Thursday, December 21, 2006

Florida High School Athletic Association Considers Competitive Cheerleading Championship

According to this article at (Treasure Coast, Florida), the Florida High School Athletic Association is considering adding a competitive championship in cheerleading. If it did so, schools could possibly count its cheerleaders as athletes for the purposes of Title IX, making it easier to attain proportionality compliance.

One cheerleader quoted in the article argues that cheerleading is a sport because it "takes endurance" and that its participants "try hard, practice, and perform." Fortunately, OCR's criteria is a little different -- otherwise, schools could argue that activities like drama club, chorus, and marching band count as sports. Not that those activities are of lesser or greater importance than athletics -- just that they are different enough in nature such that the number of girls participating in them should not factor into the determination of whether the school is providing girls with an equitable number of athletic opportuntities.

Rather, as we've noted before, the questions OCR asks are aimed at drawing a line between sideline cheerleading, which exists to support and promote other sports, and competitive cheerleading, which is independent of, and is treated comparably to, other sports. Specifically, OCR lists the following factors it considers on a case-by-case basis:
  • whether selection for the team is based upon objective factors related primarily to athletic ability;
  • whether the activity is limited to a defined season;
  • whether the team prepares for and engages in competition in the same way as other teams in the athletic program with respect to coaching, recruitment, budget, try-outs and eligibility, and length and number of practice sessions and competitive opportunities;
  • whether the activity is administered by the athletic department; and,
  • whether the primary purpose of the activity is athletic competition and not the support or promotion of other athletes....
  • whether organizations knowledgeable about the activity agree that it should be recognized as an athletic sport;
  • whether the activity is recognized as part of the interscholastic or intercollegiate athletic program by the athletic conference to which the institution belongs and by organized state and national interscholastic or intercollegiate athletic associations;
  • whether state, national, and conference championships exist for the activity;
  • whether a state, national, or conference rule book or manual has been adopted for the activity;
  • whether there is state, national, or conference regulation of competition officials along with standardized criteria upon which the competition may be judged; and,
  • whether participants in the activity/sport are eligible to receive scholarships and athletic awards (e.g., varsity awards).

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