Stunt, a new sport that incorporates aspects of competitive cheerleading and gymnastics, might be emerging at the perfect time.
Several Wake County high schools are expected to field stunt teams next spring. The Wake system will be the first in the state to offer stunt as a competitive sport.
“We are hearing from people all over the state wanting to know more about stunt,” said Darren Coe, the Wake County Schools senior administrator for athletics. “There is a tremendous amount of interest in it.”
Stunt is comparatively inexpensive to start and maintain, will not compete for athletic facilities and is expected to involve more girls in interscholastic athletics.
“And in today’s times, those things touch a lot of the bases,” said Ronnie Carter, a consultant for USA Cheer, which helped develop the sport.
Stunt doesn’t require apparatus, like gymnastics. Stunt will be held in the spring when there is not competition for gym space with volleyball, basketball and wrestling teams. Participants will not have to choose between doing stunt or being involved in traditional cheerleading.
And providing opportunities for girls is no small matter.
Wake County is one of several systems throughout the country that was investigated by the Office of Civil Rights after a suit by National Women’s Law Center. The suit contended that the system’s percentage of girls participating in interscholastic athletics was too low and did not meet Title IX standards.
The OCR does not consider traditional cheerleading, even competitive cheerleading, to be a sport for Title IX requirements. A federal judge in Connecticut ruled in a 2010 case that Quinnipiac University violated the law when it pulled funding from its women’s volleyball team to support a competitive cheerleading squad.
U.S. District Judge Stefan Underhill said competitive cheer is “too underdeveloped and disorganized to be treated as offering genuine varsity athletic opportunities for students.”
Title IX help
Stunt has been designed to meet Title IX requirements for interscholastic sport. The teams will have a regular-season schedule and competitions. Competitions are divided into four quarters – partner stunts; pyramids and tosses; group jumps and tumbling, and team performance.
Judges will award scores during competition. The teams will go head-to-head on the mats during competitions and attempt to show mastery of specific routines.
“This isn’t about creativity,” said Carter, the former executive director of the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association. “Stunt is about mastering a set routine. The teams will be competing side by side, and the judges will decide which team performed the required routine best.”
The scoring is based on mastery. Carter said one analogy is diving. Divers are required to make a specific dive, not to design a new one.
Sydnei Murphy, who will be a senior at Apex next year, probably won’t compete in stunt because she is one of the best track and field athletes in the state. She won state titles in the long jump and triple and was named as the N.C. Gatorade girls’ track and field athlete of the year.
But she also is a cheerleader in the fall and winter.
“Stunt sounds wonderful,” she said. “I love the aspect of cheering and supporting my school and my teams, but I would love the chance to compete in stunt. We have competitive cheerleading now, but stunt would be different. You would concentrate so much more on getting the technique right, rather than doing some kind of craziness.”
She said there is great enthusiasm for stunt among her friends.
“We were talking the other day,” she said. “Can you imagine winning a state championship and getting a ring just like we do in the state track meet? That would be wonderful.”
Stunt squads can be large and eventually might provide opportunities for competition to about 50 girls at each of Wake’s 21 high schools, if all schools field teams and the schools eventually add junior varsity teams.
“I think it is going to be a tremendous addition for our sports program,” said Dexter Cooley, the Wakefield athletics director. “There seems to be a lot of interest in starting the program. I expect we are going to see a very high level of competition. These will be very skilled athletes.”
Several Wake schools are in the process of hiring stunt coaches, according to the Wake County Schools website. Coe said Wake schools already have surveyed their students about interest in competing.
Carter noted that the interscholastic teams will tap into an already established network of judges.
The N.C. High School Athletic Association has championships in 11 sports for boys and 10 sports for girls.
If stunt becomes popular, it would be a candidate to become another NCHSAA sport. According to the handbook, a sport will not be considered for championship competition until at least one-fourth of the membership (about 100 schools) or half of the schools in one classification (about 50) have fielded teams for two years.