A federal judge in Connecticut has ruled that cheerleading isn't really a sport. Many cheerleaders would beg to differ.
The ruling came in response to a case brought about by volleyball players from Quinnipiac University. The school had decided to eliminate the volleyball team for budgetary reasons, and replace it with a competitive cheer squad. Quinnipiac argued that the cheer squad kept it in compliance with Title IX, but U.S. District Judge Stefan Underhill disagreed. He argued that cheerleading was "too underdeveloped and disorganized" to be considered a sport and thus it can't be used to satisfy gender-equity requirements. He added that "competitive cheer may, some time in the future, qualify as a sport under Title IX," but as it stands now, cheerleading doesn't qualify, and Quinnipiac has to either reinstate the volleyball team or make up the loss in some other way.
While this is a victory of sorts for the athletes at Quinnipiac, many former cheerleaders are taking the ruling as a personal blow. Deanna Harvey, writing at the New York Daily News remembers her days on the cheer squad:
These critics obviously never went through one of our grueling practices or routines. Five days a week, for at least three hours each day, we practiced stunting (two or three girls throwing another member of our squad into the air where she performed a flip), dance routines, gymnastics (layouts, back hand-springs) and long stretches. The basketball, football and swim teams did not put nearly as much time into their daily practices as we did... My message to the judge who ruled that cheerleading is not a sport is to try one stunt, perform a backflip while you soar into the air, and wait for two petite girls to catch you. And then get back to me.
Several high school cheerleaders spoke to Fox News and expressed the same sentiment. "We do just as much cardio and training as the other sports so it should be considered one," says Abby Rudd, a high school senior. "We get the same injuries, we go through same troubles, we build up from the ground up like every other program," added a former ASU cheerleader.
This argument has been raised many times before, and most people tend to fall into one of two camps. Either A. Cheerleading is a sport because it is hard or B. Cheerleading isn't competitive and can't really be considered a sport. However, the focus on the rigors of cheerleading seem like they're a bit besides the point. The judge didn't rule that cheerleading is too easy, or not competitive enough, or too girly to be considered a sport. He believes that it is not organized enough yet to replace a well established sport like volleyball. While I would certainly argue that cheerleaders are athletes, given the current state of college cheerleading, they may be athletes without a real sport. And while that is a shame, it would also be a shame to get rid of the volleyball team - or any other women's team - to form a competitive cheer squad. Though Judge Underhill's decision may be controversial, it's not meant to be personal. From the sounds of it, he was acting in favor of women's equality - and that is hardly a bad thing.
Cheerleading Defense Rejected [New York Times]
Federal Judge Who Ruled That Cheerleading Is Not A Sport Under Title IX Should Toss His Decision [New York Daily News]
Valley Cheerleaders Flip Over Judge's Ruling [Fox Pheonix]