Will males ever be equal to females in cheerleading?
Head coach Thomas Rath does not seek equality in the sport
Article: Autumn McDowell – Sports Editor
When most people think of cheerleading, what comes to mind is small girls being thrown up into the air at the sidelines of a football game. But, what most people don’t consider are the people that have to catch them.
On the multi-national winning cheer team at the U of R, there are currently just two males out of nearly 30 members that make up this championship squad.
However, while he may not be performing stunts in competition anymore, Thomas Rath, head coach of the cheer squad since 2009, knows all too well the stereotypes and stigma that comes along with being a male member of this female-dominated sport.
“With everything, there is a stereotype,” Rath said. “It depends on how you react as to how long that stereotype lasts…I think there is a low participation [of male cheerleaders] in Saskatchewan – it’s low to an extent. It’s definitely a smaller percentage because it has stigma to it as just being a female sport.”
Although Rath has had a lot of success as both an athlete and a coach in cheerleading, including being a member of the 620 CKRM Saskatchewan Roughriders cheerleaders in 2007 and 2009, he chose to stick with the sport, something that many males do not do because of the harsh criticism that they can encounter.
“The teasing is one thing. You are teased because you are doing something that is viewed predominantly female,” said Rath, whose squad earned their fourth national championship this year. “Skirting around one of the main stereotypes that a lot of people think happens is your sexuality. I was never really questioned. I mean, they used it as a teasing term, but it was more of a tease than a true conviction that they actually believe, but because you do this you’re a homosexual. To me, that never was the case; they just tease you with that.”
However, while the numbers of male cheerleaders seems to be increasing in the Canada West, with schools such as the University of Manitoba boasting 10 males out of 22 members on their roster, Rath is skeptical that the future of this female dominated sport will ever change.
“I think it will always be female dominated, just by the physics of it, you need small people, and those are usually women but men will always have a spot in the sport because we always need strength lifting it,” he said. “I’d love to see more men here in Saskatchewan, because you could see more men bases and harder skills. But I think it’s going to be dominated by women, and I’m okay with that, because I need them.”
While many individuals strive for complete equality in all areas of sport, surprisingly, Rath sees the future of cheerleading a little bit differently than one might expect.
“I would to see a lot more guys being exposed to it,” he said. “However, I don’t think I have the desire to make it an equal 50/50 sport. I like the way the sport is now, I don’t think I need to see equality.”