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Cheerleading is now a sport in New York.

The Board of Regents officially approved it as an interscholastic sport starting this winter. Competitive cheerleading will now be governed by rules and regulations making it safer for athletes.

Statistics show that as cheerleading has become more competitive, the number of injuries has increased. Those injuries, because of high-flying stunts, can be serious as well.

Jeff Schlagenhauf, athletic director at Oakfield-Alabama, says this brings the sport “up to speed” with other interscholastic sports.

“Quite honestly, for the kids, it’s probably going to be better for them from a safety perspective,” he said. “The coaches will have the coaching classes and certification that will obviously be mandated because it’s now a sport.”

O-A already has a trainer on staff for the sports teams so Schlagenhauf says so an additional hire at the expense of the district is unnecessary. Another issue, though, is Title IX. With cheerleading becoming an official sport involving mostly girls, schools have to maintain numerical balance between the student population and its sports participation gender distribution.

“Most schools are in the same boat we probably are in that they’re pretty equitable across the board as far as the number of opportunities we offer our boys and girls,” he said. “It may affect some schools, but most of the schools, us and most of the Genesee Regional League, are probably where we should be as far as that stuff goes.”

Cheerleading competition has become more frequent the last couple of years at O-A and Schlagenhauf wonders if more competitions will come up as a result.

“I would guess it would be much similar to track where you’d have invitationals almost on a weekly basis that various schools or various locations could host to get the girls and boys and opportunity to perform in a competitive nature as opposed to just cheering for their particular high school team” he said.

The state High School Athletic Association says it hopes to develop a state cheerleading championship within the next two years.

The regulations do not apply to traditional sideline cheerleading, just competitive teams.

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