For Kody Dudley, cheerleading in high school was a struggle.
As one of the few male cheerleaders in his region, he was constantly ridiculed by his peers, being called gay or a girl for doing a sport he loved.
“I played it off like it didn’t bother me, but it affected me to the point that I didn’t want to do it anymore,” Dudley said. “I was like, ‘I’m done. Cheerleading’s not worth it to me.’”
He quit his sophomore year of high school to avoid the harsh words from his peers.
Although more teams are becoming co-ed, male cheerleaders still have to fight against stereotypes and teasing from peers.
Despite hesitation Dudley decided to give cheer one more try during his junior year of high school.
“People stopped making so much fun of us and started saying, ‘Hey man, could you teach me how to do backflip? Could you teach me how to throw that girl?’” Dudley said.
He continued his cheer career into All-Stars, a competitive cheerleading organization, and joined the Broncos in 2014.
At Boise State Dudley met senior Malachi Burt, who has been cheering for Boise State for all four years of his college career.
Burt was no stranger to the male cheerleading stereotype.
In high school, he received athletic scholarship offers for football, track and field, and cheerleading. Although he excelled at each, people were still surprised when he announced his final decision.
“When I chose cheerleading, a lot of people said, ‘Why did you do that? … Why would you choose to be on the sidelines?’”
Burt believes that the stereotypes that male cheerleaders face comes from lack of understanding the athleticism of cheerleading.
“It’s just people not knowing, people not really seeing what we do is something cool until they see something cool,” Burt said. “(When people see something cool), then they’re like, ‘Oh, I don’t really care if that guy is gay or straight. He can throw a girl with one hand.’”
Being a male cheerleader at Boise State.
Since joining the cheer squad at Boise State, Dudley and Burt have been highly respected and recognized by fellow athletes, students and administration. According to Burt, President Kustra knows members of the cheer squad on a first name basis.
Their hard work and dedication are highly appreciated on the team as well. Head coach Tobruk Blaine values the physicality that Dudley and Burt bring.
“It takes four females to do what one guy and one girl can do,” Blaine said.
Males are expected to perform the fight song, do motions, keep rhythm, perform tumbling and stunts, and be able to use a megaphone during tryouts.
Burt wants to perfect every stunt and routine. He believes that by setting a high standard for his performances, people will see him as an athlete.
“I don’t allow people to see me cheer and think anything else but, ‘Wow, that was athletic,’” Burt said. “Whether you’re gay, straight, feminine, a male, a female, a freaking bear or whatever you are, if you’re an athlete, you want to be known as an athlete.”
Not only have Dudley and Burt added a new element of stunting to the team, they unite the team.
“I think they unify us because being around girls all the time can be really exhausting, so they’re there to break that up,” senior flyer Kelsey Messer said. “Having a true co-ed team will set the program apart from other schools.”
Looking to the future
Male cheerleading is on the rise across the nation. According to an article from KTVB, male cheerleading is growing in Treasure Valley high schools. Blaine wants to continue to grow Boise State’s program by adding more men to the team.
Blaine is hoping to recruit and maintain more male cheerleaders from surrounding areas. Blaine wants to travel to competitions to promote the program. She hopes to have at least six men on the cheer squad every season. Currently, Dudley is the only male cheerleader hoping to return next year.
“No one has done male recruiting in this job, so it’s going to take me going out and reaching to those males who are involved with cheerleading …” Blaine said.
Dudley has seen male cheerleading grow and become more accepted in Idaho. He hopes the growth will continue and more people will start to respect cheerleading as a sport.
“People know football, basketball, baseball and stuff like that,” Dudley said. “I want them to recognize cheerleading as one of the top sports, something that you just can’t do because you have nothing else better to do with your time. You have to be a good athlete to do it.”