For as long as cheerleading has been present in the state of Kansas, it has never been officially recognized as a sport.
“[The Kansas State High School Activities Association] doesn’t recognize [cheerleading] as a sport and so we are not able to recognize it as a sport in the state of Kansas,” principal John McKinney said.
In the past at East, cheerleading has been defined as an extracurricular activity, and this year additionally as a competitive performance activity. Because cheerleading is now considered a competitive performance activity, the amount of time required for practice has increased. In addition to the preparation games, pep assemblies and other activities require, additional hours are needed to prepare varsity cheerleaders for competitions, according to varsity cheerleader Sydney Krause. Although these extra practice times were needed, according to varsity cheerleader Morgan Clausen, their gym practice time was cut from the gym after school.
“We’re not really sure why [our gym time was cut], maybe it’s because other sports have first priority, but supposedly we have our gym time back,” said Clausen.
During the 2013-2014 school year the varsity cheerleading team typically practiced two to four times a week. They also attended classes outside of school property to better prepare for competitions. These were held at KC Cheer once a week.
“[East] wants us to do all these competitions, so it’s like oh we’ll do that, but they didn’t want to give us practice time, which wasn’t really fair,” Krause said.
Because the cheerleaders, coaches and parents felt that the decreased practice time and recognition was unfair, cheer coaches Mallory Gaunce and Lindsay Haymond submitted a proposal to the administration for cheer to potentially gain a cheerleading class sometime in the future.
“Our parents got together and started talking about practice,” Clausen said. “We didn’t know if we were classified as a sport or performing art; there were no set rules for benefits that [the team] would get. The performing arts like band and drill team have a class and sports have practice areas and we don’t have either.”
According to the proposal, the benefits from a cheer class during the school day include increased safety in stunting and more time for out of school activities. The cheerleaders also attended a meeting with the administration to discuss the classification of cheer.
“It was just a meeting about… if [they are] going to consider us a sport, then we want all the benefits that sports gets,” said Krause. “But if you consider us a performing art we want what they get.”
As of now, the cheer team has not heard back from any administration on what they will be classified as next year. The potential of having cheer as a class will not be possible for the 2014-2015 school year because of the process it takes to create a class. A form has to be submitted to the Shawnee Mission School District.
“What I’m working on right now is a proposal that would put cheerleading in the program planning guide for the 2015-2016 school year,” McKinney said.