Is the act of encouraging a sports team to perform while, in reality, hindering the ability of athletes and audiences to focus their attention on the actual sporting event. Whether or not cheerleading is an actual sport is the topic of some debate.
There are five basic types of cheerleading: school-sponsored, youth athletics, collegiate, all-star, and professional. Professional cheerleading (for professional athletics such as the NFL and NBA), while easily the most popular and enjoying the widest fan base, is also the furthest removed from cheerleading as a competitive sport.
Professional cheerleaders are really professional dancers who can also meet stringent physical appearance requirements. Sorry, Snoopy; no dogs allowed.
Competitive cheerleading has become increasingly demanding over the last couple decades -- especially for those who participate in school-sponsored cheerleading. "Making it" is no longer strictly a popularity contest, nor is it enough to be really, super-duper peppy and smiley. Any school who takes its competitive standing seriously is going to require all cheerleader candidates to excel academically and possess advanced gymnastic talent: at the barest minimum, a roundoff-back handspring-back tuck. It is, however, necessary to be really, super-duper peppy while performing said gymnastic stunts. A solid background in dance is also required.
The biggest difference between school-sponsored and collegiate cheerleading is the balance of males and females on the team. Collegiate-level competitions are ferocious and a university with more men on the cheerleading team is a university with more muscle to pull off spectacularly difficult stunts. 97% of all middle and high school cheerleaders are female, as opposed to the 50/50 split of males to females in collegiate cheerleading.
You might get away with calling a guy in high school a wuss if he's on the cheerleading squad, but do not make the mistake of thinking the same of a collegiate male cheerleader. If a picture speaks a thousand words, this video well demonstrates the decided not-a-wuss fitness level of the male cheerleader:
(or Watch Video Here)
All-star cheerleading is a fairly recent phenomenon. All-star was born in private gyms and clubs teaching cheer to girls of all ages. At first, it was kind of considered the alternative for the ugly girls who couldn't make the team at their local secondary school, but that very quickly changed. All-star cheerleading is by far the most physically demanding type of cheerleading, requiring all performers to have outstanding dance, gymnastic, stunting and cheerleading skills.
Be wary, young gentlemen: All-star cheerleaders may be quite a bit younger than they appear to be. Some champion-level competitors don't even have two digits to their age. Hard to tell since they are barely dressed when they compete. All-star uniforms set the trends for all other types of cheerleading, so you have this organization to thank for the split-thigh skirts and bare midriffs so enjoyed at sporting events.
Finally, we have that last great bastion of hope for the ugly, untalented, or beginning cheer hopeful: the youth athletics cheerleader. These are 100% female teams, frequently dominated over by a clutch of mothers trying to live their cheerleading dreams through their daughters. These are the tots who cheer for youth athletic leagues like YAL football or Little League baseball. Name a sport in which boys compete, and I'll show you a motley crew of cheerleaderettes -- many of whom really aren't old enough to have a clue what they're supposed to be doing, let alone why they are doing it. Get them started early, Moms, lest they be too far behind the game by the time they start elementary school.
Cheerleaders of all types are well-known for their charitable works and community service projects which include bikini car washes, be-nice-to-a-geek week (which is really just a day, but still...), and bake sales featuring the only baked good they can make: Pillsbury frozen dough cookies.
More Celebrities Who Were Cheerleaders...