Can a Guy be a Cheerleader? What it Feels Like to be One?

The world is changing, and so are our concepts and stereotypes. We have learned to break the gender stereotypes prevalent in career options, sports, pop culture, and other aspects of society. There is nothing specifically limited to a man’s job or a woman’s job.

Can a guy be a cheerleader? The simplest answer to this question would be a yes. In fact almost 50% of a co-ed cheerleading squad consists of males. Males form an important part of any cheerleading team and use their strength to throw the flyers in the air, and then catch them back. If you want to know why there is an apprehension about male cheerleading, read this full article.

From male nurses to female car mechanics, gender is no longer the deciding factor in work. The same holds true for cheerleading as a sport where male cheerleaders exist in huge numbers.

However, the way has not been really smooth for them, just like any other avenue dominated by the opposite gender.

Can a guy be a cheerleader

It isn’t a cakewalk for most men to enter the field of cheerleading. There isn’t anything related to athletics that male cheerleaders cannot achieve. However, it’s the acceptance from the public that makes the path challenging for them.

Male cheerleaders are often labelled as effeminate men even now, although we claim to be a progressive society. But, that has never stopped men who love to be associated with this energetic sport to do whatever their passion calls for.

They are breaking the stereotypes and joining collegiate cheerleading teams in large numbers. The co-ed varsity cheerleading teams have male and female cheerleaders performing together in a team, and they put up the best show you can ever see.

History Of Cheerleading Began With Men

History shows that cheerleading was never female-dominated in its initial years. Cheerleading began with males and was the acceptable norm back then, contrary to the popular belief and present stereotype regarding the sport.

Male supporters who were eager to watch a match, created the sport of cheerleading.

In 1869, an intercollegiate football match was organized between Rutgers University and Princeton University, and by 1880, Princeton had an all-male cheer team. The first organized cheer happened at the University of Minnesota in 1898, where fight songs were sung.

When the University football team was losing, a group of supporters assembled to cheer the team and energize them. They took the team to victory with this organized cheer and songs.

Then onwards, cheerleading became popular amongst the male supporters in football matches. Male teams began to cheer during sports events to energize the crowd and boost the spirit of the members.

Entry of women in cheerleading

Women did not enter the scene any time before 1920. They were first allowed to cheer in 1923 in Minnesota. There were few women in the scene during that decade because most universities did not allow women, and cheerleading wasn’t popular yet in schools.

In the 40s, many men joined the army to fight in the World War. It was during this era that times were changing, and women began to join universities. They also joined the cheer teams in large numbers to fill up the spaces.

From the 40s onwards, tumbling and acrobatics became a part of cheerleading. Props and flashcards too began to be used. It primarily became a women’s gymnastics sport from the 1950s onwards.

By the 1960s, cheerleading was prevalent in most high schools across America. Jeff Webb founded the Universal Cheerleaders Association in 1974 for competitive cheerleading and events. All Star cheerleading gradually emerged in the 80s and 90s, focussing on athletic cheerleading rather than spirit-raising and leadership.

Men were the founders of cheerleading, but changing times and stereotypes turned it into a woman’s game where males are fewer in number. Around 97% of the cheerleaders in high school teams are females.

There are a lot of male cheerleaders

However, almost half of the cheerleaders in college teams are males. Co-ed varsity teams have also caused a surge in the number of male cheerleaders. UCA championships have special categories for co-ed varsity cheerleading to encourage more young male talents to showcase their cheer skills and athletics.

Male Cheerleading And Homophobia

Present-day homophobia is the primary reason behind certain attitudes of the public towards male cheerleaders. Many people associate cheerleading with pompoms and attractively dressed women.

Misconceptions exist till date that cheerleaders exist to heighten the glam quotient of a sports event and are meant to look attractive, clap and cheer. Thus, people generally do not like to accept males in this sport.

