Debunking myths: Is cheerleading sexist?


Hailey Adenihun (‘26)

The creators of the Webb Spirit Squad, Geniya Parker (‘26), Mia Rooker (‘26), Nicole Samson (‘26), and Maya Chin (‘26) pose outside their station at the Club Fair. They cheered at students the whole fair, gathering in a ton of members, just to be disappointed when afternoon activities schedules interfered with their club plans. Since most games took place around the same time as other afternoon activities, it was difficult for club members to gather. “Yeah, our whole club was super devastated,” Maya said.

When you think of high school sports games, such as football, what comes to mind when you hear the word halftime? Maybe you will think of the amazing halftime show that the high school cheerleaders put on with the lively beats of dance music, colorful pom poms in the air, and many outstanding tricks. 

Cheerleading has been a popular sport for students in high school to participate in since the late 1800s. Cheerleading teams are an integral part of American culture, as demonstrated through their constant presence in movies and TV shows. So, the question is, why doesn’t Webb have a cheerleading team? 

“Historically, when VWS first started and Susan Nelson was the Head of Schools before Mr. Stockdale, the belief among the VWS administration/head of schools when introducing sports was the idea that they didn’t want to promote cheer as just a sport on the sidelines but as an actual sport in it of itself,” said Steve Wishek, Director of Student Athletics. 

Cheerleading may be a sport that is female-dominated, but it is not a sport that is female-only. Many students wonder if Webb’s lack of  cheerleading team reflects sexism.  

Cheerleading has also been seen as something that exists only in support of other sports, such as football and basketball. However, this claim is an unjustified cause to get rid of cheerleading, considering males can join cheer teams as well. Cheerleading is not just there to support other sports on the sidelines. It is an important sport in American culture that can be extremely competitive and difficult to perform as it consists of many different stunts and dance moves that needs to be performed in an exact and timely manner.  

However, Mr. Wishek explained that from Webb’s perspective, cheer is not sexist towards men, but rather towards women because they are pushed to the sidelines of men’s sports to cheer them on. 

“[From] an institutional perspective, [cheer] was perceived as a sport for women to stand behind [the field or court] and cheer on guys teams,” Mr. Wishek said. 

It is important to recognize that cheerleading has undergone significant changes over the years and has evolved into a highly competitive sport. Today, cheerleading teams are comprised of both boys and girls. 

Cheerleading has also recently gained recognition as an independent sport, with its own set of rules, regulations, and competitions. Many high schools across also have cheerleading squads for men and women to provide entertainment for viewers of different sports games as well as competing in competitions.  

“I don’t view cheer as just a sport that cheers on the sidelines for just boys,” Pristine Thomas (‘25) said. At my old school we cheered for both girl and boy teams.”  

If the administration at Webb believe that the main rationale is that it is sexist towards women, then many other sports should not be at Webb either. For example, football and wrestling are male dominated sports, but are still offered at Webb because girls can join. Even though a lot of the time girls would feel like outsiders as they will either be the only girl on the team, or one of a couple of girls. It creates an awkward space that can make girls uncomfortable to join a sport that they want to join but feel like they cannot because it is male dominated. 

“The coaches preferred to ask a guy with the same wrestling experience as a girl to demonstrate a skill, once again pushing girls off to the sidelines,” said Jarra Jallow (‘25), referencing an occurrence during wrestling practice. 

On top of it all, one of Webb’s original reasons for not having a cheer team was because it started off as an all-guys school — the Webb School of California.  

“I think the original creation of VWS sports was thinking about girls as athletes and not as supporters,” said Theresa Smith, Assistant Head of Schools.  

But a question emerges from this logic: why was this not adjusted when the Vivian Webb School — the girls’ school — was founded? 

To answer this question, it is simply because of the number of students that attend Webb. Since Webb’s student population consists of about 400 students, Webb tends to focus more on “popular” sports for both VWS and WSC students to participate in. 

“There are lots of CIF offerings that we could have,” Dr. Smith said. “We have sort of evolved over the years to pick the things that both seem to meet our mission to kind of fulfill what students are interested in, and cheer has not evolved from that.”  

Taking this into consideration, when Webb decides to add new sports to such a small community, they must look at how many people are interested. If there are enough people to join the sport along with the many other sports offered that season, it is added in as a potential offering. This process was used this year when they decided to add flag football in the fall season here at Webb to help encourage more girls to join football who want to.  

While this process is understood, it still sparks many discussions within the Webb community regarding cheer. Many students have shown interest in having a cheer team here at Webb, and we see that there have even been clubs dedicated to forming a team. This year there was a club created to bring aspects of cheer to Webb, the club’s plan was to go to Webb’s sports games and cheer on their fellow Webb students, just as an actual cheerleading team would do. 

“I noticed the lack of cheering and spirit at sports games while other high schools had cheer teams and school support,” Maya Chin (‘26) said. “So, we started the Webb Spirit Squad.” 

“I think a lot about cheering comes with pep rallies and having those types of things going on at school,” Kaitlyn Metz (‘25) said. “Not having a cheer team also means we don’t have cheerleaders at sports games, leading to not having as many people at the games or doing things as a community.” 

However, because of the interference with afternoon activity schedules, it became very difficult for the Spirit Squad to make it to games and cheer on fellow classmates. This sparked sadness within their club and an even bigger desire for an official cheer team here at Webb. 

“It was devastating, literal tears ran down my face,” Mia Rooker (‘26) said. 

Through creating a cheer team, Webb could embrace an even more diverse community on campus. There are about one thousand students or more who apply to Webb, and there may be or have been several students who would pursue cheer if it was offered at Webb or have competed in the past. This could bring a positive cheerleading team that people want here at Webb. Introducing a cheer team would also encourage students to come to Webb sports games and support the sports teams that they are watching and create opportunities for Webb pep rallies that would increase school spirit and inclusion at Webb. 

As Webb continues to adapt and evolve, it will be interesting to see how the sports grow as well. Hopefully, Webb will soon be able to see that cheerleading is not a sexist sport for either men or women, and that they can experiment with the sport and try to create a fun environment for the people who want to participate in cheerleading.