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Maggie Hendricks

Give me a G! USA Gymnastics sanctions cheerleading

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USA Gymnastics will add another subjectively judged sport to their stable of subjectively judged sports. The national governing body that oversees the Olympic sports of artistic gymnastics, rhythmic gymnastics and trampoline, announced that they will now regulate competitive cheerleading.

But proponents of non-judged sports don't have to worry. The sanctioning is not a move to add the sport to the Olympics, but to help competitive cheerleading become recognized as a sport. USA Gymnastics will help regulate college programs who have elevated their competitive programs to sport status.

Six colleges currently sponsor competitive cheerleading as a sport: Azusa Pacific University, Baylor University, Fairmont State University, University of Maryland, University of Oregon and Quinnipiac University. Working with gymnastics officials will not only strengthen the sport's place within the college sports framework, but also will encourage other schools elevate to the programs that are already in place.

“What you are seeing is the birth of a new sport,” Oregon coach Felicia Mulkey said.

The schools want to make clear the difference between cheering on sidelines and the competitive sport. Their meets will resemble gymnastics meets, with rotations that consist of compulsory, stunt, pyramid, basket toss, tumbling and a team routine.

These schools are working with USA Gymnastics in response to a ruling by a federal judge that said competitive cheer had not been developed enough to fulfill the requirements of Title IX, the law that provides for gender equality in college sports.

“It’s another step toward meeting the criteria that the judge laid out and we are aggressively pursuing those exact steps to make this an emerging sport,” said John Blake, the executive director of the National Collegiate Acrobatics and Tumbling Association.

With competitive cheerleading considered a sport, scholarship opportunities can be given to the best athletes, and cheerleading can be counted in Title IX numbers. Though colleges have been given 30 years to comply with the mandates of Title IX, some still aren't in compliance. With competitive cheer elevated, schools can use a sport that most already have in place instead of cutting existing sports.

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