Such a homophobic section of the masses consider men who are a part of cheerleading to be gay, effeminate and label many such derogatory stereotypes against them. They generalize that such men are not athletic enough to participate in other sports forms that they presume to be male-dominated.

To them, cheerleading is a soft activity for physically weak men who are interested in girly stuff.

Such deplorable remarks are often hurled at male cheerleaders, and many of them have faced such discrimination from their peers and acquaintances. These attitudes stem from deep-rooted homophobia in society and the inability to accept change in traditional forms.

Such remarks often deter men from choosing their passion and making their way into the high school cheerleading team. Parents, too, do not prefer enrolling their male children in cheerleading, unlike girls who start as young as 4 or 5 years of age. 

Cheerleading is not easy, It requires effort

People forget that cheerleading is no longer a soft sport having women in pleated skirts dancing with pompoms and flashcards. It is a challenging athletic sport involving immense practice, skills, dedication, and stamina.

Cheerleading routines require strength and intense practice to perfect the moves and stunts. The male cheerleaders in the team show great strength during the stunts in lifting the female team members in the air.

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The coordination and skill displayed by male cheerleaders in a team, often forming the base positions, is commendable. 

How Do Male Cheerleaders Deal With Public Opinion Against Them?

Male cheerleaders often have to deal with discrimination against them. They have to face several misconceptions and break them by going against the stereotypes and proving them wrong.

Male cheerleaders often say how people tell them it’s a useless passion and won’t get them anywhere. The best thing most cheerleading men do to deal with such discrimination is to ignore them.

They know that their performance would speak for them and break the barriers. They prefer to concentrate on getting stronger to perform the most effortless lifts and perfect the coordination skills to put up a spectacular show.

How Does It Feel To Be A Male Cheerleader?

Despite the prejudice against male cheerleaders in a woman-dominated sport and the labeling against them, calling them ‘weak,’ ‘gay’, and ‘effeminate’, men enjoy being a part of it.

Many cheerleaders have recounted the attitude meted out against them by narrow-minded people existing in the society. But they have also narrated their tales of ignoring the hatred and concentrating on what they love and what they do best.

Men enjoy showing their athletic skills in a co-ed cheerleading team. They have to go through rigorous training to increase their core strength. A male cheerleader usually practice handstands, tumbling, and flips.

They focus more on arm and leg strength to be the perfect choice for the base and spotter positions. Their arm strength allows them to throw the flyer into the air and balance the cheer girl during the stunts.

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Most co-ed teams use their male members as strong bases and easily lift, throw and balance the female flyers on their palms. 

Cheerleading is all about teamwork

Male members in a cheerleading team develop a strong bond with the female members, learning to respect each other. They build strong coordination and work together with a solid team spirit.

It’s a great way to engage males and females in the same competitive sport and help them build team spirit and sportsman spirit. Most male cheerleaders say that they have never faced humiliation or discrimination from their female teammates and have instead bonded well with them.

We have seen several famous cheerleaders such as George W. Bush, Steve Martin, Jimmy Stewart, and Dwight D. Eisenhower. More high schools are seeing a greater number of males showing interest in cheerleading and are opening up to males and including them in the squad.

Even though there is a lack of respect from several quarters, the squads know how to value the male cheerleaders and their contribution to the school team spirit and competitive cheerleading.

The Bottom Line

Acceptance by society depends on time and era. Once, when men were a part of the cheer team, the entry of women was a new thing for the public, and they took time to get acquainted with it.

Similarly, when cheerleading became a women-dominated sport, people took some time to accept male cheerleaders in the team. Thankfully, times are changing, and so are mindsets. Men are listening to their passion and joining teams in large numbers. In a few years, the attitude towards male cheerleaders will perhaps change entirely.

Sports must be devoid of gendered concepts, allowing everyone to participate and perform the best of their skills. Schools should encourage more co-ed cheerleading to do away with the gendered concepts.

Letting boys and girls follow their passion together, bond well, and build team spirit is the best way to let them hone their athletic skills while beginning to respect each other.   

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