The Chronicle recently published an article by Faith Johnson entitled, "Law fosters equality for school athletics." Two aspects of the article troubled me immensely.
The first - a glaring omission - was the fact that cheerleading was never mentioned. This is despite the fact that No. 1 one on the list of "the fastest growing sports for girls" is competition cheering. I'm sure that this was not an intentional omission. I'm sure that Ms. Johnson simply didn't think of cheering as a sport.
This actually compounds the problem. The impression that cheering is not "a real sport" is one derived from ignorance. It is a misconception that cheerleader athletes (both female and male), as well as coaches, are constantly trying to rectify.
I challenge anyone who feels cheering is not a sport to join my squad for summer camp or any practice. As with anything, one cannot speak intelligently on an issue until one has educated oneself.
The second comment is one of surprise at the numbers quoted. I realize that Ms. Johnson was limiting her article to public schools. I teach and coach at a small, private school. We have sports for girls each season.
In the fall our scholar athletes are involved in cheering, cross-country and varsity and junior varsity volleyball. Winter sports include cheering, swimming and varsity and JV basketball. These are followed by competition cheering, track, tennis, golf and soccer in the spring.
The percentage of girls participating in one or more school sports is over 70 percent. The percentage of the female student body participating on one or more cheering squads is over 20 percent. The number of sports offered for males and the percentage of male student athletes are very similar figures as those for females.
Though not falling under the Equity in Sports Act that governs public schools, I am privileged to work with an athletic director and a headmaster who approach cheering as a sport, according it equal funding and support. It is my goal to have all school officials, faculty, parents, students and community members (including the media) give cheerleading the recognition that it deserves.
Brenda B. VanSant, Martinez
(Editor's note: The author is varsity cheer coach at Augusta Preparatory Day School.)
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