Cheerleading makes you think of over-the-top excitement, lots of glitter, and pom poms for days. Those are generally the stereotypical thoughts that come to mind, and honestly, we are all guilty of it. I know on multiple occasions I have been guilty of judging cheerleaders based solely on the fact that they are cheerleaders. They have all the glitz and the glamor, but no one thinks about how far cheerleading has actually come, from the lone fact of cheering on men while they play sports to something way bigger and better than the original concept. Yeah, there may still be the main concept of “cheering,” but these women, and now even men, have been able to make it into a competitive sport. From the a vast amount of training, effort, time, and competition, these women and men give everything to the sport they are so strongly dedicated to and developing every day.
Cheerleading used to be about building up egos and attempting to get the crowd excited to see how well the men, generally, were playing. It was extremely sexist in the past, and in some ways still is, cheerleaders have evolved the sport, not only emotionally, but physically. The more cheerleading started to catch on, the more physical it got as well. Cheerleaders spent hours on hours in the gym, hitting the mats, attempting to land insane flips as well as stunts that you would not see really in any other sport, with the exception of gymnastics but that is a different point. The amount of sheer talent and energy that powers the sport, compared to the lack of talent before, was a giant step forward for the participants in this difficult sport. It is not just about standing with a big smile anymore, people expect them to do more and have more physical aspects to cheerleading now, hoping to see stunts that spark serotonin and get you pumped.
Another way cheerleading has taken a step forward, and away from that stereotypical standard, is the inclusion of men! I know some people may argue this as a negative, but having a sport that was solely based on women being “yes girls,” to gaining more popularity and respect to the point where men actually want to join as well, is huge. Being able to say cheerleading is a sport that is open to any gender and even have the possibility of an all-male team is something we would have never seen in the past. Men were usually bullied at the thought of cheering on teams or being apart of cheerleading, but it is a big step as a society to accept men in cheerleading. The show Cheer on Netflix is a huge example of men being an essential part of the cheerleading community and how they benefit from the evolution of cheerleading.
Finally, my last reason that cheerleading is moving forward is because we are actually calling cheerleading a sport. This would never have even been a topic years ago. Now it is a booming sport that has competitions around the world and a huge support system to back it up. There are famous cheerleaders like Gabi Butler, Morgan Simianer, and Alex Gallagher, who is a huge time cheerleader for the male side of the sport. A lot of younger athletes look up to these them for what they do as cheerleaders, and also see them as role models they can model their own cheerleading careers after. Having some amazing role models, like the ones named above, are extremely important to the progress of cheerleading as a sport. People would have never given these cheerleaders a second glance if we did not start to consider cheerleading a part of sports.
These athletes have fought hard to get cheerleading on the map, making it more than just cheering on men. I truly give them my upmost respect for their dedication to the evolution, as well as the youth development, of cheerleading as a whole. You see a lot more youth programs because of how popular it is getting, but also a lot of the children just enjoy it! Who as a child did not love running around, jumping, and screaming random stuff, and to be able to get away with it too? I give these athletes props for pushing their bodies day in and day out, going through stunts, cheers, and tumbling hours on end. I know for a fact as a soccer player, I do not put my body through as much pain as they do as cheerleaders. It is shocking how much they go through in their training that a lot of the outside world does not see or look into.
These people are truly amazing, and as an athlete talking to another athlete, I applaud cheerleaders for doing what they do. I am sure they face a ton of backlash and hear the sexist comments, and whatever other negative connotations they may face, and I give them the upmost respect. They are fighting the fight right now, and despite not getting seen enough, their push for cheerleading as a whole NEEDS to be admired.
I know someone out there probably is going to disagree with me on some of these points, but honestly, they are probably some lazy a-hole sitting on the couch with a washed-up high school career following behind them. Screw your glory days, and start putting some respect behind the women and men who take part of competitive and noncompetitive cheerleading.