UIL to Test One Year Cheerleading Pilot Program

- LUBBOCK -- Cheerleading is a sport. 

At least that is what cheer athletes are hoping folks will say in a few years if the UIL pilot program is successful.

Last Wednesday, the University Interscholastic League voted to test out a one year program that would make cheer leading a UIL sanctioned activity for the 2015-2016 school year. 

The change was prompted by concerns for athlete safety, after the American Medical Association reported cheer leading as the leading cause of catastrophic injuries in female athletes. 

Raider Extreme owner, Shane Winfield, said cheer athletes have been waiting for the chance to become a 'real' sport for quite some time. 

"It is very exciting to see things go in this direction and starting getting recognized as a sport," Winfield said. "I hope it goes through."

But he also said he understands the concerns around athlete safety. 

"Of course their running tumbling, standing tumbling," Winfield said. "It's very very athletic and very hard to do what they do." 

Mark Ball is the Executive Athletic Director for the Lubbock Independent School District. 

Ball was at the UIL policy meeting when the changes were made. 

"It was brought up in policy to add it and the vote was tied," Ball said. "The chair Dr. Mark Henry from Cypress-Fairbanks broke the tie."

The sport would focus on game-time cheering, meaning less tumbling and gymnastics; hopefully reducing injuries. 

The athletes would compete once a year at a state championship in January.

A big bonus for parents is the cost. 

Right now, parents incur most of the expenses for uniforms, props and travel, but as a sanctioned activity each school district would now take over most of those costs. 

Winfied said these changes would open up the sport for more participants as well as acceptance from the community, which could give athletes a better chance at college scholarships.

"They give out little bitty scholarships, but nothing big time like how we are feeling if it does become a sport," Winfield said. "Then we are talking full rides to some of these [big] universities."

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