When new cheer coach Makeda Young takes over the Bear Creek cheer squad this coming season, she has more to worry about than pyramids and new uniforms. Young will need to address this controversy: is cheer a club or a sport?
Right now, cheerleading is considered, for lack of any other word, a club. But according to student government teacher Michael Heberle, this is a very loose term.
“To be considered a club a group must meet a few requirements,” Heberle said. “The group must have a credentialed advisor, such as a teacher, a club constitution filed with the district, and every year they must renew their club status. Cheer does not fall into this category because the coaching position is a paid one.”
So why is cheerleading considered a club? This decision to consider cheerleading a club wasn’t really a decision at all, it was because neither the school or the district can define cheerleading as a sport. Why? The CIF.
“CIF stands for the California Interscholastic Federation and it is the governing body for high school sports in the state of California,” Athletic Director Anthony Seyhoun said. “They do not recognize cheerleading as a sport and since the district is under their jurisdiction, the district cannot define it as one.”
Now, Assembly Bill 949 will hopefully resolve the roots of this issue. It is currently going through the California State Senate and is being championed by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego).
KCRA 3 News aired a story on the controversy and interviewed numerous cheerleaders and cheer coaches.
One coach that was interviewed explained her reasoning for opposing the bill.
“To me, it’s already a sport,” Monterey Trail High School cheer coach Jessica Henderson said. “It’s a year-round sport. It’s not like a one season sport like a CIF-sanctioned sport is, so I’m opposing that bill.”
KCRA 3 also interviewed a cheerleader who opposes the bill for the same reasons.
“There would be more rules and regulations if we were part of the same system,” cheerleader Makayla Wilkes said.
Some Bear Creek cheerleaders are also wary of the changes.
“I oppose the bill because we don’t know how they’ll change the program yet,” junior Sabrina Searls said.
CBS Sacramento, whose article was posted around the same time as KCRA 3’s, reported that the bill would not only make cheerleading an official sport, it would mandate the CIF to consider it as such, but it would also mandate other things in the programs.
“If passed, the law would create new safety guidelines for cheerleader training and could lead to changes in the athletic department funding,” CBS said.
The specific changes that will be made to cheerleading programs have not been specified; the bill only requires CIF to make cheerleading a sport and develop those changes.
No matter what decision is made regarding the bill, Young is hoping to bring new life to the program by making changes of her own.
“My goal for taking over the Bear Creek Cheer Program is to bring them back to the competitive edge they had back about 15 years ago,” Young said. “I have had many years of coaching competitive cheer and would like to bring competitive cheer back to Bear Creek. I remember when they competed in the late ʼ90s and early 2000s and they were such a strong program.”
Some of Young’s goals include smaller changes.
“My first change I am making is a simple: changing uniforms,” Young said. “I would like to start with everything fresh and new. I will also be taking the team to a new and innovated cheer camp this season that will begin our journey to being competitive again. I will also be implementing conditioning and strength training to the program.”
Young does not have a clear opinion on the cheer bill as of yet but is overall optimistic about any changes to cheerleading that may occur.
“Of course I want cheer to be recognized as a sport at the high school level,” Young said. “My fear is that once given that title cheerleaders will lose certain things they have had as a part of their sport for years. All in all I feel as though what my athletes do on a daily basis qualifies them as athletes and qualifies cheerleading as a sport. It would just be nice to get that recognition from all of the naysayers out there.”