I sent this letter out today. Things like this just make me so angry. BTW, my niece is on one of the teams competing.

Editor, The Sanford Herald

Dear Sir:

On December 1, The Raleigh News & Observer ran a Section A, Page 1 article (available online) about the Triangle-Area Pop Warner Cheerleaders who are going to be competing in the National Championship next week at Walt Disney World. Earlier this week, a representative of the Lee County Pop Warner Association (LCPWA) talked to the Sports Editor at The Sanford Herald, and asked him to run a similar story about the two cheerleading squads from Lee County who qualified last week in Huntsville, Alabama and will be competing in this event. She was told “We don’t run cheerleading stories. Cheerleading isn’t really a sport.”

I wonder how he would feel to find out that I don’t consider sports writing “really journalism”; I don’t read sports stories. Exactly what are the criteria for qualifying something as a sport?

Dictionary.com defines “sport” as: Physical activity that is governed by a set of rules or customs and often engaged in competitively. In addition to meeting these criteria, cheerleading also requires teamwork, physical fitness, flexibility, and strength.

The girls on these two squads have been practicing 8 hours per week (after school and on weekends) since August for the right to compete at this level. The Pop Warner Little Scholars program (known locally as “Pop Warner Football”) limits the amount of time they are allowed to practice in order to allow them sufficient time to complete their schoolwork. They and their families spent Thanksgiving Day on a bus traveling to Alabama to compete in the Regional Finals; only the top ranking teams from there are moved up to compete at the national level.

It saddens me that a local newspaper like The Sanford Herald takes so little interest in the community that supports it. The LCPWA is run by adult volunteers who have spent countless hours organizing, coaching, and mentoring these young people over the past 10 years or so, and this is the thanks they get? It should be pointed out that many, many of the Lee Senior High School football players that are heading toward our first ever State competition started out with Pop Warner Football.

Instead of shunning these athletes as “just cheerleaders”, The Sanford Herald should be grateful to them, their parents and coaches that these kids are participating in a wholesome activity, getting good grades, and staying out of trouble. That, in itself, is a story.

Respectfully yours,

UPDATE: I received an almost immediate reply (e-mail is grand, ain’t it?) I deleted his e-mail address and phone number in the last paragraph, as a courtesy.

I apologize for not having a story in The Sanford Herald regarding the Sting Cheerleaders before now. Until Thursday, I personally had not spoken with a representative of the Lee County Pop Warner Association, though I do realize now that one was not promptly called back in a timely manner earlier this week, and for that, the sports staff of The Herald apologizes.

Also, we will have a story detailing the fund-raising situation facing the Sting teams in Friday’s edition of The Herald. Since I have been at The Herald in August of 2004, the sports staff here has not been adverse to publishing articles or pictures concerning cheerleading. We are, however, a two-person sports staff responsible for covering the sports events and activities in four counties, but when teams of local interest perform well, we have no problem with reporting on it. I know for sure that pictures of cheerleading teams have been published in The Herald in the last 15 months. Whether they were published before then, I don’t know and I can’t speak to.

If you would like to discuss the issue further, please email me at deleted or call deleted.

Best,

Alex Podlogar
Herald Sports Editor

I have also spoken to my “contact” at LCPWA, and indeed she did speak with Mr. Podlogar (apparently simultaneous to my writing my letter and sending it off). He was very apologetic, and told her that they have been “flooded” with calls about this. An article will appear in tomorrow’s paper; I’ll post a link.