How cheerleading has fought off its stereotypes

Written by Yasmin Spencer

Cheerleading is a sport that comes with a number of shrouding stereotypes. As an elite and competitive cheerleader: when I tell people about the sport I am truly passionate about, I am tired of hearing “don’t you just dance with pom-poms?”

The reality that cheerleading has made so much progress in the last few years should eliminate these uninformed assumptions. In fact for three years it has been the fastest growing sport in the UK and in 2016 it was officially recognised as a sport (meaning it will debut in an upcoming Olympics as soon as ruled are confirmed by boards).

As a result of multiple misinterpretations in American films, cheerleading comes with a number of stereotypes that over shadow the intense difficulty and successes of UK teams. In the last World Championships Team England-All Girl won the Gold medal and Team England-Co-ed won Silver – beating massive American teams! However, these well deserving athletes do not receive as much recognition and support as any other sporting team in our country of the same success. It’s unfair for avid fans such as myself to have to stream the big competitions on dodgy online websites when it’s massively televised in the USA. Cheerleading has a substantial role in the future with it incorporating gymnastics, dance and acrobatics; it involves a huge range of people bringing different skills to the team.

Cheerleading as a UK association is also paving the way for disabled athletes. Due to the nature of the sport it is easy to incorporate a team of mixed disability. Adaptations are made so that these individuals can excel expectations: wheelchair bases provide extreme arm strength and spotters hold up coloured flags so that partial sighted athletes know where to aim whilst upside down. The 2017 World Championships were the first to include a “Paracheer” division, with Team England winning Gold (although they were only up against one other team – Team Wales that received Silver). After debuting this new development in cheerleading, officials are anticipating many more countries will follow our lead for the next World Championships.

There should be no shame in admitting your association with cheerleading; I can assure any reader that it is a lot harder than you may think. There are a number of respectable boys on my team who deal with stigma from others. It is these narrow-minded people who merely lift weights, when these boys lift people!