Cheer deserves more credit

Sarah Rogoz, Opinion Editor

When I told my club volleyball teammates that I would not be playing high school volleyball, I was met with looks of disappointment. After explaining I’d be pursuing cheerleading instead, the sad looks turned into confused scoffs. I was embarrassed after seeing their reactions, and from then on I rarely told people my plans to cheer.
But it didn’t stop there. Throughout my high school career I’ve gotten small remarks about cheerleading that seem insignificant to others, but hit home when they disregard the sport I love and commit so much time to.
As a child I played every sport you could think of. You name it, I’ve probably played it for a season or two. But by far the hardest I’ve ever worked has been putting on a 2 minute and 30 second cheer routine.
Throughout my past five years in cheerleading, I’ve suffered a concussion, two broken and bloody noses, a considerable amount of ankle rolls and countless bruises and fat lips. Cheerleading is ranked top two, next to gymnastics, in the most severe injuries on a high school sport. When girls are being lifted into the air left and right, the statistic doesn’t seem too far off.
Competitive cheerleading was declared a sport in Illinois in 2005, after IHSA created a specific sectional and state tournament. It’s been a proclaimed sport for the past 12 years, yet people still consider it to be a lesser sport than any other.
The fundamentals of cheerleading are synonymous with any other sport, but that doesn’t stop people from telling me I put nine months a year into an activity that “isn’t even a real sport.”
Cheerleading continues to be the most team-oriented sport I’ve ever participated in. Not only does each person have their own set of responsibilities, but the team as a whole needs to execute a choreographed routine in complete unison. If even one person can’t compete, the whole routine can’t be performed. The amount of commitment needed for one single cheer season is one some people just can’t handle.
I am an athlete. I train for months with a set of hard-working teammates that become more like family. I work hard, I get injured and sometimes it’s hard to think about anything other than cheerleading. I struggle with obstacles like any other athlete does, and I am just as overjoyed when I overcome them.
I am not asking people to start putting cheerleaders on a pedestal because no one sport should be. I’m asking them to rewrite their definition of what a “sport” is because cheerleading sure as hell should be included.
When people say cheerleading isn’t a sport because cheerleaders don’t have to work as hard as other sports, they are just flat out wrong. Cheerleaders have to work as hard if not harder than other athletes, but we just get to do it with bows in our hair.