Cheerleading and the Olympics

With the 2012 Summer Olympics in full swing, now seems like a perfect time to discuss the topic of whether or not cheerleading should become an Olympic event.  I can tell you that when I cheered (back in the 90’s), I was absolutely certain not only the cheerleading SHOULD be in the Olympics, but that it WOULD be in the Olympics in a couple of games.  History has proven me wrong on the second count.  As for the first, that is still very much up for debate.

Regardless, the first issue I’d like to consider is whether or not cheerleading would be good for the Olympics.  Assuming those of you reading this article are cheerleading enthusiasts, like me, you’re probably going to be surprised by my response.  No, I don’t think adding cheerleading to the Summer Olympics would do much to improve the Olympic games.

My saying this is in no way meant to be a put down of cheerleading.  If you follow this blog, you must realize that I love cheerleading.  I treat it with as much (or more) respect as anyone I know.  However, there are a lot of competitions/sports that I respect that I don’t necessarily think make a nice, neat fit in the Olympics.

Olympic events are best when they are very inclusive of a large number of participating countries.  Track and field events are the quintessential Summer Olympic sport.  Every country in the world has the resources to field a track and field team.  Every person on the planet can run.  In that, this year, the world witnessed its first double leg amputee compete in track and field against able-bodied athletes.  Talk about inclusive!  Furthermore, only in track and field can you find a country has economically disadvantaged as Ethiopia able to dominate certain events, year after year.  Certainly, the wealthier countries still have an advantage in terms of population, training techniques, coaching and equipment, but even with that, most of the world has a chance to be competitive.
Of course that isn’t the case in every Olympic sport.  Ethiopia will probably never field a competitive Olympic gymnastics team.  You either need a wealthy population to train privately, like in the USA, or you need a well-establish, government sponsored training program, like in China and Russia.

As for cheerleading, in spite of the rapid increases in international participation, competitive cheerleading is still too highly concentrated in the USA to make for a successful competition at the Summer Olympics.  That isn’t to say there isn’t great cheerleading in other countries.  There is.  I’ve seen (and judged) teams from over a dozen countries, and have witnessed some exceptional athletes on the competition mat.  However, outside of the USA, what you just don’t see enough of are dedicated cheer gyms with the facilities to practice full-out performances of their routines.  Very few international cheer teams have an opportunity to practice on a full-size cheer floor (let alone a spring floor!) until they are at the warm up mat at a competition.  This puts these teams at a huge disadvantage in terms of practicing timing, spacing, showmanship, endurance etc.  Teams in the USA run their routines over and over, full-out, fine-tuning each step of each performer for every 8-count.  You can’t do that when you’re practicing on 2 strips of cheer floor and you have to practice 2 stunt groups at a time and never get to run your tumbling sequence full-out.  You can take the greatest diver in the world but if you never let them practice in the pool, they’re going to splash on every dive.  The same is true for international cheerleading.

This is not to say that this will forever be the case.  Once there is a greater competitive balance among international teams, that might be a great time to revisit the conversation.  But we just aren’t there yet, and I don’t think there is anything wrong with admitting that, and continuing to work at it until we’re there.

Additionally, I don’t think including cheerleading in the Olympics would necessarily be a good thing for cheerleading.  Frankly, I think the professional cheerleading event providers operating today already do a great job.  I don’t think the Olympics could put on nearly as strong of a cheerleading competition as Cheersport Nationals in Atlanta, Jamfest Nationals in Indianapolis, NCA Nationals in Dallas or UCA Nationals in Orlando.  And that isn’t even considering Worlds, which is already the premier international cheerleading event.

There’s a reason the Olympics doesn’t consistently include other very popular sports like baseball and golf.  Both of these sports are incredibly popular and played at a very high level, internationally.  But they also both have such tremendously established other competitions, that an Olympic tournament would be something of a let down.  Think about it.  Would the Yankees shut down during the baseball season so they could send Alex Rodriguez to the Olympics?  Of course not.  They would much rather focus on the World Series.  As for golf, I’m sure Tiger Woods would love to compete for an Olympic medal, but would he skip the Masters to do so?  Here’s another example.  Consider soccer, which is in the Olympics.  Doesn’t the world pay more attention to the World Cup than to the Olympic soccer event?  I think by far.

I could be mistaken.  I certainly think an Olympic title in any event is always a special thing.  But when there are already highly established championships in place, trying to fit an event into the Olympics might not really do much for that event.  One more example.  When people talk about Michael Jordan, what do they think about first, his 6 NBA championship (and multiple MVP’s), or his 2 Olympic gold medals?

This hasn’t been my best-written article because I’m writing about something (the Olympics) that I am anything but an expert in.  I would not be surprised at all to hear an argument from someone who would completely change my point of view.  But for now, the way I see it, cheerleading isn’t a very good fit for the Olympics.  Additionally, I don’t think the Olympics would do very much for cheerleading.

