Is LHS Cheer a Sport?

Samantha Flores- Sports & Health Editor

       The sport of cheerleading has become a large part of popular culture throughout the twenty first century as seen through the multiple Bring It On movies. There is a stereotype that labels cheerleaders ( as dumb, lacking skill, and having no talent), and people may look down on their ability to compete in physical activity. At Lassiter, cheerleading is a varsity sport in two areas: sidelines and competition. Both are very different, and both sometimes come with statements from others about how “cheer is not a sport”. If one commits to the cheer program and sees all that comes with it, his or her mentality will be completely changed.

       Cheerleading begins with tryouts, which involve a three day clinic to learn the cheer and dance. A potential cheerleader will showcase her ability to have stamina, perform the routines the best she can, and show her stunting and tumbling level. Stamina is tested by running a mile. This year to make the team, a 12-minute or less mile time was required. With this mile cut-off, cheerleaders are now limited on their ability to slack, and they must show they are capable of more than just crowd leading. The chances of making a sideline team  freshman and sophomore year are greater than in junior and senior year. If a cheerleader can remain coordinated throughout the chants and put a smile on her face, she has a pretty solid chance of making it. When it comes to varsity sidelines in junior and senior year, this is when the cuts really begin. The coaches announced this year that to be eligible for the squad, one must throw her back handspring at tryouts. This came as a shock to many, and made it more difficult to make the once very achievable squad. A back handspring not only tells the coaches one can do basic tumbling, but it shows a level of flexibility and fitness that cheerleading should require. The fact that Lassiter made the back handspring a standard this year for the sideline squad shows that one cannot just “walk on” and make it.

         There are three different categories of Lassiter cheerleading that are further divided by grade. The easiest squad to attain is sidelines for basketball. This squad requires no tumbling and stunting, just a positive and cheerful person who can be loud. Basketball cheer requires limited athleticism. The second easiest team to make is football cheer. This squad requires basic tumbling and stunts, but more importantly a loud and confident individual. There really is not any advanced fitness level needed, one just has to have knowledge about how cheerleading works. The hardest team to make and the most athletic team is varsity competition. Varsity competition is for anyone trying out with advanced tumbling and stunting abilities. This squad has “alternates” and cuts people very often; it is not easy to make. Competition cheer is most definitely a sport.

       During the summer, it seems like the cheerleaders live at Lassiter. On Monday’s, Wednesday’s, and Thursday’s, there are workouts for all at 8:30am led by the cheer coach. The girls will usually do a forty minute workout video and run two miles. The fact that there are summer workouts shows that cheer is not just about the “cheers”, it is about the physique and dedication of the participants, just like any other Lassiter sport. In addition to workouts, varsity competition girls practice Tuesday and Thursday mornings from 8:30-10:30 am and Wednesdays from 4:30-6:30 pm. This level of time commitment that sidelines and especially competition girls show during the short summer break demonstrates strong work ethic. Cross country and football also operate under similar conditions, putting those sports on the same level as cheerleading.

       The first three months of school can be rough with cheer season in full swing. The sidelines girls practice once a week and have a game every week, showing dedication, but not so much “physical skill” or the time commitment as other varsity sports. On the other hand, the competition girls are practicing constantly. Last year the “cheer coven”, also known as the aux gym was torn down to build the new, larger gym. This took away the cheerleaders’ practicing space, so varsity competition had to switch to morning practices. Waking up at 5:20 am for two days during the school week is no picnic, and it takes a true athlete to be able to perform at their best level at that hour. Coach Fischer gives no excuses; the girls are held to the same physical and mental standard as if they were practicing in the afternoon. This makes others respect cheerleaders more for sacrificing their sleep so other sports can have their gym space with no disruption during the afternoon. In addition to those practices, there are two other afternoon practices and beginning in September, generally a competition every weekend. Competition cheer has won the regional competition nine times in a row, more than any other Lassiter sport, giving them a ticket to the state finals every year. Georgia cheerleading in the 7A division is not easy to win and cheerleading does not get enough credit for its level of achievement compared to other sports.

       To sum it up, cheerleading does take a level of physical fitness and demands lots of time from athletes. Although sideline cheer has some aspects of sports incorporated, it truly is not a sport. Not just anybody can make the squad, but sideline cheerleaders cannot “win a game” and their practices during the school year are spent yelling chants. Competition cheerleading at Lassiter however is a high achieving and highly ranked sport. People tend to confuse sideline and competition cheer and say they both are not a true sport, and nothing is more infuriating than that. Everything is not what it seems, and when you see the competition girls performing at a pep rally, think of those morning practices and long afternoons. When you see the sidelines girls, remember their dedication to working out throughout summer and trying to generate school spirit. Sideline and competition cheer are two very different activities, and they deserve different “rankings” when it comes to their title of “sport”.