Cheerleading is being recognized as a sport on an international level. As of 2021, the International Olympic Committee officially declared cheerleading a sport, and according to USA cheer, the International Cheer Union can now petition to be included in future Olympic Games. If cheerleading is an Olympic sport, then why does it remain a club at Cabrini?
The Cabrini cheer team is a group that boosts morale at sports games while bringing people together on campus to create a sense of community for students. However, they are more than just school spirit.
Cheerleaders need to be able to handle the intense physical and emotional demand that comes with being a part of a cheer team.
“Cheerleading in my eyes has always been a sport especially because of all the risks we take when we stunt; that’s dangerous holding somebody and trying new skills and techniques,” Alexis Capria, head cheer captain, said.
“I know the physicality that goes into it, the mental aspects,” Ashlee Hofner, co-cheer captain, said. “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten hurt on the mat during a competition and gone back in. I am not dying? Ok, go back in.”
Being categorized as a club rather than a sport comes with its challenges for the team. They aren’t funded by the university. Their funding relies on the dues paid by each member at the start of the season. The money goes towards the club fees that are required by all clubs at Cabrini and what is left over goes toward the essential equipment needed for the team that year. Unlike the sports teams who receive funding from the university and do not have to rely on fundraising to afford the essential equipment needed.
“It can be difficult for our needs to be met at times because we are not a top priority,” Kelly Bush, head cheer coach, said. “These girls come in with experience, dedication and do the work, and being known as a sport they are able to get that acknowledgment from the school that their work is appreciated.”
If the dues are not enough to cover what is needed for the team then the supplemental funding needs to come out of pocket or through fundraising. Usually, the team holds a bake sale or a school dance, but that has been put on hold due to COVID-19 restrictions. However, the effects of cheer being a club rather than a sport is not only about titles or funding but about safety concerns as well.
“We can’t use the trainer when girls get hurt; cheerleading is probably one of the most dangerous sports. We keep pushing until we really can’t because we don’t have the luxury to get help right away because we don’t have that trainer,” Hofner said. “God forbid something happens and I can’t even get ice for the girl, that’s frustrating.”
Cheerleading does not have access to the athletic trainer provided by the university. Whereas the sports teams at Cabrini have the trainer readily available during practices and games in case, medical attention is needed. If a member of the cheer team needs immediate medical attention the only option is to be transported to urgent care or a hospital. This leads them to be responsible for the medical expenses.
“So many times I’ve fallen and hit the ground and it is scary to know that if I needed that medical assistance right then and there, I can’t get it from the trainer outside the gym,” Capria said.
Cabrini sports has an NCAA division III sports program and with that comes certain regulations that there needs to be an equal number of teams for women and men. Cheerleading at Cabrini has always been open to all genders and at one time even had men on the team. It is the team’s hope that if they can have a bigger turnout at future tryouts that can result in a more inclusive team and they can finally take the steps to transition from a club to a sport.
“Maybe because cheer has not really been able to grow here that maybe they didn’t see a purpose in it, but I hope moving forward it can become a sport for girls and guys at a division III college,” Capria said.
Being recognized as a sport by Cabrini would open up more opportunities for the team to be able to compete in competitions and hold various workshops to grow and refine their skills and techniques.
Cheerleading tryouts will be held at the beginning of the fall semester and, as always, will be open to all genders.
“Although we aren’t a sports team now, you never know what could happen in the future and I would always encourage anyone if you think you can do it to come out and give it a try,” Bush said.