Ready … Okay?! I bet when you hear the word ‘cheerleading’ the first thing you think of is vacant-looking girls holding shiny pom-poms and smiling as if their lives depended on it. Or perhaps those bitchy ones that strut along corridors in American teen movies. The girls of Glasgow University Cheerleaders are nothing like this. We may play hard …but we train harder.
To give you an idea of what I mean here’s an average training session: fifteen minutes of cardio warm-up with fifteen minutes of stretching. One hour working in your stunt group (that’s where four people work together to throw the fifth in the air). Half an hour tumbling (gymnastics) followed by fifteen minutes of conditioning and then fifteen minutes of jumps. By the end of all that the jumps section is a killer. Getting off the ground at that point seems impossible, let alone whipping your arms around for a double straddle.
Cheerleading is split into divisions – levels 1-6 – based on an increasing scale of difficulty. For example, we have a stunt called a basket toss where the flyer is thrown into the air and caught again in a laying down kind of position. At level 2 all she is allowed to do is go up and then come back down again. At level three she can do a trick; so either snap up a pike or wrap around for a twist. At level four it gets harder and double tricks are brought in; something like a switch-kick or double twist. By the time you’re at level 6 you’re looking at full-twisting inversions and fully leaving a stunt group for another one waiting meters away. Most university teams only reach the middle levels before having to start again from scratch in freshers’ week. We enter both a level 2 and a level 3 team.
At Glasgow we also run a pom-dance team. This does involve pom-poms but it is nothing like what you’ll have seen on the side lines of a football or American football match. It’s a technical style of dance similar to jazz or ballet with loads of leaps, turns and pirouettes. It’s intense, and GUC are pretty much the university pom team to beat. In fact, at the FutureCheer University Nationals, held every year in Loughborough, we have remained undefeated for an incredible four years.
So now you have an idea about what competitive cheerleading really is. On February 18th-19th the Cheerleading Club competed for the first time this year at University Nationals down in Loughborough. The competition grows every year and this year there were 45 teams competing. Our divisions had doubled since last year which many of the squad found slightly discouraging. The standard had simply taken off too, with some teams now throwing an inexplicable number of tumblers onto the mat.
Despite the huge increase in competition we defended our titles, winning our fourth consecutive national championship in pom and also placing fifth in our level 2 cheer division and sixth in our level 3.
Although we work towards our competitive routines for pretty much the whole year; its only a part of what the Cheerleading Club is really about. We are really close as team and trust is a pretty big thing for us. Cheerleading accounts for more catastrophic injuries in women than any other sport. When we throw a girl up she has to know and trust that we’ll catch her on the way back down. So forget all about the stereotypes you believed.
Remember that if you think a cheerleader is looking at you funny it’s probably because she had training 7:30-9am before uni and can’t actually keep her eyes open. And smile at her – she did your university proud last weekend.