Cheerleaders may support athletes from the sidelines, but a new sport at USF striving for National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA)recognition aims to put them in the spotlight – and more women on sports rosters.
USF’s STUNT team, which won its first competition against Florida State University Friday, is part of a push to help colleges and universitiesmeet the NCAA’s Title IX clause, which requires schools to have an equal number of male and female NCAA sports.
While cheerleading does not count as a sport by NCAA standards, USA Cheerdeveloped STUNT to meet NCAA standards of a sport, according to the College STUNT Association’s website.
“With a 30-personroster, STUNT providescolleges and universities with an effective way to expand its female sports offerings and help improve compliancewith Title IX,” thewebsite stated.
Last year, USF came under fire after a New York Times article founduniversities across the country falsely listing female athleteson teams to comply with Title IX rules on paper, including USF’s cross-country team.
STUNT games consist of four quarters involving partner stunts, when a group of four people do a pre-set routine facing off with the rival team; basket tosses, in which team members toss one of their own into to the air and catch them;tumbling competitions; and choreographed danceroutines.
USF cheerleading coach Liisa Soncrant said STUNT is morecompetitive thancheerleading, and hercheerleaders like the competitive aspect of the new sport.
Raychel Gantt, a senior majoring in education,who participates in bothcheerleading and STUNT, said cheerleaders would get more credit for their athleticism if STUNT gained legitimaterecognition.
“People don’t realize how much time and effort we put into cheerleading,” she said. “It is a full-season sport and it is not even recognized as one. Making STUNT into a legitimate sport would be like bringing cheerleading some recognition.”
Gantt’s teammate in both cheerleading and STUNT, Samantha “Mannie” Rotella, a senior majoring in education, said Friday’s STUNT match gave the team a “chance to act more like real athletes.”
“Rather than smiling on the sidelines, we actually got to be the main event,” she said. “We didn’t have to just smile and pump up our team, but we got to pump up ourselves and compete with the skills we have been working on all year.”
Though she will likelygraduate before STUNT becomes an official NCAA sport, Rotella said she wants to be “part of building it for future students to come.”
A Title IX representative attended Friday’s game to analyze whether STUNT fell under the NCAA description of a sport, Soncrant said.
If USF added STUNT as an official sport, Rotella said a men’s team with an equivalent roster would also have to be added.
Though the number of games have yet to be determined because Florida is still forming teams, Rotella said USF’s team is trying to establish its rank in the premature sport.
“We want to build a USF name now in order to get more recognition for the sport,” she said. “If our rivals see that we are competing in STUNT matches, then they willparticipate too. STUNT will eventually become a nationalsport because of ourcompetitiveness.”