Well. This is a topic that I never thought that I would write about...

9:51 AM

My husband watches some weeeeeird stuff on TV sometimes.  Thanks to our new subscription to DirectTV he has found some really high class programs.  He's usually into Animal Plant, Discovery, and anything about "bugs and shit."  He's also a movie watcher and we probably have more movies recorded that I have watched my entire life.  I have the attention span of a toddler and I have trouble watching a program that lasts for more than an hour.  However, he recorded a Penn & Teller:BULLSHIT! show on Showtime and I was somewhat sucked into this one. 

Penn & Teller's show, "Cheerleaders,  argues that high school cheerleading should be classified as a sport to increase required safety measures due to its risks. Also discusses how the majority of competitions and cheerleading goods are managed by Varsity Brands Inc. and if cheerleading were to be declared a sport Varsity would have to forfeit managing competitions to an independent body creating significant conflicts of interest. " {source}

Cheerleading is something that both Chris and I are familiar with. Chris cheered in college (for in-state tuition!) and later coached at a very successful elite program and I was a gymnast, but never a cheerleader, though I coached both gymnasts and cheerleaders at the gym that I worked at.  We're familiar with cheer competitions, the Varsity brand, and the multiple entities that Varsity Brands Inc. owned (there are over 30 of them, one of them is UCA, for example) so the show was pretty entertaining.  I believe that cheerleaders are athletes.  Sure, they dance around in cute little uniforms with gigantic bows on their heads, but they train just as hard as any other athlete and I can guarantee you that most of them are stronger than your average baseball player.

Penn brought up some extremely valid points, the first being that cheerleading is the most high risk "sport" there is.  The injury level is higher than any other men's or women's activity including football, gymnastics, and ice hockey.  Cheerleading isn't classified as a sport in many school districts (Title IX) and therefore has no governing safety courses, except for those offered by Varisty Brands, Inc., so the participants must rely on the basic safety training of their coach.  Problem?  I think so.  I was a gymnastics coach at a competitive level and I had to undergo multiple yearly safety tests given by USA Gymnastics in order to walk into a competition and declare myself a coach.  The cheerleading safety course offered by Varsity Brands Inc is approximately three hours long and once you've completed it, you're done.  Now, this doesn't mean that private clubs don't require more safety training, but if the three hour course is all that is offered and required for safety certification in cheerleading, how many of the private clubs are going above and beyond?  I think that something should be done.

Secondly, Title IX is the leading cause as to why cheerleading is not considered a "sport" in our schools.  Why?  Because the cheerleaders are not participating in a competition, they're not trying to win anything while cheering on the athletic teams and therefore receives no funding.  Since cheerleading is not considered a sport, it is also the reason why cheerleaders have no athletic trainers to assist them with injuries the way the football players do.  (Silly if you ask me!)

I agreed with the entire show until this point.

There's no doubt that Varsity Brands Inc. is the mack daddy of the cheerleading world.  They own and sell everything from uniforms, shoes, and makeup and sponsor or run almost every competition out there.  Now, the argument that Varisty Brands Inc. brings up is that if Title IX and the government were to declare cheerleading a sport, Varisty Brands Inc would have to give up managing competitions to another body, creating conflicts of interest, but most of all, lose their stake in the cheerleading world.

I call BULLSHIT.

How would Varsity Brands Inc. have a conflict of interest?  Most states have a "State Cheerleading Competition."  Are they funded by Varsity Brands Inc.?  Maybe?  I honestly don't know.  However, I have a difficult time believing that Varisty Brands Inc. would lose a lot of money if it had to give up 50 cheerleading state cheerleading competitions.  The number of private clubs practicing elite cheerleading, most with more than 5 levels of cheerleading teams at ~20 kids per team, would by far fund the Varsity brand.  Uniforms are $200 or more.  Competition fees, for the cheerleader, range from $70-150 per competition (and that doesn't include the cost of admittance for their families.)  Add in the monthly cost of training, coaches fees, expenses... We're talking about thousands of dollars per person per season.  Have you ever been to a private (not school affiliated) cheerleading event?  Insanity.

I'm not an expert on cheerleading.  I didn't cheer.  I've been around it enough to know that this isn't right - I don't understand why Varsity Brands Inc. wouldn't want their 'sport' to be declared a 'sport' for the people that they represent.  Why wouldn't they want it to be as safe as possible?  Do they really think that declaring it a sport would make that big of a difference to their income?  I think that it's disgusting that they wouldn't want their athletes to have the best and safest experience possible every time they take the mat.  But, I guess they've found a way to make money, and that's really what the world is all about these days, right? 



(But, as a former gymnast [and any former gymnast will say the same thing] I also believe that my girls should be a gymnast first!  Just because.) 

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