What constitutes a sport? Is it sweating profusely after long hours of practice? Is it running up and down a field in an effort to put points on a scoreboard? Is it a game or physical activity pursued for diversion? Webster believes it’s the latter. I, however, am confused. Is cheerleading a sport, or are cheerleaders just head fans that get to travel with the team?
I realize that cheerleading is not considered a sport at FAMU or by the NCAA. I know that our cheerleaders do not receive monetary compensation from the athletic department. They are funded by the Student Government Association. I also realize that the cheerleaders work hard three days a week perfecting routines and stunts to perform at weekly games.
The cheerleaders are a very important aspect of the Rattler football season. They encourage crowd participation and represent Rattler pride. They have their designated place in the football machine.
There is one thing about cheerleading that greatly confuses me. How can cheering for a sport be a sport itself? If this is the case, then at each home game the stands at Bragg Memorial Stadium are full of screaming “athletes.” We are all Rattler athletes, not Rattler fans. If the cheerleaders at FAMU are ever to be titled athletes, the members of the Marching 100 should be labeled as such also.
I remember marching in my high school band wondering why the cheerleaders were considered athletes and the band members were not. We practiced just as much as the cheerleaders, and sometimes even harder.
The cheerleaders took a break at halftime, came back, jumped around, did a couple of flips, raised their voices and obtained their “athlete” status. As marching band members we played when the football team played and performed a show at halftime. Unless you were one of the select few who ventured outside the band circle, you were looked down upon, and were definitely never considered an athlete.
In our high school newspaper, we featured cheerleaders as athletes and no one ever questioned it. In fact, the cheerleaders requested more coverage in the sports section, and they got it.
This semester we were going to have more coverage of the cheerleaders. We were going to include them in the fall sports pullout. The sports section was going to embrace and feature our talented cheerleading squad. Then I found out that our university does not consider cheerleading a sport. For a long time now I have debated with this issue. The debate is over. Supporting a sport is not a sport, at least not at FAMU.
-Elizabeth Broadway, 19, is a sophomore newspaper journalism student from Alpharetta, Ga. She is The Famuan’s sports editor. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.