Skip to main content


Insider Info

C'mon fans, don't try to fake it. Stand up now and lemme see you shake it.... The chant is familiar and easy, but the sport is not. Cheerleading is hard work.

Cheerleading is a sport of dedication, strength, and talent in which over 4.3 million young men and women between the ages of 14 and 18 participate.

Cheerleader Robyn Gmeindl says it's "not just a sport, it's a lifestyle. But you know what, I wouldn't trade it for the world."

Surprisingly, most people involved in the sport do not say you have to be naturally outgoing. "I think almost anyone can be a cheerleader, if they are determined enough," says Heather Cary. "I don't think there is one certain personality that they need. Just be enthusiastic!"

Cheerleading, or cheering, is a series of movements. These include jumps, formations, arm and leg gestures, and chants. They are designed to get the audience to join in.

While cheering started out as a way to inspire team sports, cheerleading is now a sport in itself. There are many different competitions. One of the biggest is the college nationals, held every year in Florida. The tournament is covered on ESPN and CBS.

But you don't have to be a top performer in order to participate in cheering. Some leagues or clubs form just for fun. They don't exclude anyone, no matter how old you are.

"You really learn to love your school that way. I think that's important for college success and the college experience," says Jeff Cupido of Arizona.

It is a female-dominated sport. This is despite the fact that a male started organized cheerleading back in the late 1890s. More men are becoming involved, however.

"There is no problem we have that other sports teams don't encounter. We treat each other as equals, and actually the guys tend to look out for the girls as sisters," says Cupido.

Scott Watkins started out as the only male on his high school cheering squad. "It wasn't easy being the only male on the squad. Of course, there were a lot of wisecracks coming from the crowd, and at times that made it hard to continue."

But he stayed with it because he liked the challenge. Now he coaches cheerleading at a high school in Oklahoma.

"I think more people should get involved with cheerleading," says Watkins. "There are many benefits. Cheerleading emphasizes teamwork unparalleled by sports such as football or basketball. Of course, timing and precision are key to success in these sports. It is also the key to safety in cheerleading. One person not concentrating on their job in a stunt or toss, and an injury may occur."

Cheerleaders are scored on the technical merit of such physical elements as jumps, gymnastics, and pyramids. They are also scored on the kinetic merit of their motions, synchronization and crowd involvement.

Betty Moore is a competition judge in Illinois. Her main frustration with her role is having to disappoint someone. "Someone has to win in the end."

But "enjoyment comes from recognizing the skill levels that squads are capable of achieving, and the excitement on their faces as they perform a routine."

Being a competition judge is one of the job opportunities available in cheering. Some positions are paid. Others are voluntary.

You could also be a coach, or a cheerleader with a professional sports team. Look at some of the college and university websites for coaching jobs. Professional sports team websites sometimes provide information online about how to apply to join their squads.

"It takes time to learn, but once you can do it, all that hard work pays off. People are just amazed at the fact that you can balance someone over your head. I love it," says Cupido.

Cheering is a sport like any other and can help earn you scholarships. Participants must keep up their grades while holding down a demanding practice and competition schedule. "My team practices for eight hours a week, starting in September, ending in May, with a few breaks for exams and holidays," says Gmeindl.

Getting Started

Cheerleading doesn't need to be expensive. Most squads do a variety of fund-raising activities to pay for uniforms and trips. But this means more of a time commitment. During tryouts, simple sweats and T-shirts usually suffice.

Fitness is important in cheering, but it also keeps you fit. "It promotes aerobic training," says Watkins. "It is fast-paced, demanding strength from every part of the body. A cheerleader must yell, stunt, tumble, jump, and lead a crowd, all in a short span of time. It is very demanding, with discipline being the most important aspect."

"Although it requires a good amount of physical wellness and endurance, strength is not an important issue. Cheer is mainly mental and good technique," says Cupido.

"We have to realize that the sport has evolved so much that we can't even compare it to the way things were 10 years ago," adds Gmeindl. "It takes incredible strength, endurance, stamina, dedication, flexibility, and coordination. Most importantly, you have to be willing to put your heart on the floor, and then later pick up the pieces if things don't go the way you want them to. Instead of complaining, we learn to accept it and move on."

When you take on the role of cheerleader, you also take on responsibility. "He or she has to represent their school or organization in a professional manner at all times. He or she cannot be seen breaking the rules or regulations. The whole school looks to them," says Watkins.


World Cheerleading Association
PO Box 220098
St. Louis , MO   63122
Toll-free :  888-TEAM-WCA
E-mail :


We've Got Spirit: The Life and Times of America's Greatest Cheerleading Team,
by  James T. McElroy
American Cheerleader magazine
250 West 57 Street, Suite 420
New York , NY   10107
E-mail :

Information for cheerleaders on tips, techniques, fitness and much more

Power Cheerleading Athletics
This site has information about camps, clinics, training, competition and lots more

Back to Career Cluster


  • Email Support

  • 1-800-GO-TO-XAP (1-800-468-6927)
    From outside the U.S., please call +1 (424) 750-3900


Powered by XAP

OCAP believes that financial literacy and understanding the financial aid process are critical aspects of college planning and student success. OCAP staff who work with students, parents, educators and community partners in the areas of personal finance education, state and federal financial aid, and student loan management do not provide financial, investment, legal, and/or tax advice. This website and all information provided is for general educational purposes only, and is not intended to be construed as financial, investment, legal, and/or tax advice.