Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Is it wrong to promote sports over cheerleading?

My niece (also known as "the Little Bug") is about to turn three. My brother and I were both incredibly diverse in the sports that we played growing up. Heck, I even did 10 years of dance. However, I was never a cheerleader. My mother was, and sometimes I think she still wishes she was one. Not that it's a bad thing. I never wanted to be a cheerleader. I wasn't ever really friends with the cheerleaders, because I was normally on the court or field.

So, here's my question: is it wrong to promote being on the court over being on the sideline with pom poms? My niece's little friend (aka my brother's best friend's little girl) is always decked out in a cheerleader uniform for games. I don't know that they're pushing her to be a cheerleader, but it seems that way to me. Again, not that it's a bad thing. I'm just not comfortable with it.

I know that if they choose to be a cheerleader, it's fine as long as they love it. But, I don't want that to be her only option. I want my niece to try everything. Make sure that she'd rather be on the sidelines.

I'm lucky that my SIL wasn't a cheerleader and was always on the court too. Maybe lucky isn't the right world. Maybe I just have a very negative connotation of cheerleaders. I don't find there is much use to them. However, many will disagree with me. You can still truly love sports and be a cheerleader, I know that. Maybe I'm just asking for a personality trait, which you can't choose for someone.

But really, is it wrong to think that way? I just want my niece to have the confidence I learned from sports. To be able to keep up with the boys when talking about sports. To enjoy that part. Because I love it.


  1. I find myself leaning that way as well. I want girls to feel comfortable pulling their own on the court rather than just...standing on the sidelines.

    But then, I have boys so perhaps I should shut up.

  2. I think cheerleading now is a little more athletic than it used to be. I have a 3 1/2 year old, and she currently takes dance. I will probably have her at least try soccer at some point and let her lead from there. I don't think I will actively "push" cheerleading, though if she comes to it organically through dance or gymnastics, and it's her thing, that's fine.

    The thing about cheerleading that scares me a little is the higher-than-average injury rate, as compared to other sports.

    FWIW, I was a cheerleader. My mom isn't girly and never, ever pushed it.

    But I think little girls in cheerleading uniforms are cute, especially at college games. (runs & ducks for cover.)

  3. Should you feel bad about that? HELL NO! I think it's wonderful encouraging your niece to play sports. Although cheerleaders will tell you it's a sport -- and I'm not disagreeing -- but so many girls think that's where they belong when that is absolutely not true.

  4. I totally get what you are saying, and I think its great to want to see young girls be more than just a spectator. I guess a lot of it has to do with WHY the girl wants to be the cheerleader vs playing the sport, and at 3 yo, she probably just wants to wear cute clothes and play pretend. Some want to dress up as a princess, some as a butterfly, this little girl wants to dress up as a cheerleader.

    Now, if she were older, thats where the "WHY" comes it because she wants to be popular, and think the boys will love a cheerleader, or is it really because she wants to be part of a team, loves dance and loves being social and active....because you can gain all the confidence in the world from lots of things other than sports. I myself was a ballet junkie, and HATED playing sports...HATED. IT. To this day, my love of sports has no relation to my desire to actually PLAY sports. LOL.

    I think the important thing for us to teach young girls is to always challenge themselves, to push their limits just past what they think they are capable of and what is comfortable, and to do this in all areas of their life. So if that means they are kicking ass and taking names on the field, being flung up into the air or standing on someones shoulders cheering on their school team, or as in my case, slapping on a tutu, tights and pointe shoes and twirling around on a stage then its all good. :)

  5. I'm with Jaime on this one. Although, I did love soccer and horseback riding, I hated playing any sport that required upper body strength and was much more comfortable on a stage or at the barre (clearly I'm still comfortable at the bar, heh).

    Group activities for girls is very important. The key though (I think anyway) is exposing them to multiple options and letting them choose. I chose ballet over gymnastics at 5 because my bff was doing it. I kept doing it because I loved it. I stopped soccer because it was no longer fun and my parents let me. Parents forcing their kids to do something they don't enjoy, so that they're popular or can get in to the school the parents want? That's where the issue is for me. Girls or Boys.

