Questions remain as cheerleading is now a recognized sport

A day after New York education officials voted to recognize competitive cheerleading as a sport, local athletic directors and coaches are waiting for the specifics before celebrating the decision.

Questions still remain as to key topics such as restrictions on practice times and competition schedules.

One thing is for certain, high school cheerleaders are excited and finally feel validated as being athletes.

“The girls have called and texted me,” Fredonia cheerleading coach Jenn Aul said. “They are extremely excited. We have an open gym practice (today), so I will get to see the excitement on their faces. They are seeing it as they are validated.”

Now that cheerleading is a sport, all coaches will have to go through the state coaching certification course, which will ensure the safety of the athletes. Aul, who has coached Fredonia for four years, noted it was already mandated to take workshop courses.

While the Fredonia cheerleaders are excited, Aul still has some reservations.

“I always considered cheerleading a sport,” she said. “Now it’s bitter sweet. There may be restrictions on what we can and can’t do. We will have to start and end practice at certain times. We might not be able to do tryouts in June like we usually do. Maybe we can’t go to camps in summer or do weekend competitions anymore. It’s scary because I don’t know the restrictions yet.”

Early indications point to the sport being held during the winter season. Now the question is asked, will the cheerleaders have a schedule of competitions which will interfere with the basketball season? If the cheerleaders can’t take part in the basketball games, will there be a separate spirit team for those basketball games? Though it is now a sport, it does not have to be offered, so what will the leagues consist of? Will there be large school and small school divisions? What are the classifications?

The big positive which comes out of this decision is the fact cheerleaders will now have funding for uniforms and transportation. In the past, it was the responsibility of the parents to get their child to the competition and spend most of the weekend at the event.

“The girls at Fredonia did awesome with their competition this year,” Fredonia athletic director Scot Stutzman noted. “We will do everything at Fredonia to encourage and support Jenn and the cheerleaders.”