athletic ability in order to do all those stunts and do performances. The parents do have a say in the cheerleading uniforms too. If the parents don't like them they can complain to the Athletic director. I have never worn a midriff baring uniform but maybe that's because none of the High Schools in South Dakota do. I have really only seen colleges wear them.

I seriously think my hubs will do everything in his power to convince our daughter to do traditional sports...so that he can play with her. I hope it works but like other reluctant moms, I'll support her in whatever activity she wants to try.

Well, you know, the "promise of sex" keeps the guys playing the actual sports games motivated...and it isn't only the South, my dear.

Karate is more useful for girls, as you well know. (though getting mine to take a class is about as easy as wrangling a wild bronco.)

I have two pre-school aged daughters. My husband and I were watching Glee last night, and we agreed that there is NO WAY either of our daughters will be allowed to be cheer leaders. No. Freaking. Way.

My standard answer for when they want to do things that aren't allowed: "You can do whatever you like after you get your Ph.D."

(And in our house, princesses get to wear crowns and beautiful dresses because they're good at math and science.)

There's no reason for adolescent girls to be ogled by the entire community while they shake their asses like little whores. What happens in cheerleading now is about a thousand times skankier than what happened when any of us were in school.

These are the things my kids and I will fight about in 10 years.

Dance team? Really? When I was in school dance teams were called The Whore Corps.

As a Northwesterner, especially in HippieTown USA (Portland, OR) - doesn't really happen.

I mean, have you ever seen a cheerleading championship team from OREGON?

Me neither.

We have small little schools where it's taught, but this is the land of dance and soccer for kids.

I was in on the beginning of Midwestern cheerleading going from ridiculous to more athletic, and I'm cool with cheer squads that employ stunts and gymnastics. Otherwise, I remember thinking how dumb it was putting all that effort into cheering for losing teams who thought I was stupid for doing it. I wanted someone to cheer for me even as I was a cheerleader.

Hmm.

I've seen some pretty hardcore atheletics in cheer competitions, but I DO NOT AT ALL like seeing younger cheerleaders dancing in sexypants ways, you know?

I've been at high school sporting events where pretty much every dad in the bleachers looks 100% uncomfortable while teen cheer squads booty dance. I dunno. It feels out of place. It doesn't get the crowd engaged. It's just sexy dancing.

But impressive traditional cheerleading looks pretty damn difficult to me. I wouldn't be able to do it in a million years. I like the lifts and flips and whatnot, they seem pretty athletic.

The outfits scandalize me more the older I get.

*stands up beside Sarah cheering, whistling, applauding, and burning a pom-pom*

I've been telling my 12 y.o since she was little I disapprove of cheerleaders. We came across a broadcast of a cheering competition just this weekend which was the perfect time to tell her why I disapprove. Until now I didn't think she was old enough to understand the details. But the girls and boys jumping and tumbling and building human pyramids gave me the perfect opportunity to say "That's the kind of cheerleading I DO approve of. They are doing that for themselves and to compete. Their activity is the purpose of the whole event. They are not on the sidelines adding nothing to a game except to be bouncing and jiggling eye candy for men to ogle."

I'm always impressed to see cheer squads that employ gymnastics. Our cheerleaders did not (although we did have squads for girls' soccer and basketball). I was on dance team, and I worked very, very hard to be mediocre. ;)

But even though we practiced extensively (usually two hours a day during the school year, with two-a-days - six hours a day total - through August), I still wouldn't call it athletic. I couldn't do push-ups or pull-ups at all, and even my cardio endurance was lousy.

So my view is that if kids show athletic ability, channel it into a sport where they can focus on skills and teamwork and achievement for themselves.

Someone gave us a hand-me-down Steeler cheerleader dress for Eleanor. I refuse to put her in it. When the time comes, if it's her choice, I'll suck it up and deal (and extol the virtues of playing. On the field!).

Until then? No effing way.

I'm SURE C is going to want to be a cheerleader, mostly because the idea goes against everything I was. She will be girly girly, I'm sure. But the outfits, UGH. I'm not comfortable with my girl, at any age, in some short skirt and belly showing. I don't know which is worse, her wearing that at 6 or 16.

But like you, if that's what she wants to do, then I'll smile and support her. Even if I'm dying a little on the inside.

*stands up and applauds*

I've seen them as young as two-- with diapers filling out the skirt below the bare midriff. Oh my. Is this only in the South?

Our 3rd grade cheerleaders practice EVERY DAY for at least two hours during football season. THIRD GRADE! I told my girls I'd hit them in the knees with a hockey stick if they wanted to join (j/k! then they couldn't play soccer or basketball or swim!)

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