WSF Response to NY Times Article “Born on Sidelines Cheering Clamors to Be Sport”

Read on or click here for the full release.

PRLog (Press Release) – May 24, 2011 – The New York Times released its third edition to its series about gender equity in athletics with the article, “Born on Sidelines, Cheering Clamors to Be Sport.”   This article focuses on the development of competitive cheerleading, and the two organizations competing to be declared the sport’s governing body by the NCAA. Nancy Hogshead-Makar, Senior Director of Advocacy for the Women’s Sports Foundation, was quoted, “As long as it’s actually operating as a sport, we welcome it into the women’s sports tent . . . this is another aesthetic sport that if done right could provide lots more girls with legitimate sports experiences.” Read the original article here or listen to Hogshead-Makar speak about competitive cheerleading as a sport on CBS Radio here.

Aesthetic sports enjoy a strong tradition in our country’s high school, college, Olympic and even X Games line-up, from gymnastics to mogul skiing, from diving to skate boarding. X Games Skateboard Vert Gold Medalist Lyn-z Adams Hawkins says, “the ability to perform complex tricks requiring speed, strength and skill while in a competition, taught me how to still be poised under pressure.”

Six-time Winter X Games Skiing Medalist Grete Eliassen says, “Different sports require different sets of physical abilities in order to participate. Some sports reward strength, others speed, others require eye-hand coordination, and others value the ability to make the performance of great physical feats look easy and natural. Aesthetic sports are a combination of all these traits.”

“I started as a sideline cheerleader, cheering for other athletes, and went on to become a world class athlete. Our GoGirlGo! programming includes coaching for competitive gymnastics which requires much more time and where the skill level is very high, ” says Wendy Hilliard, director of WSF’s GoGirlGo! New York program and Hall of Fame rhythmic gymnast.

Schools have many choices when expanding opportunities for women’s athletics, in addition to this new sport. Current NCAA “Emerging Sports” with strong followings and established rules are rugby, equestrian and sand volleyball. Triathlon is also vying for NCAA emerging sports status. Women’s lacrosse, softball and golf are other sports that are rapidly expanding throughout the NCAA.

The Women’s Sports Foundation has written on Cheer and Title IX multiple times. Our Position Statement, here, and two articles recently written by Prof. Hogshead-Makar, for ESPN.com  and New York Daily News.

Other important considerations as to whether the sport will count for Title IX purposes are the squad sizes, and numbers of competitions and post-season competitions, and the number of scholarships. For example, almost all other NCAA sports have enough full grant-in-aids to support a competitive team, plus between 20% to 400% additional athletes for substitutions, injuries, and practice players. A low scholarship allotment/ high roster count can prevent a college or university from being able to comply with its obligation to provide the total amount of scholarship funds available to men and women on a “substantially proportionate” basis. Likewise, competitive schedules are typically based on injury rates, with football players having the lowest number of competitions (13), and basketball, baseball and softball players having the highest (40+). Requiring a low number of competitions deprives athletes of their ability to improve and test their skills like athletes in more established sports.

The WSF’s position on any new sport is designed to protect and enhance the educational mission of athletics. Our research, Her Life Depends on It II, demonstrates the life-long benefits of a sports experience, from greater economic productivity to lower rates of breast cancer, -1377606166  depression and obesity. Research by Professor Betsey Stevenson from Wharton found that Title IX was responsible for one-fifth of the rise of female educational attainment for the generation that followed the new policy, as well as a 10% increase in women working full time and a 12% spike in women in traditionally male-dominated occupations, such as accounting, law and veterinary medicine. While her research focused on girls and the comparisons just before and after the legislation passed, there is no reason to think that these benefits wouldn’t be just as applicable for boys. In short, sports make both boys and girls more productive members of society, and are a wise investment in our tax dollars.