Cheerleading joins roster of teams Reclassification means added safety, respect, say advocates

But 'many girls upset'

New rules will limit competition, curtail practice, critics say

August 15, 1996|By Jennifer Anthony | Jennifer Anthony,CONTRIBUTING WRITER

Cheerleaders, who have been left on the sidelines compared with other high school athletic programs, are about to become part of the locker-room set.

Starting today -- the first day of tryouts -- cheerleading squads will be treated like the football team rather than the ecology club.

Those who pushed for the change say reclassifying cheerleading from an activity to a sport means the approximately 350 girls who participate at the county's 12 high schools will be taken more seriously by athletic departments and will be given the same treatment as other sports.

The varsity and junior varsity squads will receive financial support from the athletic departments and be put on the same schedule as other sports for uniform replacement. In the past, cheerleaders had to buy their own uniforms.

"It's only fair that we get this opportunity because we work just as hard as other sports do," said Carrie Barton, a cheerleader from Severna Park High School.

But not everyone is happy about the new arrangement.

Opponents say what was gained is offset by new limitations.

The most damaging, they say, is a county rule that prohibits teams from traveling more than 300 miles to any competition, restricting the national events the cheerleading squads may enter and the kind of scholarships they can then receive.

"I have many girls upset by this change. It really puts a limit on what they can achieve, and that shouldn't be happening," said Tina Edmondson, head coach at Old Mill High School.

Opponents also say forcing the cheerleading squads to adhere to the same schedule as other teams will cause additional headaches.

Like all other fall teams, cheerleaders are beginning tryouts today. In previous years, the fall cheerleading tryouts were held in the spring, giving all summer for practice.

Diane McCall, head coach at Severna Park High, said that "the pressure is on to do a whole lot more, a lot more quickly."

The reclassification was proposed by the school board in the spring to ensure safety for the cheerleaders through sports safety rules and training of coaches.

Pub Date: 8/15/96

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