The Importance of Male Athletes in Cheerleading

by Janelle H.

Long since the days of cheering other athletes to victory, cheerleaders no longer sit on the sidelines. Performing flawless dances, powerful gymnastic passes and creative lifts and tosses, cheerleading has become one of the most exciting up and coming sports. The biggest news in cheerleading is that in December 2016, cheerleading was given provisional status as an Olympic sport. This news has turned the cheerleading world upside down. Normally the largest competition is held in Orlando, Florida every year and now, cheerleaders may finally have a chance to show their talents on the Olympic stage. If the petition to make cheerleading an official Olympic sport is approved, then Canada will be looking for Olympians, and since teams are often comprised of as many as 25 people, we will need a lot of them.

Any cheerleader will be able to tell you that the best teams are the teams that have an even mix of male and female participants. Although central Canada is doing fairly well at finding male athletes, more rural areas are having a hard time. Unfortunately New Brunswick is one the places in Canada struggling the hardest, with the majority of teams being all girl, and if the team is considered co-ed, it generally means there is one to two boys on the team.

This stereotype that cheerleading is a feminine sport develops early. Arguably, as early as the gender reveal. At baby showers, people tend to give male babies gifts oriented towards sports that are stereotypically male like hockey or football, whereas females receive the ballet slippers or in this case, the pom poms. Since it is more socially acceptable to encourage females to join cheerleading, they get the advantage of starting training much earlier than the male athletes that generally start in their late teenage years. Although women train longer, male athletes are almost always guaranteed a spot on a team because there is such a high demand, and so few athletes.

It is often thought that male cheerleaders are extremely feminine; however, recent research indicates that because of this stereotype, male cheerleaders generally feel, “the need to project a heterosexual image” ¹, and therefore act extra masculine. Therefore, to dispel the stereotype that male cheerleaders are overly feminine, many male cheerleaders are now some of the most masculine acting athletes. To prove themselves as masculine many male cheerleaders work hard to prove that they are the strongest or most reckless members of the team, making them assets for not only lifts but also gymnastics pass sections.

In conclusion, this notion that cheerleading is a feminine sport must be dispelled. Regardless of how male cheerleaders act, they are an asset to all teams. Urban areas have realised this and are doing a great job of encouraging male participation, but here in New Brunswick, we are failing. With provisional status as an Olympic sport, cheerleading can open up a world of opportunity for male athletes. So next time you are headed to a baby shower for a baby boy, be different, give him the pom poms. Who knows, you may be creating an Olympian.

¹ Bemiller, M. (2005). Men who cheer. Sociological Focus, 38(3), 205-222. Retrieved from https://login.proxy.hil.unb.ca/login?url=http://search.proquest.com.proxy.hil.unb.ca/docview/60021165?accountid=14611

Advertisements

2 responses

  1. Great post Janelle!
    I’m not all that familiar with cheerleading, but have always been fascinated by cheerleading documentaries on Netflix and the “Bring it On” movies. Granted, I’m sure there’s NUMEROUS inaccuracies in this series of films, but still super entertaining.
    I completely agree with your opinion and stance on the need for more male cheerleaders in New Brunswick. It’s obvious that males in NB and other parts of Canada don’t participate because of the stereotype associated with the sport, but I wonder if there is a lack of males participating in the activity due to lack of opportunity, programs and popularity. Perhaps rural areas don’t have the funding or facilities to enable the sport to grow a following or want to participate.
    Coming back to the stereotype and stigma surrounding the sport of cheerleading. Athletes in the sport may be perceived as “peppy”, “performers” or majorly “feminine”. This I believe comes for television shows and movies where the popular kids or ditzy teens are on the cheerleading squad (think gLee). Although this representation may be true to some cases, just like any other stereotype, it doesn’t apply to the majority of the specific population. Cheerleader are much more than that. They are more than performers and they are more than preppy GIRLS. They are athletes and males DO cheerlead. People underestimate the strength and athleticism that the sport of cheerleading requires. Perhaps if people understood the commitment, skill and strength that is behind cheerleading the stereotype would be abolished – and more males would be interested/parents would enroll their sons.

  2. Excellent post, Janelle!

    That is the problem with stereotypes; the associations made represent a select few individuals and not the entire population that is stigmatized. I believe the prevalence in male cheerleading is an issue in more than just rural areas. I have a cousin, who recently just got home from the competition in Orlando, Florida you referred to in your post, where her team placed 10th. She competes out of Halifax, Nova Scotia and there is not a single male on her team. Although Halifax is arguably not a large city compared to some, it is much larger than any cities in New Brunswick, and male presence in the sport of cheerleading remains an issue there, as well.

    I am not aware of the regulations and levels of cheerleading. My cousin is 9 and competes for a competitive team in Halifax. I would assume, males and females can compete on the same team, without restriction, from the beginning. Therefore, I believe the main barriers to participating would be both intrapersonal and interpersonal constraints such as the perception of the sport, not only from the participants but also their parents.

    As discussed in class, during childhood the parent or caregiver has the dominant role in selecting what sport/activity the child participates in, with the child having less voice in selecting his/her extracurricular activities until he/she is older. It was also mentioned that mothers more frequently than fathers establish the role of organizer and planner, in deciding what their children participate in. Thus, I think the focus of attracting males to the sport of cheerleading and burying the negative male stereotypes associated with cheerleading, needs to be directed towards young males and their parents. If parents enrol their child into the sport at a young age, the development of social groups and positive experiences around the sport, may lead to lasting participation and increased rates of male cheerleaders.

    Megan C.

Share your thoughts

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s