Cheerleaders are athletes, but cheerleading isn’t a sport

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The Wichita State University Cheerleaders cheer during a time out at the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament this past weekend at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis.

Sports Reporter

After Quinnipiac University attempted to eliminate its volleyball team and use its cheerleading team as a substitute for Title IX, the Second U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled cheerleading not a varsity sport. This doesn’t end the ongoing debate, however.

 “To me, the way people perceive cheerleading as standing on the sideline cheering with the crowd to cheer on the athletes, but what you see at our national competitions, that is the sporty aspect of it,” Wichita State cheer coach Kelli Rappard said.

Rappard described two types of cheerleading: traditional sideline cheerleading and STUNT, a high-intensity cheerleading that includes basket tosses, tumbling, pyramids and much more.

“Anybody that’s cheering for a school, their primary purpose for cheerleading should be cheering for athletics and then competition is extra,” Rappard said. “Cheerleading is not a sport by definition, but it involves athletes.”

The type of cheerleading at Quinnipiac University only involved sideline cheerleading, not STUNT, which is considered an NCAA sport. 

“That cheerleading was cheer for the athletic team—what the university was doing,” Rappard said. “They ruled it right, but I think the university was trying to do it wrong. They could have pulled in a STUNT group, which is 30 girls who compete throughout the nation.”

WSU does not have a STUNT team, but is capable of performing maneuvers that a STUNT team performs. Although WSU’s cheerleading is technically not a sport, the team is filled with hard-working athletes. 

“The primary role in STUNT is to compete; our primary role is to support the athletics at our school,” Rappard said. “The judge ruled it right, but people see cheerleading is not a sport—it’s not a sport, but they work just as hard as an athlete. But the definition of a sport is to compete; the definition of cheer is to lead a cheer on the sideline.”