"Rah, rah, rah! Sku-u-mar, Hoo-rah! Hoo-rah! Varsity! Varsity! Varsity, Minn-e-so-ta!"
This is what the first cheerleader ever recorded screamed at a University of Minnesota football game in 1898.
Cheerleaders started as “yell squads” for sports both at collegiate and eventually high school levels. Yell squads were meant to motivate and push teams further, helping athletes focus and unite as a team. The activity quickly spread across high schools and colleges in the U.S., forming a competitive and respected activity.
According to Varsity.com, the Women’s Sports Foundation has come up with a set of requirements for a sport to be considered a sport. Cheer meets all of the requirements.
There are tryouts, practices, varsity and junior teams, coaches, competitions, summer camps, even careers involving cheerleading. But cheer has not technically been declared a real sport.
“A true sport causes you to work hard physically and mentally,” says Renaissance varsity football quarterback Jason Johnson.
“Physical competition,” said Jalen Tate, another Phoenix varsity football player.
“A competition you can win,” said former cheerleader Tecionna Robinson.
“Competition between two teams to achieve a goal,” former basketball player, Donovan Moncrease.
“A sport requires dedication,” said Cross country runner Ebony Johnson.
In 2016, metro-Detroit high school students have debated this issue on social media. This RHS Stentor conducted an informal Twitter poll to see what students propose Of 129 anonymous voters, 60 percent considered cheer a true sport.
"I, without a doubt, think that cheer is a sport,” said survey participant Johnson.
“I remember one time when I was little, my older cousins were cheerleaders. Since I was the littlest, they decided to put me at the top of a pyramid to practice their skills, and I fell on my back on the concrete, and knocked the air out of me ... from that day forward, never will I ever complain or sympathize with what cheerleaders have to go through,” she added.
Emerson Rogers, whose mother works as a cheer coach, agrees, but for a different reason.
“I don't think cheer is a sport, because competitions are based
on judges’ opinions
not a set rule,” said Rogers.
Survey participant Jason Johnson said otherwise.
“After seeing one of my sisters’ cheer practices, I do believe cheer is a sport," Johnson said. "I believe it's a sport because the cheerleaders have to be in shape and have stamina mentally and physically. They have to learn cheers and moves to go along with it.. It's not as easy as it seems."
Some may have formed their own perceptions of what cheer is, without knowing all aspects of cheer.
“Cheer is only for entertainment purposes,” said survey-taker Moncrease. "It’s just there “to support other sports.”
Former RHSVC member Demia Jones disagreed.
“We throw ourselves to the mat, in the air, on the field. ... Even if it's not competitive cheer at games, we’re still in competitions with the other teams to see who's the loudest, sharpest, most creative, and the best,” Jones said.
Senior Alonja Lavett-Pearl Smith, RHSVC captain often reflects on the physical demands of cheerleading.
“We practice three hours a day for four days, and cheer at games on Fridays," Smith said. "People consider it not a sport for the simple fact that they think it's easy.
“But let them try it and they'll see that it requires so much stamina that some people just don't have.”