By CRISTINA JANNEY
Local cheerleaders and cheer coaches are excited about the possibility of cheerleading becoming an Olympic sport, but the move may affect more than whether young men and women will have an opportunity to go for the gold.
Cheerleading’s designation as a sport could affect funding for the sport at the local level, college scholarships, competition and rules and regulations governing the activity.
Cheerleading was given provisional status by the International Olympic Committee in December 2016.
However, you won’t see cheer in the Olympics in 2020.
The International Cheer Union will have to petition the IOC to become a sport and prove it is widely practiced across the world and it advances the Olympics. The ICU has more than 100 national federations across the world.
In recent years, the cheerleading for many high schools and colleges has meant a move from teams of spirited students leading cheers on the sidelines to complicated stunt routines that include elements of dance and tumbling.
The members of the Fort Hays State University squad physically condition for these demanding routines, including weights twice a week, said Courtney Bartling, head cheer and mascot coach.
The FHSU trainer had to modify the squad’s weight training to make it a more full-body work out as he realized the squad members were using muscles other athletes don’t in stunts such as pyramids.
Bartling and Hays High School Coach Sara Campbell both said they thought the official recognition of cheerleading as a sport could affect funding for squads.
Campbell’s team had a car wash Saturday to raise money for new uniforms. However, if the team was recognized as an official Title IX sport, uniforms would be provided. New uniforms for the HHS squad will cost about $4,500 this year.
Bartling said Title IX designation would also affect students at the college level. Until this year, the college did not have any funding for scholarships for cheer squad members who lived off campus. This included Bartling when she was a squad member.
Under Title IX, cheerleaders could be eligible for scholarships.
This is a prospect that excited Tay Otte, an HHS senior.
“That is really exciting,” he said of cheer’s possible entry as an Olympic sport. “I want to do cheer in college and if I could make it to the Olympics, that would be great. … Cheer is a lot harder than any other sport I have done.”
The FHSU squad does not currently compete, and Bartling said funding is a significant barrier to that.
Under Title IX, FHSU and other college squads could be eligible for funding to attend intercollegiate competitions.
Female-dominated cheerleading could be used to offset male-dominated sports, such as wrestling on the collegiate level.
However, Bartling said she would not like to see cheerleading become an all-female sport. Both the FHSU and HHS squads have male members, and both coaches said those students should also have opportunities to perform and compete.
Creating a sports designation for cheerleading could change the rules and regulations governing the activity, which has some organizers at the national level uneasy. However, Bartling said cheer coaches already have to be certified and any regulations that would help improve the safety of young men and women would be welcomed.