KBT, this was part of my earlier reply. If I recall correctly you're involved with high school gymnastics? I think coming from this perspective a lot of things make a lot more sense. Basically I think a lot of people are making a comparison like high school cheerleader to JO gymnast, and that's not really fair. There are really different goals in the program. If you look at high school gymnastics, yes much of it is not the same quality of JO gymnastics but that is not the goal of the program and there are ways to teach skills safely without the athlete being perfect on form and amplitude. The goals of all star cheerleading are different from JO gymnastics as well, and there are different programs doing different things.
Good point about the drastically different goals of the two sports. I see *most* high school cheerleading as the equivalent of USAG Level 4 or even rec gymnastics. And I would agree this isn't high level "hard" stuff, but your rec kids learning cartwheels and back hip circles aren't really doing "hard" gymnastics, either. When I was at that level I never considered myself a gymnast - I was someone who did gymnastics. It wasn't until around Level 7 skills that I started considering myself a gymnast, when I felt I was good enough to really identify with it rather than having it just be an activity I participated in.
If you get into the high levels of cheerleading like college cheer or competitive teams which would be the equivalent of USAG Levels 8-10, cheerleading is tough. Participants are in excellent physical shape, workout many hours a week - I would absolutely consider it a sport. Just because there are so many people who dabble in cheerleading at the lower levels doesn't mean that's representative of what the sport really is.