Cheerleading…Once Again Villain for Girls: Friday Follies

Once again the headlines tout cheerleading as highly dangerous…for girls.

And once again, this will bring a volley of criticism and alarm for the young women and their instructors who happen to like cheerleading….just as it is, thank you very much…and are willing to accept the associated risks.

Yes, cheerleading is a sport.  Gynmastics is a sport…and oh, by the way, so is football. Yes, they all have an element of danger…of risk. 

But how much do we hear about how dangerous football is for the young men who participate in this dangerous sport? How often are the statistics brought out and touted for how many high school football injuries there are…and how dangerous a sport football, or baseball or all the other sports are for boys?

I’m not saying we should ignore the risks associated with either one. MSN headlines today, however, cast cheerleading clearly as a villain: “A new study shows the sport accounts for 65 percent of all catastrophic injuries in girls high school athletics. Some girls end up sidelined with grave injuries.”

And I ask, how many injuries are we actually talking about here? How does it compare to all catastropic injuries in boys high school athletics?

Given just a little more adverse publicity, cheerleading can probably be banned…for good. Or…all those naysayer protectionists…could just give it up!

Let’s get real. “Girls”…young women…love to be cheerleaders.  For some, it’s a coveted position in high school, and often subject to intense competition. Like sports for “boys”, cheerleading can build character and leadership…determination and discipline.   Not to mention…once again…the potential for scholarships leading to an education some “girls” might otherwise have to forego.

Some girls, like some boys, like to compete in sports.  They enjoy the exercise, the competition, and the showmanship.  They accept the risks that are associated with competitive sports.

On the other hand, if there’s a way to reduce the risk in this, or any other competitive sport without taking away from the sport itself,  maybe there’s room for a little compromise.  Let me say clearly, I absolutely refuse to suggest that cheerleading should be diminished in any way. However, just to keep the naysayers from succeeding, and stopping, or severely hampering the progress of what is not only a fun, but creative team-building endevour, maybe a few alternatives could be considered.

One thing to consider might be mats…something soft enough to help protect young bones from injury, similar to what many gymnasts use. I know, it could be an aggrevation pull them quickly on and off the court, but not impossible…with a little teamwork.

And, what about having a gymnastic coach do flexibility and coordination assessments to help the cheerleading team determine placements for their various routines?

I’ll still march…I’ll carry my picket gladly to the Superintendent’s office and elsewhere…if I see cheerleading disappearing from the sporting events in my neighborhood.    Young women deserve the same right of choice, the same opportunity to compete, the same opportunity to excel as do young men.  Cheerleading gives them that opportunity.

On the other hand, if a few simple corrections can be made to help prevent serious injury, I think it’s worthy of serious consideration.  As I am sure the parents of any young person who wants to try out for cheerleading…or baseball…or football…or any other sport would tell you…you can’t protect young people from everything, but minimizing risks is a good thing.

As I am sure you can tell from this, and my previous article on “Dare you Let Your Daughter Be a Cheerleader, ” in the Friday Follies section of my blog, I am an advocate of letting young women choose.  It’s how well all grow and succeed…choices and consequences.  That’s what life is about. 

My advice to girls…dare to be who you are…and who you want to become.  You’ll have plenty of supporters, including me, to lead the cheers, whether you decide to be a cheerleader, a football player, or a violinist.

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