Should Webb have a cheer team?


A cheer team jumps, tumbles, and stunts at a game. Graphic courtesy of ThoughtCo.

When you think of cheerleading, the first thing that probably comes to mind is football and mean girls in short skirts. Movies like Bring It On and A Friend to Die For have influenced society’s view on this sport to be a sexualized and dangerous activity for popular high school girls. It is supposedly a sexist sport, where girls sit on the side-lines and cheer for the boys participating in an array of sports and activities. However, cheer is and could be so much more than its stereotypes, which is why there should be a cheer team at Webb.

Cheerleading has evolved over the past 20 years to become more than just an activity based on popularity. It is a high-intensity sport that requires extreme athletic abilities. Especially with the growing popularity of competitive cheer (or all-star cheerleading), this sport is becoming better known for what it truly is: a sport for dedicated and hard working athletes.

In cheer, athletes have four parts to their routine: tumbling, stunts, jumps, and a dance. It takes strength and training to be able to flip and lift other athletes, demonstrating as much athletic ability as football or basketball. The question is, why is cheerleading not seen in this light at Webb?

Keeping with its history as an independent boarding school, Webb has never had a cheer team. This program was never installed to ensure that both VWS and WSC students are given the opportunity to compete and learn what it means to be on a team instead of just cheering on the sidelines.

Sarah Lantz, Dean of VWS, said that, “Webb is a place that fosters strength and a positive self worth image, so [VWS students] want to be competing not cheering.”

Another issue with cheerleading is its traditional lack of gender equality. Webb focuses on gender equality and equal opportunities for both VWS and WSC students.

The mission statement states that Webb is a “…community that nurtures and inspires boys and girls  to become men and women who: think boldly, mindfully, and creatively; act with honor and moral courage; lead with distinction; serve with a generous spirit.”

Because girls are allowed to be on the football team, the same principle would be applied with male athletes if Webb had a cheer team. However, there is a fear that this cheer team would slowly evolve back into a predominantly female team, reverting to the stereotypes of cheerleading.

Along with the sexism associated with the sport, cheer is also very dangerous. With athletes being thrown in the air and performing long, complicated tumbling passes, it is evident that the sport is anything but safe. From 1980 to 2013, injuries in cheer have spiked 440%. If Webb were to have a cheer team, there is a concern that there would not be enough time for proper camps, practices, and training sessions to ensure that the athletes are as safe as possible.

Some people might think that Webb does not need a cheer team. Webb is built on a strong community environment, where students all attend games and cheer on the teams. School spirit is important, but there is no need to assign a specific group of people to cheer for the teams.

Dean Lantz also said that there are “more productive, more organic… and genuine ways to promote school spirit.”

By making this cheer environment more inclusive, there should theoretically be more participation and enthusiasm for sports. The idea of cheer seems to be exclusive, but there are other options such as a pep squad or a club that would be a better way for school spirit to be shown.

Webb could change these preconceptions about cheer to create a team that is more than just girls on the sidelines cheering for guys. If Webb chooses not to form a cheer team because it might fall back into a group with unequal representations, then we will never really know how a cheer team would be at Webb. Perhaps a test run with a pep squad should be done first to see how the team will form and who will join. Either way, not having a cheer team does not allow for equal opportunities for both sexes, because there is no way to see how people would react.

A cheer team at Webb would not only have to cheer for guys’ sports. If Webb were to have a cheer team, it would be important that it cheered for both the female and male teams. Cheer at Webb should also be seen as more of a sport than a sideline activity. Making sure that a cheer team at Webb is more focused on the sport than its cheering is important, as well. This equality defeats some of the stereotypes that come with the sport, and will help bring more enthusiasm and new audiences to the all teams at Webb.

Stephen Wishek, athletic director, said, “If you look at it from an athletic perspective, right now in California it is considered a CIF sport, so its the same as football… and I think even then you have to differentiate it between sideline cheer and… competition cheer.”

If Webb were to have a cheer team, it would be important that athletes had proper training, as well as mats and other training equipment to ensure that everyone is as safe as possible. If it were seen and treated like any other afternoon activity, the team would be able to learn safe skills and techniques with proper coaching.

When looking past the dangers and sexism associated with the sport, cheer could foster a lot of positives within the Webb community. I believe that a cheer team could help bring enthusiasm and support to all sports games. Sports could become more of an exciting event for students to look forward to.

Mr. Wishek also said, “I think when most people think of cheerleading they think of the sideline cheer…, but don’t see that kind of different competitive mode. I could imagine a scenario if it was approached and we talked about it, and we looked at something more like that… competitive cheer model where you’re competing against other schools and it is a lot more… like the sport… I do think that addresses some of the concerns that have been brought up, but there are still a lot of legacy issues that people have just with the term, but I think it’s all in how you approach it.”

Webb could change the image of cheer and create a fun new activity for all students to participate in. Maybe it would not carry the title of a “cheer team,” but I believe that this pep squad, motivational group, or any other name to describe this team could be beneficial to the Webb community in many ways.