Landon Rice defies stereotypes
Gender barriers are still prevalent for athletes who participate at younger ages than the collegiate level, especially in the sport of cheerleading.
Eighth grader Landon Rice is the only male cheerleader in the Wooster City School district, out of all the grade levels combined.
Originally, Rice was a gymnast; however, Landon only enjoyed certain aspects of gymnastics.
“I was interested in cheerleading because I only enjoyed certain elements of gymnastics, such as tumbling…Also, some of my friends wanted me to try it because they thought I would excel in the sport,” Rice said.
Ashley Siegel (8), one of Rice’s friends and teammates, believes cheerleading would benefit from having more males join the sport.
She states that if schools can encourage more boys to join cheerleading without fear of being judged, cheerleading would not be stereotyped as a sport just for girls.
Siegel said she hopes Rice could “set an example” for other boys to feel confident enough to join the team.
Rice’s coach, Khiara Kimborough, also hopes that his example could encourage other boys to join the team.
She explained that, typically, boys of Landon’s age do not become cheerleaders for fear of being bullied by their peers, and some boys mistakenly think they are not eligible to cheer because of their gender.
“We can start by working to eliminate the stereotype that cheerleading is a sport for females. With Landon on the squad, I hope this will being to encourage more male cheerleaders to at least try out for the squad and not feel discouraged,” Kimborough said.
Rice is aware of the stereotypes associated with cheerleaders of all genders.
“Many of the girls have been called names because of the stereotypes that are associated with cheerleaders…many people still believe cheerleading is not a sport,” Rice said.
He continued by explaining that cheerleading is a sport of appearances and said it might be perceived as feminine because cheerleaders are usually cheering for male athletes.
When comparing gymnastics to cheerleading, when it comes to gender barriers in both sports, Rice believes gymnastics was more accommodating to both genders since gymnastics has a separate league for boys.
While Rice is grateful that Wooster has given him a chance to join the cheerleading squad, he does not wish to be treated differently from the rest of the cheerleaders.
He is simply a male who was just interested in a sport, like many other boys his age.