In many developed countries around the world, childhood obesity has grown to uncontrollable levels. Currently, kids weigh more and exercise less than they ever have before.
In England, Tim Loughton—
the country's Children's Minister—
has teamed up with school administrators to try and rouse the country's youth into becoming more physically active.
Throughout recent years, traditional sports programs, like cricket and netball, have endured large-scale drops in popularity.
A poll of England's schools revealed "just 49 percent [of students] had some experience of inter-school competition and only 21 percent did so regularly."
As a result, schools across England have started offering alternative sports like, cheerleading
, yoga, boxing and skateboarding. Now, alternative sports' popularity overshadows traditional sports; and, more and more, "traditional sports" are being dropped from school athletic programs.
In fact, The Daily Mail
, an online British newspaper, "nearly four in ten schools—
now offer cheerleading as a sport."
So why are cheerleaders
fighting so hard to gain recognition for their sport on this side of the Atlantic?
It seems, perhaps, the argument's focus should be oriented more toward making youth active than arguing over the details of what qualifies as a sport.
So why do school administrators in England, and other European/Asian countries, see participating in any sport—
and other alternative sports—
as worthwhile physical fitness activities, while administrators in the United States maintain such vehement opposition to making sports like cheerleading "competitive sports"?
What's even more confusing, however, is what can earn students physical education credit in high schools across the United States.
Arguments for why sports like cheerleading have not been accepted as "competitive" physical fitness activities become even more confusing after reviewing the National Federation of State High School Association's (NFHS) Independent Study Physical Education Contract
According to the NFHS, the steps for creating one's own independent study physical education program seem much more "underdeveloped," than those steps that have already been outlined for activities like cheerleading. In order to meet the NFHS requirements for an independent study physical education program, the steps are quite simple.
Students are simply required to:
- fill out a petition;
- meet with the health and physical education coordinator;
- establish program objectives, activities and evaluating outcomes; and,
- meet classroom expectations for securing credit [if their program is not successfully completed].
Voila, there it is. All that's left is to complete 60 hours of the physical fitness activity of your choice.
In summary, objects in motion have a tendency to remain in motion, while objects at rest tend to remain at rest. Therefore, why do school administrators in the United States prefer to argue about what "meets the criteria" for physical fitness, rather than address topics like why they allow such anaerobic activities, like "nature walks"—
yes, nature walks!—
qualify as physical fitness activities.
What's more is that cheerleading almost seems to be under more scrutiny than other sports. Whereas other sports, even nature walks, are protected under the NFHS' independent study physical education contract, cheerleading is not even up for consideration, let alone review.
It's shocking, especially after considering that when I attended high school (in the early 2000s) you could not only receive physical education credit for cheerleading, you could receive physical education credit for activities like deep sea fishing—
which I, personally, have always found more relaxing, than physically exhausting.