  6. i get the impression that you don't qualify cheerleading as a sport. as a former cheerleader and dancer, i take a bit of offense at that. i wanted to be on the dance team, but became a cheerleader in high school because of a missed tryout. i ended up loving cheerleading. i wasn't a gymnast, but i do a mean forward roll. i was heavier so i was never a flier (top of the pyramid). i'm short so i never got to base, but i loved front spotting and throwing girls in basket tosses. i could dance the shit out of any routine. i was pushed beyond my assumed athletic limits on a regular basis. my sister also cheered because she saw how much i enjoyed it. we both went to lacrosse camp; she played soccer in middle school. neither of us took to anything the way we did with cheerleading. the intensity of it just couldn't be matched

    i only cheered in high school; my sister was on a competition team, a high school team and now cheers in college. in most cases, it was a way to use something we enjoyed and were good at to make new friends. i've been shy my whole life, but cheerleading gave me a new outlet to get to know other people. we did a week of camp and intermittent practice over the summer so i was already building relationships before school started. i felt infinitely less terrified walking in that first day. i had more confidence being on display than i'd had my entire life. i was the least girly of the bunch. i hated makeup, styling my hair and squealing over stupid shit. but being on that team, i was never ostracized because i didn't fit some perfect mold of what a cheerleader is. i actually even started having positive thoughts about my body image. i grew to love those silly short skirts because i could show off my awesome legs (which were crazy muscular thanks to cheering). competitions were a huge confidence booster. i loved being in front of a crowd with my team, cheering/dancing my heart out. for those 4 minutes, i wasn't anxious about anything. i cheered for 3 years, and they were the best years of high school

    as to just being on the sidelines, i loved cheering for football. basketball was fun until we were kneeling on the floor for free throws, but that's beside the point. i LOVE sports of all types (except golf). hockey and football are my absolute favorites. i actually learned a ton about football while cheering, which enhances my appreciation of it. plus i got to go to every game for free; i'm cheap like my mom. i loved getting the crowd pumped up, sharing a mutual affinity for watching kids crash into each other on the field

    i didn't "play sports" because i was slow, uncoordinated and never felt good enough. i hated gym class for years because i sucked at everything (at least that's what i was told by my asshole gym teacher). cheering gave me an outlet that no other sport could have, even dance. if i had the time to be a 27 year old cheerleader, i would. that doesn't stop me from being a lunatic fan every ravens game, shit talking on twitter and screaming at my tv. i didn't lose anything being on the sidelines. i think it's too early to say that your niece and her friend are being done a disservice, intentionally or not, especially when they have role models in their lives like you to present another possibility

  7. Cheerleading certainly is an athletic endeavor, and perhaps that makes it a sport, too. Don't really know about that. But, I think there are two things: every girl should do something active to learn to love her strengths and to get some competition - learning to win well as well as to lose. AND, more importantly, she should do something she enjoys. That can be tough for young girls.

    I loved cheerleading and in many ways it made me "popular", which was what I really wanted. My niece was hellbent to be a cheerleader. Did it one year and is no longer interested. I thought that was actually a good outcome. I'd just be a bit careful about pushing any child too hard into any one sport/activity. Good, thought provoking post.

  8. I agree with Amanda - she put it well that so many girls think that is where they are "supposed" to be. When I was in school I never played sports when I was young and never had much luck in gym class. I got my nose busted a few times by a basketball, shins knocked during field hockey and only loved volleyball. Fast forward to HS I didn't think I'd fit in with the jock girls for lack of confidence and never tried out for sports and instead joined the dance team. I loved dancing, but I wish I would have felt like I had more of a choice and more confidence to try sports.

    As it's been said if cheering happens organically and she or any other girl truly wants to do THAT then it's great but they should never feel like it's their only option. :)

    I am amazed by Cheerleaders, my niece is 11 and her guns are bigger than mine from pushing other girls on her team up in stunts. I'm very proud of the athlete she has become, she chose cheering and hasn't looked back and that to me is a win/win. :)

  9. I love all of your opinions on this!! I like that the qualities sports teams can help you develop, cheerleading can as well. And good point that it may just be dress up. Y'all rock :)

  10. Here's something kind of interesting. I DIDN'T cheer because I didn't want to be where I was 'supposed' to be. When I look back now, it bums me out because I danced and was a gymnast my whole life and would have probably really, really enjoyed the sport of cheering.

    But because so many people try to make it seem inferior and girly, it made me steer clear. Funny because my almost 6 year old daughter wants to cheer and my knee jerk reaction is to guide her away from it?


    Because of how so many people perceive the sport. (Which it is in my honest opinion).

  11. I LOVE all the thoughts/opinions/discussions going on in these comments! To me, that is what this site is about. Great job AuntBT, in putting up a post that got people talking:)

    I have thoughts on this but it's 4pm on Friday and I've tried 3 times now to type them out coherently and it's not working.