by Alex Greenwood
Cheerleading is an activity stemming from the early 1950’s, it creates a mental picture for all who come across it; teenage girls, sport competitions and pom poms. What most people don’t see is the competitive side of cheerleading, the physically challenging, family orientated and world changing sport. I have the honour of being part of the fastest growing and only cheerleading club in Grimsby, Fierce Elite, with over 250 members and counting, it has changed and started to dispel the myth of cheer being “just pom poms and skirts”.
So what is cheer really about? It combines the athleticism and tumbling of a gymnast, the sharp grace of a dancer and strength to lift and throw participants in the air; known as stunting.
There are a range of levels that vary from 1 to 6, and equality is the cornerstone of its creation; with men and women both participating equally and teams such as paracheer that cater to all forms of disabilities and challenges.
Cheerleading requires strength of the body, but also the mind; flyers must trust girls and boys below them to throw them high in the air and catch them safely, all athletes must work together to tumble in time and perform a 2 minute 30 seconds routine.
Each routine has sections that must be performed with flawless technique and expression, there is the stunting aspect where “flyers” are thrown and spun through the air; then caught and lifted again all whilst looking effortless. Athletes must jump and tumble together; from a forward roll to a twisting back tuck there is no leeway for any mistakes no matter what level you perform. One of my favourite aspects of a routine is the dance; usually at the end it wraps up the hard-work, sweat and smiles of your routine and allows you to harmonise with the audience and bring them along to the finish line.
Cheerleading has taken over England in the last decade becoming one of the fastest growing and supportive sports there is, but is still behind countries such as America who are the leading face of all-star cheer and host the world championships in Disneyland Florida. Cheerleading has also been accepted by the Olympic body and given provisional recognition as an Olympic sport; a huge step to help dispel the stereotype around cheer.
As with all team sports, there is a sense of rapport, a familial bond held between the team that allows them to push and learn lessons that better them as people and athletes; skills such as time management, trusting your peers, mental resilience and intrinsic motivation are all brought into the limelight during practices and competitions. I’ve had the honour of cheering with Fierce Elite for 5 seasons; from the first ever competition, to winning Europeans and now I continue to train with the elite team Diamonds, a level 3 team. I also now coach my own competitive team within Fierce, and this has allowed me to witness further the true demands of the sport and the process of planning a routine behind the scenes. This gave me the insight into the stressful yet highly rewarding part of coaching; being able to create a well structured, creative and clean routine for participants is a challenging skill which requires attention to detail and an open mind, since routines are also judged on these aspects it takes a lot of bravery and confidence.
A sport, by definition is “an activity involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or team competes against another or others for entertainment.” Cheerleading ticks all specifications of being exactly that and is monopolising sports as we know them, it’s pushing boundaries and forcing us to change our perspectives and predetermined ideas of what cheerleading truly is.
Fierce Elite is helping change these perspectives locally in our community and you can find them on Facebook, or at www.fiercelitecheer.com. Why not try it out and see for yourself what cheer is all about?