Sunday, May 31, 2009

Cheerleading one's way to compliance

A short but somewhat informative article about the issues surrounding competitive cheerleading and its potential to resolve some schools' Title IX issues around opportunities. Appropriate given the recent attempt by Quinnipiac to earn compliance by cutting a more traditional sport (volleyball) and add cheerleading.

This article focuses on high schools, though it does mention Maryland, which became the first college or university to elevate competitive cheer to varsity status a few years ago.

Across the country 15 states (or rather their high school athletics/activities associations) have sanctioned competitive cheerleading as a varsity sport. Pennsylvania is considering adding the sport and currently doing research into how it would affect equity issues and how other states have implemented it.

The addition of cheerleading has been called "a quick fix" and this is part of the problem. Why schools/states/administrators think that it is so easy to implement cheerleading over some other sport is curious to me. It needs, like every other sport, a coach, practice facility, travel, per diem, uniforms, trainers and doctors, etc. Quick fix makes me wonder whether competitive cheerleading, once elevated to varsity status, will truly receive equitable treatment.

One of the other issues, as brought up by Title IX expert Peg Pennypacker, is whether cheerleading, even competitive cheerleading, is truly achieving the equity Title IX mandates. Or as she asks, is it really in the spirit of Title IX which sought to provide opportunities to activities from which women have historically been denied or given limited access. Only in the very early days of cheerleading were women banned and even then cheerleading was what it said it was: leading cheers on the sidelines.

Also those who are competitive cheerleaders cannot be sidelines cheerleaders. That means there may be a whole lot of cheerleaders around a school. Or there will be an elimination of sidelines cheerleading. Which kind of makes me wonder what exactly is the role and purpose of cheerleading these days?