One final thought.  I could definitely see a spin-off of cheerleading eventually establishing itself as an Olympic event.  I think the emerging sport called Stunt could be a good candidate for the Olympics in the future.  If you haven’t heard of Stunt, I suggest doing some digging.  It’s a pretty cool activity that really boils competitive cheerleading down to the purely athletic side of the activity.

In the mean time, I think it might be neat to figure out ways to use traditional cheerleading during certain select Olympic events to add to the experience of the spectators.  The London games have tried to do that (s0rt of) by having “entertainers” that are similar to cheerleaders at volleyball, beach volley ball, basketball and I think handball.  I’m not sure that the execution has been the best, but I like where they’re going with it.  Cheerleading started out on the sidelines as a way to encourage the athletes on the field (or court) and to entertain the audience.  I would love to see that aspect of cheerleading highlighted at the Olympics more than see them trying to force a cheerleading competition before the world is quite ready for it.

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20 Comments on “Cheerleading and the Olympics”

  1. Scott Says:

    I like your point of view about the international side of competition not being ready for big stage scale. You did mention the other events that the industry holds, which could be better/bigger than any Olympic cheer event. And also you mentioned STUNT as a possibility. This is where you are missing the key element to Olympic cheering, if it happens, it will occur with the ICU (the other international competition that takes place at worlds). It already has international formatting, country member teams, and is growing substantially. By adding it to the Olympics, the ICU could separate itself from the Worlds weekend, and happen every summer (after all college/allstar team season are over). This would allow for the sport to be Olympic eligible and give rise to the athletes wanting to participate on the grander scale. Fingers crossed!

    • Scott,
      Thanks for the comment. I wasn’t completely clear about one of your points so I’ll ask for clarification. Were you saying that the Olympic Cheer competition would be run by the ICU and not run by the Olympic Committee? Also, why would that remove it from Worlds? You might have some inside information. If so, please share!

      One thing that I don’t necessarily agree with you about is the notion that moving the International Championship from Worlds to the Olympics is an upgrade. I’d be concerned that, as an Olympic event, cheerleading would get lost in the shuffle like so many other niche sports. I tend to think cheerleading gets mote respect and positive exposure as a part of Worlds than it would get in the Olympics where it would probably be regarded as a lesser version of gymnastics.

      I could be missing something. And I do think it would be cool to go to the Olympics. But I dont see Olympic inclusion doing anything to promote synchronized swimming, and I think the same would be true of cheerleading.

      • Scott Says:

        I was saying more that the Olympic Cheer competition would be run in the same format as ICU, where they have skill and judging standards (similar to gymnastics, diving and ice skating), making the the move to an Olympic sport an easier transition.

        I agree with your point about ICU and Worlds being associated with each other, the two combined events bring some of the best cheer athletes in the world together in the same place and weekend, which is very cool. I guess if it were in the Olympics, only the year of the Olympics would require it to be moved, so that there wouldnt be two International comps within 3 months of each other.

        I think if cheer was an Olympic sport, it would only promote cheer a little bit more than normal, it wouldn’t be a huge NBC pull like swimming or track is, but for the sport of cheer it would make a world of difference.

        Thanks for the article & blog too! Been a reader for awhile! Lol

      • I’m glad that you enjoy the blog. Especially seeing as how you are on the UCA Twitter staff. I guess that makes us peers!

        I really dont know if inclusion in the Olympics would do much for the perception of cheerleading. It could be good. I tend to doubt it would have much impact. I believe cheerleading is advancing overseas about as rapidly as resources allow. The interest is already there.

        I would actually be concerned that an Olympic cheer event might showcase some cheer routines that simply aren’t ready for the big stage. I remember one season of Americas Got Talent that showed a truly horrendous cheer routine as a contestant. I was utterly embarrassed for cheerleaders everywhere. I’d sure hate for something like that to happen at the Olympics.

        Anyway, we might het to find out eventually. I tend to think the closest we’ll get is a spin off like Acro or Stunt, buy you never know. If cheerleading does get to the Olympics, I sure hope I can get on the judging panel!

