High school cheerleaders no longer have to defend what they do as being a sport. The New York State Board of Regents has done it for them.
With last week’s unanimous vote, the Board of Regents approved competitive cheer as a sport across the state. This allows the New York State Public High School Athletic Association to place the same standards on cheerleading as it does on its other sports such as football and basketball – the same events most associated with cheerleading.
This move is long overdue on two fronts. First, it gives cheerleading the recognition it has deserved for decades. Second, it gives cheerleaders and their coaches guidelines to follow.
For years, the knock against cheerleading as a sport has been the perception that all cheerleaders do is entertain the fans during timeouts and between quarters. That was how things were back in the 1950s and 1960s, when cheerleaders simply stood on the sidelines.
However, cheerleading has evolved into dance routines with complicated timing, lifts and throws — all of which have to be executed correctly or risk serious injury. That means several hours of practice every week just to be ready for a Friday night football or basketball game, which is nearly the same amount of work the athletes the cheerleaders cheer for put in. It’s physical, it’s difficult and it can lead to serious injuries such as concussions and torn ligaments.
This is why officially earning recognition as a sport from the Board of Regents is crucial for cheerleading. Now that it can fully bring cheerleading under its umbrella, NYSPHAA can give the sport guidelines to follow, including certification criteria for coaches, limits to the length of the season and safety procedures when an athlete suffers a head injury. This is not to say cheerleaders weren’t treated well or coached well in the past. All this does is ensures that cheerleaders will be given the proper treatment and coaching going forward.