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What is a Cheerleader?



It is Friday night at a jam-packed stadium for a high school football game. The score is tied with only three minutes left to go in the fourth quarter. This game determines if the home team will make it to the playoffs. As one looks onto the field from the stands, they see two very different groups, the football players and the rowdy cheerleaders on the sidelines. Most people will quickly gaze over the cheerleaders and devote their attention to the “real athletes” on the field; a cheerleader is just a bubbly airhead in a short skirt with perfect hair and makeup. They don’t have any knowledge of what is happening in the game; they are only needed to perform cheers to inspire fans and lead their team to victory. Wrong!



Cheerleaders aren’t athletes; yes, we have all heard this rumor before. According to a study at Wayne State University, it was finally proven that “competitive cheerleaders are in the same league physically as Olympic soccer and gymnastic contenders” and “ranked as well as any top level athlete and showed ‘superior athletic fitness’” (Cheerleaders Are Super Athletes). After I put in six years of competitive cheerleading while being told numerous times that I was not an athlete, cheerleaders are now receiving the recognition deserved. According to The American Heritage Dictionary, an athlete is “a person possessing the natural or acquired traits, such as strength, agility, and endurance that are necessary for physical exercise or sports, especially those performed in competitive sports.” Competitive cheerleading requires a superior amount of strength and strength training, for bases are required to put girls that weigh as much as they do a few feet above their heads in mounts. Endurance is required to be able to jump and perform a vigorous three minute routine with perfection; a typical practice for competitive cheerleaders entails doing the routine at least twenty times. Imagine cheering, jumping, tumbling, and lifting girls for two hours straight, and when one girl steps out of line, the routine stops and starts over at the beginning. But what does it take to make the actual squad and become the athlete?



Where I went to high school, there was an overwhelming amount of girls that tried out for cheerleading. Freshmen year, I was one of 115 girls to try out for the squad; it is highly competitive to make the squad, for only forty girls make up two squads. In order to even try out, one must have a set grade point average of at least a 2.0. Freshmen year I tried out for the first time and made it after performing a dance routine, making up my own cheer, and doing three different jumps in front of a panel of judges. That same year, two members of my squad were among the top ten graduates in their class; members of Steel Valley High School cheerleading squad included the valedictorian and salutatorian. My senior year of high school, the valedictorian was my fellow co-captain on the squad. I was ranked 6th in my graduating class, and we also had cheerleaders that were ranked 7th and 8th. So many times cheerleaders are looked upon as brainless and moronic. In high school, I was often victimized as the “typical dumb cheerleader.” Finally, once our short skirts and sparkling personalities were overlooked, critics realized we excelled inside the classroom, as well as outside the classroom, and were intelligent young women.



As young leaders in the community, we were often called upon to appear at special events. The American Heritage Dictionary may only define a cheerleader as “someone who leads the cheers by spectators at a sporting event,” but a cheerleader is much more than just that. Sure, we performed at such fun and exciting events as the “Jerome Bettis Show,” car washes, and national cheerleading competitions, but we also attended school board meetings, raised money for charities, and were involved in our community. Promoting school spirit even when booed by opposing teams gave the term leadership a whole new meaning. Cheerleading requires the maturity and confidence needed to perform in front of a crowd and grasp their attention. As a cheerleader, you must also promote a positive attitude on and off the sidelines. When a cheerleader is in uniform, she is a leader; she is looked at with higher regards. Yes, you might have just had the worst day of your life, but when a cheerleader puts on their uniform and cheerleading shoes, they must leave all negativity behind. His or her new task is to smile, cheer, and support the squad and of course the team they are rooting for.



In order to prepare for upcoming events, a typical cheerleader spends about ten hours each week practicing, performing, and executing his or her routine with their squad. The long hours and physical challenges that a cheerleader evokes in their life are similar to that of many athletes. Although cheerleaders cannot make a jump shot and score two points, or throw a thirty yard pass for a touchdown, we “score points” constantly. Our leadership skills and talents are recognized in the community, and in the future, cheerleaders will be recognized by all as athletes. Next time you are at a sporting event and you see a group of cheerleaders, clap your hands in applause for them too. Cheerleaders are not just Barbie dolls; we work just as hard as any other athlete and deserve the same respect!


"Hi, this is AlliesBlog. I really learned a lot from your paper. I have to say I was one of thoese people who didn't really think cheerleaders were athletes but after reading your paper I know have a different perspective. The only thing I can think of is put a little more in your paper about how people don't think cheerleaders are athletes and like why. But I mean other than that I really enjoyed reading your paper. It was interesting."




Works Cited


Ninemire, Valerie. “Recent Study Concludes Competitive Cheerleaders Super Fit.” Cheerleaders Are Super Athletes. About. 16 September 2005 <http://cheerleading.about.com/cs/health/a/athletes.htm>.


The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition.

Copyright © 2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company. 17 September 2005 <http://www.dictionary.com>.


Hey Cait, it's CarzKim and i just read over your paper like you had asked. I really liked it, and I do not think you should be too concerned about it, because its very well written. Because you asked me, I was a little picky about stuff, because you really seemed genuine about getting help. I am not an expert by any means,and I was really flattered that you even asked me to help, but I found a few things worth noting. First of all, I think it was great that you cited stats and actual studies in your paper. It really gives it backbone. As for negative stuff, well, it was hard to find. Anything I found was minor. In your 2nd paragraph you say you "put in" 6 years to cheering...I got hung up on this wording...so I would just suggest changing "put in" to "devoted" or something. The only other thing I noticed was that you loveeee long sentences. You also love using ;'s. I am not very good at using them, but alot of the time I think you would be better off just breaking your sentence into two parts. I found two examples- A.) 2nd paragraph - "Competitive cheerleading requires and incredible amount of strength and strength training . Bases are required to..." and secondly, "115 girls tried out for the squad . It is highly competitive. Again, I'm not an expert, so feel free to disregard that. I really like how, after that, you go into specific examples of how your squad is not dumb, but you seem to skip to and from that point. You go from talking about the audition process, to required GPA, to your audition, and back to smart cheerleaders on your squad. I would just group the two together. Consider making that WHOLE paragraph about how the members were smart. It is a really strong point, and you have so much to back it up, it could def. stand on its own as a paragraph. (PS, congrats on being 6th in ur class, thats awesome). Lastly, how you developed cheerleading as a leadership position, and not just on the sidelines, but in the community, is really a great idea. My only suggestion would be to tie this into how leadership makes you an example of an athlete. Well, thats all I have for you, I hope I helped a little. I really liked your paper, the flow was good and you def. proved your point. Plus, I agree with you, cheerleaders ARE athletes!!! :)

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