  2. Courtney Says:

    Yeah my team only probably have half the size of a sprung floor to practice on and its just normal mats so its kinda hard but I think once cheerleading becomes more established in international countries and more equal with america (I from Britain and must say I am very proud of that and think we did an excellent job in hosting the olympics and our athletes did amazing) it would be good, I think it was British teams cheering at the olympics. I’m not sure about stunt I mean its kinda ok maybe it should be a seperate sport or maybe not coz they will be too similar, cheerleading is incredibly athletic but also has a performance element that I don’t think should be taken away or it will become like gymnastics where they just do their skills and don’t really perform we do our skills while doing facials and giving it to the croud which is unique and I don’t want to take that performance element away, also thats what cheerleading was originally like so we need to keep that performance element whilst focusing on doing our skills. I mean could you imagine someone hitting their stunt or tumbling pass and just having a concentration face rather than a I hit it face, it just wouldn’t be right. It probably would be good for cheerleading coz it would put us on a world stage for everyone to see our amazing sport and be inspired by it and it will just get bigger and bigger world wide. 🙂 x

  3. Natalie Says:

    i think cheerleading should be an olimpic sport its funner to whatch than gymnastics and dont think of it as cheering for other olimpic teams i mean compitition backtucks into fulls. unlike gymnastics u get to be creative make up a fun an good looking dance or a awsome stunt it looks awsome and you can have top like 33 girls on the olimic team just like gymnastics does whats the diffrents just make cheer another form of gymnastics if that ever hapened my dream would be to be on a olimpic team

  4. Reblogged this on The Perks of Being a "Cheer leader" and commented:
    I totally agree with this article about cheerleading being in the Olympics. I feel like right now, cheerleading isn’t big enough in other countries to become an olympic sport. There is Worlds, but Worlds is dominated by the US. Thailand was the only team to win any division at worlds that wasn’t from the US, and they tied with Gymtyme from Kentucky. You watch other teams from countries like Ecuador, or Mexico, and you realize that cheerleading isn’t big enough to become an olympic sport.
    I would love it to be, don’t get me wrong. I just think that at this point in time, there is no point in it. The U.S. would win, and everyone knows it.
    I also agree with the fact that it would be somewhat of a let down. We already have all these big events (Cheersport, NCA, Jamfest, Worlds, etc.) and if the Olympics tried to do it, I feel like the cheer world would be let down by the quality of the competition.
    I think that once it kicks off, STUNT, or Acro could be Olympic sports. The only thing that counters this arguement is the fact that gymnasts get both worlds, a bunch of nationals, and the Olympics, and cheerleading doesn’t. Cheerleading may be a team sport, so its not like gymnastics in that way, but there are plenty of team sports that are in the Olympics.
    The last point I want to make about this, is the fact that USASF (which is owned by varsity) may have a problem with cheerleading becoming an Olympic sport. Varsity wouldn’t have complete control over it. The Olympics would. And Varsity owns almost all the competition companies in the country and the world. (Including USASF, which produces Worlds.) So while Varsity is in control, cheerleading will not be in the Olympics.

  5. The Olympics are considering 3-on-3 basketball for inclusion…I think cheerleading should at least be on the list.

    • Thanks for your comment. Interesting about 3 on 3 basketball. That is actually a better Olympic sport than regular basketball because it is more competitive. No country can consistently compete with the USA in regular basketball because of the depth of talent in the States. But most non-US Olympic teams still have 2 or 3 NBA players on them.

      The problem with cheerleading is that the World is no where near ready to compete with Team USA. It would be silly right now. Maybe one day that won’t be the case anymore.

  6. Marquia Harris Says:

    Cheerleading is not in the Olympics , but it SHOULD BE…

  7. Natalia Says:

    cheerleaing should be an olympic sport everyday i hear the cheerleading isnt a sport this is our chance to show them what cheerleading is really about

  8. Angelise Says:

    Watch Cheerleading World’s, yes there is a lot of countries, NOT ONLY THE USA!

  9. Quzette K. Says:

    I actually do not agree with this blog, there are actually alot of countries that participate in cheerleading. Also they have the same amount of talent as cheer teams in the USA. I can agree that other countries are at a disadvantage because cheerleading is VERY popular here but adding cheerleading to the olympics would be great. It can promote cheerleading and let everyone see that cheerleading is actually a sport

    • Thanks for the great comment. You have some supportable points. However, I don’t think you can support the statement that other countries have as much cheeleading talent as there is in the USA. Having coached , judged and instructed in Canada and Europe, I can say from personal observation that it isn’t even close. Additionally, none of the coaches I’ve met overseas that I have met think the world is competitive with the USA in cheer. You’re certainly entitled to your opinion and I thank you for sharing it here.

  10. Ali Says:

    That would so cool if cheerleading was a category on the olympics. It should be because it’s such a physically demanding sport!!

  11. Cheerpedia Says:

    Watch Cheerleading World’s, yes there is a lot of countries, NOT ONLY THE USA!

  12. Cheerleading should definitely be an Olympic sport! The skills and strength involved is HUGE. The United States is not the only part of the world to take part in cheerleading either. Different countries participate in this sport as well. This would not only help regulate the sport but show the world that cheerleading is more than just a promotional program.

  13. […] it could be easier for cheer organizations to ultimately help prevent these risks. If the sport was regulated as every other sport, it would be much easier to report the rate of concussions and other injury […]

  14. Paola Sanchez Says:

    I think cheerleading should be in the future Summer olympics because its really competitive. Its one of the hardest sport ever played.

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