That’s Not Really a Sport

Dance is not really a sport. I don’t really see why cheerleading would be considered a sport. What even is color guard?

All of these phrases are not out of the ordinary. After all, most people do not consider dance, cheerleading or color guard to be sports.

“I have been told that cheer’s not a sport,” said cheer captain Marissa Lee. “It’s definitely frustrating because we work just as hard and or more, and it’s a lot of work that we go through for our seasons.”

Aside from being looked down upon by other sports, cheer, color guard and dance have a lot in common. They are not widely understood, despite the fact that all of them are hardly underground. They contain overlapping aspects like the ability to perform in front of a crowd. And they have become mainly women’s sports.

Female sports are devalued in our society. This is greatly discouraging towards young women. Young women who are told that though they have devoted years of their lives to a sport, and sacrificed so much, it is simply not enough to warrant respect from the ignorant.

“I have been dancing since I was three years old,” said sophomore dance team member Alexa Cross. “I feel that people don’t understand the amount of strength and athleticism it takes to be a dancer. Also, dancers must work together as a team like any other sport to create a piece.”

Dance is a performance sport, so attention to detail is key. If one dancer performs a skill with legs that are ever so slightly less straight than another dancer’s, they will be scored lower in a competition. 

The same is not true with other sports. Sure, the technique with which a batter swings their bat is a crucial part of baseball or softball. But the fact remains that all that matters in that instance is the outcome; how far the ball is going to go. 

Dance, on the other hand, demands meticulous care to exactly how a movement is executed.

The Oxford Dictionary defines a sport as, “an activity involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or a team competes against another or others for entertainment”.  The goal of cheer, color guard, and dance is to be observed by a crowd. Anyone who has seen thirty seconds of an Allstar or Worlds cheerleading competition can see that the point of cheerleading is to perform. Cheer teams can even score more points in a routine by having high energy and overall enthusiasm, so these athletes’ smiles are not allowed to drop for a second.

Even though cheer competitions are built for being watched by crowds, their turnout is considerably less than the masses that show up for football games. Part of this is due to the thirty-minute drives to competition locations, but part of it is also due to a lack of awareness. Red Army, the Instagram account that posts about sports-related Masuk news, does not post about upcoming cheer competitions. They never appear in a color-coded wave to support the team that always cheers them on.

Red Army does not make posts for color guard competitions, either. Not even for their annual home show, the Masuk Classic. Despite the ease with which most students would be able to go to Masuk for a color guard competition, very few students from Masuk’s resident sports hype club ever actually turn up.

For all of this lack of support, color guard competitions are called ‘shows’. Just like with cheer, color guard routines are supposed to be watched. They are beautiful performances full of emotion that require immense skill to pull off. Color guard performers have to be able to throw flags and rifles in the air without injuring themselves or someone else. Not to mention this is done while also focusing on moving to the correct spot at the right time and curating whatever specific vibe the music of their piece calls for.

Perhaps this could all be swept under the mat with the excuse that the team is not good enough to focus on. However, that would simply be a lie. 

Over the past few years, Masuk’s color guard varsity and junior varsity teams have won the Southwest Conference championship three times. And yet not a single one of their banners have been placed in the gym alongside the other major wins of Masuk’s sports. Similarly, Masuk’s cheer team has turned out six All-State athletes in the past three years alone and has been given very little attention for it.

All three of these female-dominated sports are highly competitive performance sports. There can be no doubt that they have met the qualifications for being graced with the title ‘sport’. Nevertheless, they are still tiptoed around at best and spat upon at worst when it comes to the general public naming them as true sports.

An example of this harsh devaluing of women’s sports can even be seen at Masuk. 

In the yearbook, just about every sport is given four full pages to fill. The first two pages are for pictures with captains, seniors, and a full team picture. Then the next two pages are filled with pictures from the rest of the season. 

This is a logical way to split everything up since most sports have enough action shots to necessitate more space than just two pages. Any sports that do not have a wealth of pictures are given two pages. 

That is generally the case, at least. Cheerleading, dance, and color guard each have only two pages in order to fit all season pictures and team pictures. In theory, all of these sports should have the most amount of pictures to show. Their competitions are performances with the sole purpose of entertaining an audience. So what reasoning is there for a page restriction?

“Usually if a team has a JV and a freshman team, they get two spreads, which is four pages total,” said yearbook teacher Nancy DePietro. “But if a team only has one team, they usually just get one spread because it’s a lesser amount of students that are participating in the sport. So it really depends on how many students are involved in which particular sport.” 

Despite this claim that pages are reliant on student participation, the fact remains that color guard does have a JV team, and a wealth of pictures to prove it.

The yearbook is not the only place where these teams have been asked to step aside. The dance, color guard, and cheerleading teams all share the auxiliary gym for after-school practice. This results in absurdly late practice hours for some and cut-off practice times for others. 

Color guard often takes the brunt of this. The team, which normally warms up in the main gymnasium before competitions to practice throws that are only capable in rooms with high ceilings, was told to leave their practice spot so that Parks and Recreation Basketball could play there instead. 

Parks and Recreation Basketball is not affiliated with the school at all. Being told to leave a place of practice for the benefit of a purely recreational team is a feat that likely would not have been asked of just about any other sport.

The reasoning behind this falls upon the fact that a large number of people do not consider color guard to be a legitimate sport, and therefore believe that the team does not deserve to practice in a gym over a basketball team, even if it is recreational. 

Telling entire communities that they do not matter is not only demeaning to these women, but ridiculous in foundation. It is International Women’s Month in the year 2023. Gatekeeping the word ‘sport’ is hardly worth it, especially when it creates far more issues than it fixes.

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