We currently live in a society where acceptance is rapidly growing, with anti-racism and homosexuality being two of the most accepted traits in UK and so many other countries. That being said, a smaller issue that is yet to be accepted as a sport across the globe is cheerleading.
Some think of cheerleading as pom-pom shaking across a sideline to major-league males. However, these people are unaware of the new and upcoming sport cheerleading has become over the last 25 years.
Back in 1877 cheerleading began as an all-male activity, but it wasn’t until 1923 (following the acceptance of the American Women’s Vote in 1920) when women started to join in. Originally as a sideline activity, cheerleading has adapted its roots to create a new way of physical exercise.
Like other sports such as Football, Basketball, Cricket etc. there is a lot training and body conditioning that cheerleaders have to go through. Strengthening muscles and the cardiovascular system, honing athletic skills, weight loss or maintenance, and merely enjoyment are activities that all sports, including cheerleading, have to undertake.
All-star cheerleading conforms to the stereotypes that every cheerleader has heard before. The cheerleader with a short ‘rah-rah’ skirt, pom-poms, long blonde hair, plastic and fake personality and also dating the quarter back (much like a Barbie doll), does not exist in all-star cheerleading.
It takes more than a pretty face to become a champion. A two and a half minute routine change someone’s life and, that is all it takes for an all-star team to go from zeros to heroes.
Within a routine there are combined elements of acrobatic tumbling, high stunting ability – lifting other athletes similar to your size above and beyond your head, jumping within a series of motions including: pikes, herkies and toe-touches (jargon that the everyday person is not familiar with – basically it’s flexible jumping!) and a variety dance movements all set to a variety of upbeat and somewhat ‘sassy’ music with the hope to be the best team in their division.
Teams of 6-36 individuals compete regionally and nationally in the hope that their routine is the best. All-star Cheer is split into six levels, 1 being the lowest and 6 being the highest. This can then be split again into all-girl or coed.
All-girl is when all the athletes competing are female and coed is when there is a combination of both males and females. All-boy is a division that is yet to exist, but I imagine that if cheerleading can grow this quickly then it won’t be far off until we see all-boy teams flying high within the sport.
Depending on what level you are stunts, jump and tumble combinations vary in difficulty. A level 1 team will have basic tumbling such as cartwheels, round-offs, backward and forward rolls and walk-overs which can be developed into skills used in a level 5 team who will have twisting somersault passes.
One my favourite tumbling combinations being a front somersault walk out, round off, flick, whip, double twist. (Again, terminology that some may not understand!) For those who want to be stunned by some really talented cheerleading take a search for Holden Ray and Angel Rice. These two tumblers really are currently at the top of their games!
Physical ability isn’t the only thing that a cheerleader has to have. You must be a kind-hearted individual who can work extremely well in a team and under pressure. It takes a lot of mental strength to be a cheerleader which is probably something you least expect to hear.
If you’re basing a stunt, but have had a bad day chances are the stunt will fall and can cause another athlete’s injury. In these cases it’s important that you clear your head space before you enter the gym or training centre to ensure that not only you train to be the best, but also to enjoy every minute you spend with your team.
I was a gymnast since the age of three, but due to school commitments and growing up I had to find another sport that didn’t train six days a week and could fit around my other ambitions in life. After trying sports acrobatics and being in the circus I found that cheerleading was the sport I was searching for.
Our team has a variety of ages ranging from 5 to 30 and each individual has given me a life lesson I can take forward in the rest of my life. The younger athletes I coach have helped me realise not to take life so seriously, to enjoy every moment I have. Whereas, the older girls I train with have made me understand my personal relationships and perhaps shape me into the person I am now.
Without cheerleading I would have never have enjoyed my teenage years as much as I have. From starting cheer when I was twelve years old I will leave this team at eighteen as (hopefully) a well-rounded individual who can take the skills I’ve learned over the last six years into a university team with a whole new dynamic.
Being part of a team like this has been one of the most valuable experiences of my life so far and it will be one of the hardest things to leave at the end of the summer.
It’s apparent that cheerleading has transformed one hell of a lot since unearthing in the 1800’s. Now a female dominated activity E Online! announced last week that cheerleading is an official sport in the state of California.
This gives us all hope of a chance to stop stereotypes and make cheerleading a sport in not only America but also the rest of the world. As a cheerleader myself it gives me great hope for the future of cheerleading as a sport and its involvement in society.