Cheerleading encompasses many partner stunts, tumbling, pyramids and jumps that require great athleticism. Someone who has not observed a cheerleading squad in many years might not be aware of the impressive athletic feats today's cheerleaders perform. Flexibility is required for many jumps and poses. Physical power is required for a long tumbling run or a sequence of flips and tricks that cheerleaders perform. Strength is required for cheerleaders who act as bases for flying tricks, when one, two or three different individuals throw another cheerleader, called a flyer, into the air and hold them in the air while they perform poses and tricks. Cheerleading also requires tremendous stamina. In the sideline version of the sport, where cheerleaders boost crowd morale and lead cheers for an audience watching another sport, cheerleaders actually perform longer than the teams they cheer on. They cheer during the game, during halftime and during breaks. Cheerleaders use weight training, cardiovascular training and stretching, much like any other athletes, to achieve the athleticism required for the sport.
Cheerleading was first created as a sideline sport to cheer sport teams on and get crowds cheering for a team. However, the sport has evolved to include various competitions between existing cheer squads. There are also teams of cheerleaders that only perform the sport for competition and are not attached to a school or team of any other sport. The highest level of competition in the sport is the World Cheerleading Championship, which includes teams from around the world. In the United States, the group STUNT has been created to encompass the athletics of cheerleading without the sideline-centered, crowd-leading aspects. USA Cheer, the governing body for cheerleading in the United States, created STUNT in hopes of joining the NCAA and qualifying as an official collegiate sport under Title IX. This would allow cheerleaders to earn scholarships for their skills and boost the profile of the sport. The only barrier barring cheerleading from qualifying under this statute is that its primary purpose is not competition and there is no standardized scoring system as of 2017. The cheerleading squads at colleges and universities currently serve multiple purposes, including competition.
First created in the United States, cheerleading has grown around the globe, causing the International Olympic Committee to take notice. Western Europe, South America, China and Japan have all experienced growth in cheerleading. The International Cheer Union, the official governing body of the sport, has 110 national federation members, and 70 different countries participated in the 2016 World Cheerleading Championship.