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.

Just The Facts

  1. Cheerleading is the most injury prone sport, accounting for 65% of all catastrophic injuries among high school athletes.
  2. Cheerleading is the only sport that requires participants to risk death or serious injury to support a team they're not even a member of.
  3. Cheerleading was originally a boys-only activity, and remained largely so until the mass exodus of physically fit males during World War II.

The Basics of Cheerleading

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...

  • Aaron Spelling
  • Ali Landry
  • Alicia Silverstone
  • Ann-Margret
  • Arielle Kebbel
  • Barbara Eden
  • Blake Lively
  • Brooke Shields
  • Calista Flockhart
  • Carrie Underwood
  • Cheryl Ladd
  • Christina Aguilera
  • Courtney Cox
  • Cybill Shepperd
  • Dakota Fanning
  • Deana Carter
  • Deborah Gibson
  • Denise Richards
  • Dwight D. Eisenhower
  • Eva Longoria
  • Faith Hill
  • Franklin D Roosevelt
  • Gabrielle Union
  • George W. Bush
  • Halle Berry
  • Jamie Lee Curtis
  • Lauren Hill
  • Jerry Lewis
  • Jessica Simpson
  • Jimmy Stewart
  • Katie Couric
  • Kim Basinger
  • Kirk Douglas
  • Kirsten Dunst
  • Kirstie Alley
  • Laci Peterson
  • Lindsay Lohan
  • Luke Perry
  • Madonna
  • Mandy Moore
  • Melissa Rycroft
  • Meryl Streep
  • Michael Douglas
  • Moon Bloodgood
  • Natalie Maines
  • Paris Hilton
  • Patrick Duffy
  • Paula Abdul
  • Raquel Welch
  • Reba McEntire
  • Reese Witherspoon
  • Renee Zellweger
  • Ronald Reagan
  • Ruth Bader Ginsburg
  • Sally Field
  • Samuel L. Jackson
  • Sandra Bullock
  • Sarah Shahi
  • Sheryl Crow
  • Stacy Ferguson
  • Stacy Keibler
  • Steve Martin
  • Susan Sarandon
  • Teri Hatcher
  • Thad Cochran
  • Trent Lott
  • Vanna White

5 Reasons You Don't Really Want to Date a Cheerleader

  1. They can scream loud enough to be heard over the din of a football game, and they can sustain that yelling for more than two hours. Great in a stadium; suckfest at home.
  2. All that flexibility and stretching to seemingly-impossible extremes is sexy, right? When you blow up a balloon, will it ever go back to its original size, or does it remain a bit... stretched out? Think about it.
  3. Cheerleaders are popular and the popular kids are usually the primary targets during shooting sprees. Hang with the AV Club and live to get laid past your teenage years.
  4. Cheerleading is like gymnastics. It's a disciplined sport that requires hours of training every day, but it's not a sustainable sport you can do all your life. What happens when a serious athelete stops working out? All together now: They. Get. Fat. Just like all the rest of the population, cheerleaders get older and fatter with each passing year.
  5. Have you ever watched the cheer squad come running out, jumping and squealing and doing absolutely everything in a pack? Yeah. That doesn't translate to the bedroom. She doesn't bring all her friends, and they don't clap and cheer enthusiastically for your performance.