(7-16-18)  Is it time for the Ohio High School Athletic Association to sanction competitive cheerleading?

New OHSAA Executive Director Jerry Snodgrass on the future of competitive cheerleading in Ohio:

Actually, the adoption of boys’ and girls’ lacrosse 2 years ago opened the door to many different ‘emerging’ sports with the creation of an ‘emerging sport’ category within the OHSAA that did not necessarily meet previous requirements of adding a sport (previous rules required a sport to have 250 teams before being considered for adoption).

With the emerging sport category, this permits us some flexibility that way but also established (at my predecessor’s actions) an “Emerging Sport Committee”.

So, to fully answer, there are several different sports/activities that have been vetted by that committee and surveys conducted to our member schools. Ultimately it would be a recommendation from that committee to our Board of Directors and at this time headed into our initial meeting for 2018-19, there is no recommendation that has been presented. Again though, I do stress it is one of many that has been vetted by that committee and simply no recommendation has come forth (for or against adoption) at this point.

Other states like California, who just implemented the sport this past school year:

Roger Blake, Executive Director of the CIF

“The CIF is excited to add competitive cheer to our sports offerings. We look forward to working with the California Department of Education to develop policy and standards allowing the student-athletes involved in competitive cheer to enjoy greater opportunities to display their athletic talents in a safe environment. One of the major goals in this process will be to develop guidelines for competitive cheer programs that our member schools can implement, meet the standards and be compliant with Title IX as defined by the United States Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights.”

The OHSAA follows the rules and guidelines of the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) in any sanctioned sport. The NFHS already has in place rules in place for competitive cheer. That is a one positive for making the sport a part of the association in the future.

According to the most recent survey of NFHS-member state associations, there are more than 400,000 high school cheerleaders in the United States and, as of 2016-17, about 144,000 of those participants are involved in competitive spirit squads. The 2016-17 NFHS High School Athletics Participation survey lists competitive spirit as the ninth-most popular sports for girls. There are also about 35,000 girls who participate in dance or drill/pom teams, according to the same survey.

Belvidere North Varsity Coed 2017 Illinois State Finals – 1st Place

Many state associations have very successful competitive cheerleading programs, Illinois is one and their state competitions bring in big crowds for state events and those scheduled events during the school year.

In the last five years, the NAIA has added competitive cheer as a national sponsored sport, this gives those student-athletes a chance to compete at a higher level that was not available at those schools in the past. NCAA schools compete in National events, but it is not considered a sport in the association. The NCAA does offer great opportunities, including scholarships, for cheerleaders in using their abilities at a very high level in college. In 2016 cheerleading was awarded provisional recognition by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), no word when actual medals could be awarded.

The Covington High School Cheerleaders finish 4th in the 2017 State of Ohio Cheerleading Championships.

Ohio does conduct a state competitive cheer state championship that is sponsored by the Ohio Association of Secondary School Administrators (OASSA) in March. Depending on who you discuss this with, some might say it is a good thing not to have the OHSAA involved at this time in the sport.

One of the advocates in the past of keeping state associations away from this sport was the American Association of Cheerleading Coaches and Advisors (AACCA). In 2015 the group said in its position paper that it would prefer that state associations not adopt cheer as a sport.

In that paper the AACCA said it would also prefer to see cheer classified as an “athletic activity” so teams would not be subject to state association transfer rules, limited practice time, fundraising restrictions and limits on travel and national competition.

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