SL Interview: What Does It Take to Be a Cheerleading Champion?

“Blood, Sweat & Cheers” is a new documentary film that explores the culture of competitive cheerleading. The movie follows Pop Warner cheerleaders from Burlington, Mass., as the girls in the junior midget division (ages 10 to 13) seek to win the national championship. The team has finished second for three consecutive years; this will be the final opportunity for the oldest members on the squad to taste victory.

In “Blood, Sweat & Cheers” (Amazon), cheerleading is shown to be part-sport, part-competition. At the elite level of Pop Warner, teams vie in regional competitions to qualify for nationals. Coaches spend hours breaking down tape so they can design and implement the most innovative and daring two-and-a-half-minute routines. The girls endure hours of grueling practices in order to master elements of gymnastics, intricate tumbling, syncopated athleticism and teamwork.

Cheerleading, the film shows, is not for the faint of heart, with the more dangerous maneuvers involving daredevil leaps, throws and flips. The film notes that a ninth-grader from a neighboring town died from injuries after falling while performing a stunt. Indeed, in a recent story in the Los Angeles Times, journalist Melissa Rohlin wrote that “cheerleading injuries resulting in emergency room visits have increased almost sixfold since 1980, to nearly 30,000 in 2008, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission reported.”

SportsLetter recently spoke with Laura Molta, the president of Molta Media and the producer of “Blood, Sweat & Cheers.”

— David Davis