Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Virginia Schools Consider Competitive Cheer

A school superintendent in Virginia is urging his district and others in his region to consider altering cheerleading so that the opportunities it provides count as as athletic opportunities under Title IX. Girls receive proportionately fewer athletic opportunities in Superintendent Nichols' Chesapeake Public Schools, and he and others support counting cheer as a sport as a way to "close the gap." While the Virginia High School League recognizes cheer and sponsors district, regional, and a statewide tournament, participants don't count as athletes under Title IX because they exist primarily to support other teams from the sideline, rather than to compete in their own right. Nichols and others have begun to discuss whether it is feasible to add a regular season of competition for competitive cheer, and whether schools would have to offer separate competitive and sideline squads. Such a move would encounter many obstacles, including logistics, cost, and preferences of the participants themselves. So it is unknown whether changes to cheerleading are on the horizon. However it turns out, I commend Chesapeake and the other districts looking into competitive cheer for acknowledging that to count it as a sport, it has to actually be (or become) a sport that is focused primarily on competition. But if that transition is not possible, or the preference of the cheerleaders, I also hope that Superintendent Nichols continues to consider adding other sports to "close the gap."