Every game at the University of Maryland has the crowd cheering on the Terrapins with great enthusiasm. There at the front of the crowd are the most energetic and lively group: the cheerleaders. They rouse the crowd to a deafening roar as team spirit overflows and moves the Terps to victory. Cheerleaders from the high school to collegiate level work under the burden of an outdated and unfair stereotype: the airheaded blonde bouncing around with pom-poms, smiling at a crowd and yelling, “Give me an A!” However, cheerleading has come far beyond this archaic example. A heated debate is brewing over whether cheerleading should be considered a sport or an activity, especially at the high school level. Cheerleading competitions are not required for most teams. In fact, some high schools strictly don't take part in cheerleading competitions to protect their students from injury. Despite this, the demands that are placed on cheerleaders can very well be considered a sport. Cheerleading teams, from junior varsity to professional leagues, have developed their sport far beyond the pep rallies of the past. Modern cheer encompasses the complete embodiment of team spirit, an advanced capacity to function as a team and athletic feats from endurance to gymnastic prowess. Anyone who has ever watched a cheer team in action can attest to the high-flying, energetic feats that these teams turn out for every game, rally, and competition. Competitions Cheerleading leagues and clubs across the country regularly host and sponsor cheerleading competitions, providing a venue for teams to come together and strut their stuff. Cheer teams spend months practicing the routines they perform during these competitions, and are penalized for even the slightest bobble or for running overtime. Competition routines are perfectly executed, often aerial displays of coordination and skill. The athletic demands placed on cheerleaders generally lead them to be in excellent physical condition. Aside from this, however, cheerleaders are made to work in a highly team-oriented environment. Learning to cooperate with others on their team and developing collective skills are added benefits to this decidedly social sport. Scholarships Not many school activities outside of sports earn a student a university scholarship. Interestingly, more and more universities around the country are beginning to offer cheerleading scholarships so students can cheer their way through college. Considering the athleticism, discipline and great attitude it takes to be a cheerleader, there isn’t any doubt that cheerleading can be seen as a challenging sport. Cheerleading in the Olympics Anyone who's ever attended cheerleading competitions can attest to the athleticism and teamwork required to do it successfully. Enthusiasts are hoping that it will soon be considered an Olympic event. On the other side of the debate are those who say that it was never intended as a sport and should be kept out of the Olympics. In fact, the major factor keeping cheer out of the Olympics isn't really the debate about athleticism but the fact that cheerleading is relatively rare outside of the US and Canada, so only two teams would be competing. Interest has grown, though, and about a dozen countries are showing interest in preparing teams for cheerleading competitions. References: None Sidebar: Cheerleading Camp If your teen has that team spirit and pep that cheerleaders are made of and wants to hone those skills to an art, check out one of the many cheerleading camps across the country. For teens, spending a summer making friends, building team skills and practicing a great sport every day is ideal. Coaches take your teen through everything from beginning cheers to advanced team exercises, all the while emphasizing safety and sportsmanship. You can find day camps and residential camps available for boys and girls of any skill level.