I was enraged by your story The Pom-Pom Chronicles in your Dec. 30-Jan. 6 issue. Yes, cheerleading has gone from an innocent pastime to a serious and competitive sport, but the same has happened to all sports. I was disgusted by the way cheerleading organizations were portrayed as boot camps. These organizations do not dictate; they merely offer ideas to cheerleading squads that want them. I attended two Universal Cheerleading Association camps and had a blast. We work hard at camp to improve our skills and take advantage of the professional instruction, just as all athletes do at sports camps, but we also have a lot of fun and make good friends. Squads do buy supplies from these companies, but we have to buy them from somebody. Cheerleading can be dangerous if proper precautions are not taken, and some parents can be pushy and competitive, but the same holds true for all sports.
I notice that most of the cheerleaders pictured in your story are smiling. Cheerleading is competitive and hard work, but mostly it's fun. Why else would we cheer?
Essex Junction, Vt.
One reason young girls and college-aged women become so obsessive about cheerleading is that it is one of the few "sports" in which women can play to large audiences and gain recognition. I played college field hockey and basketball and ran track, and there was rarely more than a handful of people in the stands. The local papers never ran long articles about my college teams. If you're a coordinated woman who wants to play before big crowds, cheerleading is pretty much your only option—unless you can make it in big-time tennis.
It's sad that one of the most accepted physical activities for women in our society is an ancillary to sports. Though I personally hate cheerleading, I can't blame other women for taking it so seriously.
As the executive director of the American Association of Cheerleading Coaches and Advisors, a not-for-profit educational organization, I was disappointed in your article. Cheerleading has grown as a popular athletic activity for thousands of young people while other activities have declined. Today's schools are pleased with the student leaders involved in this activity who help build school spirit and pride and serve as excellent role models.
In the summer of 1981, I was enjoying a recreational run on the track at the University of Hawaii. As I entered the stadium, I saw that there were a couple of hundred cheerleaders in the stands, probably there for a clinic or a camp or something. After I ran one lap, a young man ran out to me from the stands and politely asked me my first name. The next time I passed the bleachers, I was met with a rousing cheer that incorporated my name. Each lap had a new cheer from a different group.
I have never forgotten that workout, and to this day I carry the memory of happy, healthy cheerleaders belting out "Mike" in song and dance. To all my fellow duffers who wonder if those cheers are really that big a deal to the athletes, I can say that for me it was glorious beyond belief.
Where Was Larry Bird?
You called him The Living Legend on a 1986 cover, and two years later you put him on your cover with the billing The Legend Lives On. Yet you omitted Larry Bird from Ten Living Legends in the Dec. 23 issue. I'd say you owe a certain Bird in Boston an apology.
BENJAMIN L. PADNOS
A Bird's-Eye View
Stefan Warter's Dec. 30-Jan. 6 cover photograph of the discobolus was awesome! Just out of curiosity, in what stadium was that picture of decathlete Christian Schenk taken?
• The circle is in the stadium on Lanzarote, one of the Canary Islands.—ED.
Remembering Badger Bob
I want to thank Sports Illustrated for the wonderful piece on my late husband, Bob Johnson, the coach of last season's Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins (Point After, Dec. 9). Bob was a loving husband, father and grandfather. I might mention one thing: E.M. Swift referred to Bob's lunching with his sister, but on that occasion Bob was actually sharing a hamburger and fries at McDonald's with our 29-year-old daughter, Diane. She resides at the Southern Wisconsin Center, a state home for the developmentally disabled in Union Grove, Wis.
Incidentally, in Bob's memory we have formed a foundation to help Diane and others with disabilities and to promote youth hockey internationally. The address of the Bob Johnson Ice Hockey Foundation is 1837 South Nevada Avenue, Suite 225, Colorado Springs, Colo. 80906.
MARHTA E. JOHNSON
Johnson (here with the Penguins' Paul Coffey) died six months after the team won the Cup.
Who Wrote That?
Because of a production error, the byline was omitted from the feature on Tonya Harding (Not Your Average Ice Queen) in our Jan. 13 issue. The author was SI senior writer E.M. Swift.—ED.
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