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Is Cheerleading Outdated?

In the popular imagination, cheerleaders wear tiny outfits while dancing, cheering, and serving as eye candy on the sidelines for male athletes.

But in an interesting Wall Street Journal article on cheerleading that traces its history and changes, it's acknowledged that although that "earthbound" kind of cheerleading can still be seen at NFL games, an emerging (and potentially dangerous) kind of cheerleading called "stunt cheerleading" is increasing the number of cheerleading injuries.

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the number of injuries from cheerleading accidents has more
than quadrupled in 25 years. One source said that in 2007 alone, 26,786 cheerleaders went to the emergency room for injuries. In January of this year, Wisconsin's Supreme Court ruled that cheerleading is a contact sport, a decision that means cheerleaders can't sue their schools or teammates if they get hurt.


At Xtreme Tumbling and Cheer Gym in Antioch, CA, members are competing for full scholarships and hope to catch the eye of college scouts at cheer competitions. Coach Kelly Allen says that the gym's motto is, "Motrin and ice, ladies, let's go."

I think it's great that cheerleading has evolved into a sport, but is the new respect it's accorded at odds with the original (and mostly gendered) purpose of women at the sidelines to cheer male athletes on? What do you think about the symbolism of cheerleading — is it outdated?

Image Source: Getty
Join The Conversation
sham28 sham28 7 years
I was a cheerleader- it was a GREAT time and a great workout. HATED shouting things but I loved the gymnastics and dance.
snarkypants snarkypants 7 years
haha the cheerleaders were the biggest losers in our high school. nobody liked them. but hey, good for them for wanted to get involved. i love that the cheerleader = popular stereotype is dead!
HoneyBrown1976 HoneyBrown1976 7 years
I was a cheerleader in high school; however, when I graduated and moved on to college, I decided not to try out. I didn't see a point in continuing the sport. I don't think it's outdated; but, it's reserved for a certain time.
MissSushi MissSushi 7 years
I don't think so.. its a very athletic sport, and the high schools that have a real team, like the ones who compete, take it really seriously. I went to a few schools with the stand on the ground type cheer, but i also went to several schools (i moved every 6 mos - 1 yr) that had very intensive teams and routines. You only have to watch a few routines to understand that. Those teams have males and females, and though the skirts are traditional, and while it can be very hard on your body, more so when they are first learning with new members, getting dropped is a constant fear, so can any sport. I think the teams that just stand around and yell are kind of pointless, but when its a fully functional routine team, they do some amazing things. Stunt cheerleading isn't new.. its been around for decades.
equestriennechic equestriennechic 7 years
Very outdated.
Autumns_Elegy Autumns_Elegy 7 years
It's not my thing, but what bothers me about cheerleading is when these girls are put in the "dumb blonde" box. If these girls love cheering then let them do it,.
yeokr yeokr 7 years
sure, sure.. I think the stereotype is a bit outdated. and while I think that the surge in popularity of dance with shows like So You Think You Can Dance is doing more for positive body image, I do appreciate that viewing cheerleaders as athletes is better than "hot [skinny] girls in tiny outfits." the stress is more than likely too much for teenagers who are under so much stress in general, but there is something good to say about viewing the body as an instrument that can be harnessed/trained rather than punished/starved. it's a fine line.. there are the stereotypical coaches that push the teenagers too hard to be perfect, rather than encouraging them to be strong and healthy, i'm sure... but you see where i'm going with this..
rossy rossy 7 years
Why bitch about cheer-leading? Worry more about "toddler" beauty pageants... Does no-one see the problems with that? Little girls wearing makeup (aging them 15+ years), wearing "costumes" that are too old for them... I don't know what to say about the prancing those poor kids do on stage. And the mothers are pretty... obsessed, to say the least. If their precious darling doesn't win, well, it's not a happy home, & the money spent makes me shake my head in disgust. Here's hoping some of that goes into their child's education. - I've watched "Toddlers & Tiaras" a few times with friends. We've talked about it between ourselves afterwards. "Little girls training to be a rich man's mistress"; "Stuck-up, selfish women", etc. - So, lets be real here, at least the girls cheering are OLD enough to CHOOSE for themselves what they like doing.
biarose biarose 7 years
I don't know much about cheerleading because I live in Australia, but it seems cheerleading is a sport in it's own right. They have competitions and stuff, or so I've seen on 'Bring It On' lol!
Pistil Pistil 7 years
With this evolution I think the whole cheerleader stigma should be outdated: the popularity, the attitude, the scantness. Nobody fantasizes about the girl's soccer team, do they? Anyway. I thought males could be cheerleaders too? I know we had one on the high school cheer team at one point. I don't know anything about professional cheerleading.
zuke zuke 7 years
People always stereotype cheerleaders as being the popular girls, but it's nothing like that at my school. At my school, if you're anybody, you're probably on the basketball, volleyball, soccer, or swim team, and you're only a cheerleader if you didn't make the team or aren't especially good at those sports, or if you believe the stereotypes, which is never cool.
janneth janneth 7 years
Right, shame on anyone who would discourage girls from dressing in scanty outfits and shaking their butts in the middle of an arena for the entertainment of fans.
staple-salad staple-salad 7 years
And at my high school, cheer was a joke. Nobody liked the cheerleaders except the cheerleaders. It wasn't that they were bad people, or stereotypical mean cheerleaders (if you wanted to be that, you joined the dance team), they were just dance team rejects and the dance team was the school divas (and synchronized sex squad, as my friends called them)... after winning state 3 years in a row.
staple-salad staple-salad 7 years
I was a cheerleader in 8th grade. They didn't let me on the squad in high school (I had more energy, enthusiasm, and better moves than about 1/4 of the squad, but I'm fat and therefore I think they laughed at me for even trying behind my back, but they let me be mascot, which turned out to be way more fun than cheer, believe it or not, and was something that I'd already had more training in from doing mascot-y type work with the zoo). But... in 8th grade we did a lot of stunting. And we did a lot at cheer tryouts in high school. The 8th grade stunting wasn't anything big (I was a base and we just knelt with the flier standing on thighs rather than hands), but I think we did things along the line of liberty at high school tryouts.
pinkkiwii84 pinkkiwii84 7 years
I started cheerleading in junior high and eventually went to college on a cheer scholarship. For me the fun part was learning new stunts and pushing yourself. Yes we definitely did get hurt but perfecting the stunt and getting a great crowd reaction was worth it. I had a blast.
hypnoticmix hypnoticmix 7 years
IMO the problem with cheerleading is more and more people over the years/decades simply feel stupid cheering so they don't participate and in increasing cases just don't pay attention. As soon as we can convince people that it's not stupid to cheer on your team and get them to be a little extroverted with out feeling self conscious it'll sway back to the way it use to be.
snarkypants snarkypants 7 years
with so many obese kids out there, i think we should applaud anything that keeps them active.
Chouette4u Chouette4u 7 years
As long as people enjoy doing it and other people enjoy watching them, it's not outdated.
Chrstne Chrstne 7 years
I was a cheerleader all my life. HS and College included, which was stunt based. It's very stressful on your body, and you are really pushed to your limit. Broken bones, torn ligaments, etc. You do get dropped, you do mess up landings and everything, etc.
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