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Cheerleaders Finally Given Athletic Credit


-Staff writer

The notion that cheerleading is an actual sport has been in great debate for quite some time. Some might suggest that the level of activity involved is somewhat less than strenuous. In the primitive stages of cheerleading, this argument could be credible. Organized cheerleading started at the University of Minnesota in 1898. A student named Johnny Campbell started to lead the crowd into a cheer at a football game. Later on, the university founded a “yell leader” squad consisting of all male students who would lead the crowds in cheers. Eventually, a male cheerleading fraternity named Gamma Sigma was formed in 1903.

It wasn’t until 1923 that women entered the cheerleading scene. The main causes had been the decrease of the male population due to the draft and simply the fact that many collegiate sports had not yet included women. With the increasing female involvement came gymnastics, tumbling, and the use of megaphones during cheer routines. As time progressed, so did the athletic quality of cheerleading. Competitive cheerleading was introduced in the late 1960’s after the founding of the National Cheerleading Association and the World Cheerleading Association.

The 1980’s brought a wave of tougher stunt sequences and risky gymnastics to the modern cheerleading world. All-star teams were becoming popular and more competitions were being broadcasted. The increasing use of dangerous stunts became a safety factor. The AAC Coaches and Advisors was formed in 1987 to determine universal safety regulations to prevent injury or death from hazardous tricks.

Cheerleading in its original form is lacking athletic content and therefore considered an activity, but not a sport. However, as cheerleading has evolved into a much bigger activity, it has shown more sport-like characteristics. It is no-doubt physically demanding on the participants and requires great strength and self-discipline. Cheerleading competitions are rapidly becoming more common around the country.

Although the NCAA does not recognize collegiate cheerleading as a sport, colleges can give cheerleaders athletic credit for being on the team. Until now, Roanoke College hasn’t chosen to give the members of the cheerleading team athletic credit for their hard work.

Stephanie Clements, a freshman member of the team, is elated about the change.

“We work really hard and it feels great to be recognized like the other sports at our school. I hope this is just the first step to building up a solid team that can evolve from a club sport into a varsity sport,” said Stephanie Clements.

The RC cheerleaders are determined to improve the team by expanding in numbers and skill level. With the athletic aspect aside, cheerleading is about showing school spirit and the girls intend to keep up with their regular involvement in campus activities. The next event for the cheer team will be the men’s basketball game on Jan. 29.