Sometimes. Competitive cheerleading is a sport. If the cheerleaders are not engaged in competition, then they are not practicing a sport. It is the element of competition which makes a physical activity a sport.
Cheerleading involves: jumping, cheering, dancing, stunts and tosses (elements of lifting or throwing athletes into the air) and, tumbling (gymnastics). There are three different types of cheerleading: School (Middle, High, and College), Association (Pop Warner), and All-Star or competitive. Each has their own governing body: National Cheerleading Association (NCA) for High School; The United States All-Star Federation (USASF) and the International All-Star Federation (IASF) for All-Star cheerleaders. Cheerleading has come a long way since its beginning, and it is no longer girls with pom poms shouting GO TEAM GO! With the addition of All-Star cheerleading and advanced stunting and tumbling elements, as well as long hours spent each week at practice and conditioning, cheerleaders have become extreme athletes pushing their bodies to limits that most people only imagine.
Obviously these organizations consider cheer leading a sport, as well as the athletes who participate in it. The NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) has yet to recognize cheerleading as a sport even though it accounts for 66.7 of all female catastrophic sports injuries. ESPN recognizes cheerleading as a sport and broadcasts the NCA High School Nationals, as well as the USASF Cheerleading Worlds for All-Star cheerleaders. During the 2009 Worlds USASF launched it's Be an All-Star campaign promoting All-Star cheerleading and the sport as a whole. Plans have been made for cheerleading to be featured in the 2012 Summer Olympic Games. For these athletes, this is their dream, their goal, what they strive for, what they live for. Cheerleading is their sport.
On Wednesday, July 21, 2010 a federal judge ruled that cheerleading is not a college sport on the grounds that for many squads the sole purpose is not competition. It also does not meet the Title IX requirement for equal opportunity activities. While there are female and coed squads, there are no all male squads. However, some feel that while this is a blow to respect, in the long run it's a good thing. If governed by the NCAA its possible routines would become compulsory, eliminating creative elements.
The bottom line is that whether or not cheerleading is a sport is a matter of personal opinion. The word sport does not necessarily equal respect. Bowling and darts are also "sports", and people still make fun of them as being non-sports like. Cheerleaders work their butts off to do the things they do. They know what they do is a sport, and they know they are extreme athletes. They also know that a judge does not decide whether they are athletesS.