Cheerleading: Why It’s Considered a Varsity Sport


Manon Borlon

Cheerleaders at the Thanksgivinng Game

The place students at Hamilton-Wenham Regional High School usually see cheerleaders is at football games. During these games, cheerleaders are seen shouting encouraging cheers with smiles on their faces, and performing impressive routines including high kicks, jumps, and more. However, cheerleading is so much more than just cheering on football players.

The definition of sport is “an athletic activity requiring skill or physical prowess and often of a competitive nature”. According to this definition, cheerleading at Hamilton-Wenham is definitely a sport. Eileen Lannon, Hamilton-Wenham’s cheer team coach, agrees. She points out that while many  students only see cheerleaders at the football games, the team also competes in a few Cheerleading Competitions. This year, Hamilton Wenham is attending the MASCO invitational, Cheer for a Cure in Ipswich, and possibly the Austin Prep Invitational.

In addition to learning the 25 to 30 football game cheers, Lannon said, “the cheer team also has to work with a choreographer to create a two minute and thirty-second routine. Their hard work extends beyond simply cheering, they are truly impressive athletes.” A senior on the team, named Manon Borlon, agrees with this. She emphasizes that the sport is actually very difficult, and says that “people should try to do what we do during competition to see what it [means] to be a cheerleader.”

Cheerleading is also a varsity sport. In fact, the focus for the team is really the competitions.The purpose of the competitions is to force the team to push themselves, and to reward their hard work with the thrill of success and victory.

There are a myriad of roles on a cheer squad that includes: bases, spotters, and flyers.  If one considers the need for extras to stand in for injured athletes, the size of the ideal cheerleading team is 10-12 students. Injuries do happen in this sport. Girls get bruised and battered when trying new stunts. But Coach Lannon says, “When it all comes together, it’s a great feeling and worth the pain.”

Jasmine Eap, the cheer captain, also agrees.  She believes that since the cheer team “is a very physical sport” with many injuries, that it meets the qualifications to be considered a sport.

One of the stunts performed by the cheer team. Photo by Grace Holladay.

This year’s current cheerleading team has a variety of previous experiences, with half the team never having cheered prior to high school. In order to be on the cheerleading team, you do not need to have prior experience, but there are try-outs. This mix is beneficial because the experienced members can help train and encourage those with less experience. Lannon says that all the girls, experienced or not, are willing to “give it their all, take instruction well, respect each other’s time and talents”, and trust each other. Eap shares that the team does have “a few ups and downs”, but the team members adapted to the sport quickly with few adjustments.

Lannon also notes that cheerleading is “a team sport in its truest sense.” The members of the team have to work together in close proximity and must be mentally in-tune with each other to have perfect timing. When I visited the cheer team and watched one of their practices, I witnessed the girls performing dangerous stunts: flips, lifts, jumps, and more. In order to successfully complete these stunts, there has to be trust that each member will be caught. Every team member has to participate in order to keep everyone safe.

There are multiple core qualities that the cheerleading team hold on to. Communication is one of them. Eap states that this is necessary “because without it [they] wouldn’t be able to stunt and encourage each other to push through the routine.” Communication is needed to know what to do, how to do it, and it helps increase the team spirit with encouragement. Secondly, respect is an important quality. Everybody has boundaries, and sometimes the physical intensity of cheerleading and fear of injuries can affect and intimidate team members. If girls on the team don’t respect themselves or others, it could “lead to a much greater injury or mental block.”, says Eap. Borlon also believes that trust is a major core value in cheerleading. There are many stunts with a flyer (the one being lifted) and bases (the ones lifting). In these stunts, it is vital that the flyer can trust the bases. She says the team is really close because of this trust and that they “always work together and try to help each other” when needed.

Currently, the cheerleading team only has female athletes participating. Lannon states that this team is open to both men and women participation and believes that men may feel uncomfortable joining because cheerleading is often labeled a “girly” sport. Men, however, often play a crucial role in successful cheerleading teams.  Because they tend to have increased upper body strength, they are able to complete higher tosses and more powerful tumbling.

Cheerleading at Hamilton-Wenham is truly an incredible sport. It offers students a way to work hard, compete and bond with teammates. Anyone can join: male, female, experienced, and inexperienced. The trust, respect, and spirit each member has put into their craft has made the team successful at football games and cheer competitions.