Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Definition Paper: Cheerleading

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Audience Analysis

The audience of this paper would be the same audience as the audience for The Diamondback. They are college students at the University of Maryland, both male and female, whose age range from around 18- years old. They are of the upper-middle to high class and can be of any race. In context to sports, the audience values qualities such as the skill level, the amount of physical ability, and the amount of practice involved in the sport. Most of them will know that cheerleaders attempt to entertain crowds and encourage athletes at sporting events. However, the audience is likely to take cheerleading for granted, and not truly appreciate the effort put forth and the athletic abilities of the cheerleaders themselves. The audience has a negative attitude towards cheerleaders because they believe that cheerleading is trivial and silly. They greatly underestimate the skill and physical ability required in cheerleading.

When one hears the term ‘cheerleader’ a picture of a pretty girl in a skirt comes to mind. This girl is usually not too bright and is always very peppy. To most, cheerleading is just a form of entertainment in between plays at a football or basketball game. It really does not involve much physical ability because it is just a bunch of cute girls jumping around for attention. People think of cheerleaders as people who are not athletic enough to play a real sport, and they usually do not give much support to any cheerleaders that they know. Cheerleaders and cheerleading do not get the proper respect and admiration that they deserve. Cheerleaders deserve the same amount of respect given to any other athlete of any other sport because cheerleading is just as physically demanding, requires as much skill, and involves the same amount of practice time as any other sport in the world. By getting a better understanding of the sport and of the cheerleaders themselves, the reader will learn to value both the sport and the cheerleaders.


The first thing people need to do is to lose the air-head, valley-girl, oh-my-god-I-have-a-pimple stereotype of cheerleaders. Cheerleaders are not weak, little girls; in fact, cheerleaders are not only girls at all. There are both female and male cheerleaders. Many schools have co-ed competition cheerleading squads. These squads have from as little as one male cheerleader to the usual amount of around ten, but can have many more. Girls do not just join cheerleading just to become popular or to meet cute boys; a lot of them actually come from strong gymnastic backgrounds. Cheerleaders do not only dance around with pom poms while throwing in the occasional, “Go Team!” or “Come on guys! You can do it!” While cheerleaders do use jumps in their routines, there is also a great deal of stunting involved. ‘Stunting’ is a term used in cheerleading for any toss or pyramid involving two or more people and it always requires a great deal of physical power and skill.

There are two basic types of cheerleading. One type is the competition squad; these are cheerleaders who devote most of their practice time to perfecting a specific routine to be judged at competition. The second type is the spirit squad; these are the cheerleaders that are seen at sporting events. Competition squads choreograph a combination of cheers, dances, stunts, and jumps into a -4 minute (the length of a song) routine. The squad practices this routine and then takes it to competition against other cheerleaders. The spirit squad cheers for sporting events only. They stunt, jump, cheer, and dance as well, but they have no real routine planned out. From now on the use of the terms ‘cheerleader’ or ‘cheerleading’ in this paper refers to competition cheerleaders or cheerleading.

Cheerleading, although it might not seem like it, is a lot like football. Both cheerleading and football are sports that require a lot of strength. In football strength is a crucial factor in the game. Players spend hours in the gym lifting weights trying to get stronger so that they will be able to hit harder and take harder hits. Likewise, cheerleaders also have to have a great deal of strength in order to do many of the more complicated stunts. In some stunts cheerleaders may launch one of their own around 0 feet in the air. These stunts require precise timing and require enormous amounts of skill and concentration. The slightest mistake could prove to be disastrous. Where in football, players have to memorize different plays and different formations, cheerleaders have to memorize entire routines. Think of each routine as being an offensive drive in football; cheerleaders have to know exactly where they are going and the route that they take to get there. They also have to know what formations to get into for their different stunts, just like football players have to know the formations or their different plays. Many consider football one of the most dangerous team sports around, but what is often over-looked is the danger in cheerleading. Football is a violent sport and people get injured often. Cheerleading proves to match or even surpass the danger involved in football when a flyer (usually one of the lightest members on the squad who is tossed into the air and the one used in the stunts) is thrown around 0 feet in the air with no pads or safety line to protect her.

Think of cheerleading as a movie. One watches both a movie and a cheerleading routine in the same fashion. When viewing a performance, the audience is usually entertained and pleased, but very little thought is given to how much work was put into the performance. A movie often takes months if not years to complete. There are hours and hours of footage, yet the audience only sees about two hours worth of film. Similarly, practicing a routine for a cheerleading competition takes months and the final piece is only a -4 minute long exhibition. Cheerleading requires hours on top of hours of hard work and practice. Very important, and yet almost always overlooked are the angles and positioning of cameras in films. A great deal of thought is put into exactly where that camera goes to get the directors message across to the audience. The same effort is put into how a cheerleading routine is choreographed for the judges and audience at a competition so that they get the best view of every stunt.

Cheerleading, like football or basketball, is a powerful sport. The people who participate in it - cheerleaders - possess phenomenal physical ability and admirable character traits; they are hard-working, dedicated, and skillful. Just like in any other sport, there is no specific type of cheerleader. Cheerleaders are diverse, which makes cheerleading an entertaining sport because there is always something new to see and appreciate. The sport of cheerleading and the athletes themselves deserve the same amount of credit and acclaim given to any other sport or athlete. It is about time people stopped looking down on the sport of cheerleading and the cheerleaders themselves and started looking at them for what they are worth.

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