Competitive cheer now a CIF sport, but some athletes have concerns

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - As the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) continues to finalize rules and instructions for competitive cheer programs, high school athletes are wondering what it will mean for their schools.

In 2015, Gov. Jerry Brown signed Assembly Bill (AB) 949, introduced by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego), to classify competition cheer as a CIF sport beginning in the 2017-18 school year.

San Diego Section Commissioner Jerry Schniepp said it was the first sport to become sanctioned through legislation. Typically, he said, it happens at a grassroots level. Individual schools create club programs and they work their way up to becoming sanctioned at the state level. Some recent examples include lacrosse and girl's wrestling.

CIF was given a basic set of guidelines by the state legislature and is now developing its own set of guidelines. A cheer advisory group made up of representatives in all the conferences is helping with the process.

Krystal Boarts, head coach at West Hills High School in Santee, said she's grateful cheer is finally being recognized as a sport.

"They really just wanted to be recognized for their athletic abilities," said Boarts. "It's a real sport. They train just as hard as football, just as hard as basketball, softball. I hope people see that."

However, some of her athletes have concerns.

"We're happy to get recognized as a sport but along with that are some challenges we have to face," said Ally Corona, one of the senior captains.

The sanctioned sport will be competitive cheer in the spring. Spirit cheer in the fall will remain unsanctioned, meaning those athletes will still not receive physical education credit. Many of the current cheerleaders participate in spring gymnastics and worry they'd have to choose between sports.

Boarts adds that some parents thought being recognized by CIF meant more funding, but they aren't sure that's the case.

Students worry they will no longer be able to participate in prestigious club competitions.

Competitive cheer teams will be subject to the same by-laws as other CIF sports, with rules pertaining to practices, grades, and competitions.

In order to be inclusive to all schools who may not have a robust cheerleading program, CIF is including a "game day division" to competitions. These routines will consist of those seen at Friday night football games or other sporting events.

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