Dear American Girl,

This year, I joined the cheerleading squad. I'm proud of being a cheerleader, but every time I bring it up, my friends say, "That's not a real sport." Cheerleading is tough and I definitely think it's a sport! What should I do when my friends put down cheerleading? Is there anything I can do to change their minds?
-Not so cheerful

Here's your advice:

Your friends may think that you just stand on the sidelines cheering "Go, team!" Explain to them that cheerleading is more than that. It's similar to gymnastics or dance, and there are lots of stunts and tumbling moves.
-Elizabeth, age 11, Florida

Just laugh and shake it off. If you're proud of your accomplishments, it shouldn't matter what your friends think. I'm a cheerleader, too, so I know what you mean.
-Sarah, age 12, North Carolina

Remind your friends that you don't always need a ball or racket to participate in a sport.
-Isabella, age 13, Peru

Invite your friends to a game so that they can watch you cheer. After they see you in action, they might change their minds.
-Hope, age 12, Florida

Confidently tell your friends, "I think cheerleading is a sport. That's my opinion, and you don't have to agree." It's OK to not have the same opinion as your friends.
-Susie, age 13, Oregon

Maybe your friends feel left out when you talk about cheerleading. Bring it up only occasionally and talk about things that everyone will enjoy.
-Krupa, age 9, Pennsylvania

Explain to your friends that cheerleading is complicated and requires strength and teamwork. Perhaps that will help them understand that cheerleading is a tough activity.
-Caitlyn, age 12, Alabama

When your friends tell you that cheerleading isn't a real sport, say, "That's your opinion. I like cheerleading, and I'm sticking with it. Could you please keep negative comments to yourselves?"
-Julia, age 10, Ohio

Have any of your friends ever been cheerleaders? If not, then they don't really know what it's like. Be strong and tell them that they're not being very fair to you. Stand up for yourself and your sport.
-Rachel, age 12, Ohio

Try hard and be your best. If your friends see how serious you are about cheerleading, they might stop putting it down.
-An American Girl fan, age 10, Wisconsin

Just ignore these girls. As long as you like cheerleading, it doesn't matter what other people think.
-Calpurnia, age 12, Maine

Your friends might put down cheerleading because they don't get how hard it really is. Explain to them that it takes a lot of practice to get those routines just right.
-Elise, age 12, Massachusetts

You don't have to try to prove to these girls that cheerleading is a sport. Their opinions don't matter—all that matters is that you have fun doing it.
-Aditi, age 10, New Jersey

You may not be able to change your friends' minds, but you can say, "Can you please stop saying that cheerleading isn't a sport? It's hurtful."
-Emma, age 11, Massachusetts

Just tell your friends that cheerleading works up a sweat, and in your opinion, that's what makes it a sport. That's what I tell people when they say that dance isn't a sport!
-Emily, age 10, Iowa

If these girls continue to give you a hard time about doing something you love, it might be time to hang out with other pals. Remember, true friends will support you, no matter what.
-Lily, age 9, Texas

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