The state of New Jersey wants to officially recognize cheerleading as a sport under the NJSIAA, according to a bill proposed in the Senate.
The bill is labeled as S2275 and it would require the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association to govern the sport, which could lead to state championships and awards for the sport.
According to the bill, the NJSIAA would be required to “set forth guidelines governing student participation in cheerleading and to conduct cheerleading tournaments between member schools and establish cheerleading coach and program safety requirements for all student athletes, recreational athletes, and competitive athletes, such as All-Stars.”
The bill’s sponsor is Senator Brian Stack, a Democrat from Hudson. Even though the state government is behind the idea, the NJSIAA does not think it should be done this way. The NJSIAA said it is open to the idea of recognizing cheerleading as a sport, but thinks it should be done without legislation.
Should cheerleading be recognized as a sport in New Jersey, coaches would be required to have training for the safety and protection of the athletes as well as obtain certifications.
In regards to this proposed change to cheerleading, Cinnaminson head coach Gail Glaberman said, “There are definitely good aspects and not so good aspects relating to this bill. On a positive note, it will require coaches to go through certain certifications for safety/stunting/proper grips/spotting. This is never a bad thing. On the other hand, it will be harder to find cheerleading coaches with these specific qualifications – and at whose expense will these requirements be fulfilled?”
Should the proposal pass and cheerleading be governed by the NJSIAA, Coach Glaberman believes it will affect football, basketball and competition season.
“I believe it will affect any school-related cheerleading program – football, basketball, competition…even wrestling and/or whatever other sports cheerleaders may be a part of.”
The argument over whether or not cheerleading is a sport has been waged for decades. Coach Glaberman hopes that if the proposal does pass, it will validate the side that has always viewed cheerleading as a sport.
“It seems like since the beginning of time, there has always been an underlying debate between those that believe cheerleading is a sport and those who do not. To me, it’s impossible to deny the athleticism, hard work, dedication and team unity displayed by these young men and women. Others argue that they are on the sideline cheering for a sport, not actually taking part in the competition. While this may be true for football and basketball seasons, it’s not so for cheerleading programs that compete. Competition cheerleading is a vigorous, very competitive, time demanding sport.”
“But whether our athletes are cheering on the sideline or competing against other teams on the mat, both scenarios require skill, practice, teamwork, dedication and commitment. This bill will certainly give our side some validity with this debate, but it will also add the outside influence of the state – to determine what’s right for our sport, what fees may be involved, when and how we can practice and many more unknown decisions, possibly made by individuals who do not know our sport.”
Even though cheerleading has yet to be recognized as a sport under the NJSIAA, the program at Cinnaminson High School has received a ton of support from the school district, administration and athletic department.
“I have to add that regardless of this new state bill, we have always been very lucky in the fact that our Administration and Athletic Department at Cinnaminson High School has always been supportive of our program. They include us in all sports awards ceremonies, award us varsity letters, provide transportation to camp and away games, designate budget money to our program, provide practice space, uniforms and equipment. The Cheerleading Program at CHS has never felt like anything other than a sport to me because of the support and respect we have always received from our Athletic Department. I am beyond grateful for that.”
Glaberman also noted that programs that might not be able to find certified coaches might be able to operate as club teams. This would prevent them from tumbling and stunting though. She also said that a positive change would be standardized judging for competitions should this pass.
Image courtesy of Gail Glaberman