Stomp Harder: Should Step Be A Sport?

Giodona Campbell, Staff Writer

Do you think that step falls in the same category as cheer and poms? The answer to this question really depends on the individual and his or her understanding of just what a step team is and how they perform.

The only real distinction that separates step from poms or cheer is that step performances don’t involve pom poms being in your hands. The Eclectic Step Team has been at Paint Branch since 1986 but has never been represented as a sport under the PB Athletics umbrella. Nationally, the under representation of step as a sport has been an issue within the athletic industry, which is basically the same thing cheerleading went through before finally gaining classification as a sport.

So, what will it take to make that change for step?

Stepping is more than dancing; it is a form of art that is displayed through your body, which is used as an instrument. According to Essence writer Veronica Hilbring, “There isn’t a specific origin date, but the start of stepping dates back to Africa.”

Hilbring also notes, “Stepping is popular within the HBCU Greek life; it’s intertwined with the strolls performed by fraternities and sororities. She states, “That grand tradition of unity and camaraderie in step has been passed through generations of organizations. ‘Greek Sings’ evolved into Greek shows which eventually progressed into step shows that remain popular to this day.”

Additionally, step has found its way into other cultures as the power of its presence has beguiled many. “While its origins are in the Black community, stepping has spread to Latino and Asian cultures to multicultural fraternities and sororities as well,” reports Hilbring.

However, while all of the attention on step has increased its visibility and respect, it has not done much for its entry into the world of sports. As a former Eclectic Stepper, I know first hand that step deserves to be categorized as a sport because of the sweat, soreness, and shouting that is exerted in every rigorous performance and practice. The sharpness that goes into every arm and hand movement, and the importance of smooth transitions into different formations, and other elements mean that everything has to be on point. If you’re a step off or don’t stomp hard enough, best believe you’re in trouble.

Like any other dance team – including poms- when competition approaches, the atmosphere shifts. The focus and discipline increases and practices are longer and more frequent. Senior Lancie Kear, a former captain of the Eclectic Steppers, reflects on the thorough sequencing involved in perfecting routines during the practices. “You practice how you perform,” she states. “Everyone has to hit the same move at the same time, your arm has to be at a certain [same] angle or it throws off everything… even if it’s just one person.”

Paint Branch Athletic Director Coach Heather Podosek understands the plight of the step team and other groups that feel that they should be recognized as athletes. However, Coach P. notes that in order for step to be listed as an official sport in PB Athletics, it has to go through layers of approval. Factors such as game and practice facilities, Title IX compliance, financial impact, safety, and transportation come into play if any team wants to be added to the athletics program.

Coach Podosek states, “In order for a program like step to be considered a sport, it would need to be more of a combined effort from all the step teams in the county to go through the application process.”
The Eclectic Steppers participate in a number of competitions and performances each year and have had continuous success including winning “Montgomery County’s Got Talent” in 2018 where they represented Paint Branch. Additionally, they have performed at Strathmore in return for mats and mirrors that the organization donated to the team. They have also hosted competitions and teasers at PB for step.

Kear feels that step has done its part in supporting the school, but feels that it has been a bit of a one-way street. “We [the step team] bring a lot of support for the school but it is not being reciprocated,” she states.

One area that also factors into step’s argument to be seen as a sport is their need for consistent practice spaces like other teams. Step requires the same type of equipment for practices that cheer and poms use, including mats and mirrors, not having their own is not a problem at this time thanks to the Eclectic Steppers collaboration with Strathmore, but the team will eventually need new materials.

Another factor that aligns step with sports teams is, just like athletes on those teams, step team members need to get a physical in order to participate. Ultimately, the reasons that step deserve to be recognized a sport far outweigh the possible challenges such as safety and cost of equipment. Hopefully, one day in the future the step athletes from around MOCO can unite and schools will finally be able to officially stomp back for step.