Cheerleading to become a sport in New York State

The New York State Board of Regents, a panel of education policymakers, decided Monday afternoon to approve a proposal to designate competitive cheerleading as an interscholastic sport. The full board is expected to consider the proposal on Tuesday.

The board's decision will have practical implications beyond settling an age-old debate: Most notably, cheerleading will be subject to the same safety protocols as other sports, and coaches will be required to have a certain level of training. The decision will also mean the funding for cheerleading squads will have to change, and become a part of a school district's budget.

"Very pleased to see Cheerleading officially recognized as a sport in NYS. It is about time. Cheerleaders are athletes and always have been," West Genesee Central School Superintendent Christopher Brown tweeted Monday afternoon.

In a memo supporting the change, reviewed by the Board of Regents, supporters argue that cheerleading has evolved from traditional sideline spirit-building to a competitive sport requiring complex athletic skills, including pyramid building, tossing, partner stunts, lifts, jumps and tumbling.

Thirty-four states and the District of Columbia currently recognize cheerleading as a sport. In New York, the change will take effect for the 2014-15 winter season.