The school’s Queen Bee stands on the side of a football pitch in the centre of a group of other girls who make up her clique of the most popular girls in school, all perfectly made up with huge smiles and jumping up and down shaking shiny pompoms shouting “Go Team Go!”
This scene sounds familiar to most of us, it is virtually the same in almost every American high school film or television show. However, after being told I was covering Cheerleading for SportsByte this year, I thought I best look into what UK Cheerleading is all about.
Still considered very much a minority sport within the UK, Cheerleading receives very little in the way of publicity and almost nothing in the form of television coverage, especially when you compared it to the USA where Cheerleading competitions are broadcast on one of the country’s biggest sports networks, ESPN.
This said there are a number of organisations set up within the UK who run Cheerleading competitions, catering to a wide range of ages with both single sex and co-ed competitions, including the British Cheerleading Association (BSA) and United Kingdom Cheerleading Association (UKCA).
On paper, competitive Cheerleading seems to incorporate a mixture of dance and gymnastics into a routine performed by the whole squad, with a panel of judges awarding marks based upon the fluidity and level of difficulty of the routine.
So I understand now how competitive Cheerleading works, but what better way to find out for sure than to join the university squad, The Sunderland Stars, at one of their twice-weekly training sessions in the city centre to see what they have to say about what they do.
I spoke to the Stars’ longest serving member Sarah Beaton who is beginning her fifth year as a Cheerleader to get her thoughts on the sport.
“It’s probably one of the best ways of keeping fit, it involves a lot of hard work but it’s definitely worth it. Everyone thinks it’s all pompoms and ‘Give me an A!’ and that’s fine but it’s why I would encourage people to join and find out what it’s really about”, she said.
Society president Kale Crane, one of the squad’s ten male members said “Initially I joined just as a joke but ended up enjoying it so I stayed on!” He also told me that in only two years the squad’s male Cheerleaders has gone from two to ten.
Kale and Sarah both cite coach Liam Heslop as one of the reasons why the squad has been so successful in recent years and why they have enjoyed it so much.
“When I first started it was just students coaching it and it was a lot of trial and error, but now we have Liam who is a trained coach it’s a lot better”, said Crane.
Not only Cheerleading is about the hard work and keeping fit, it is the social aspect which makes being part of the Sunderland Stars squad so great which Social Secretary Camille Thomas highlighted.
We go out once a week together, we have theme nights and go out in fancy dress and just get to know each other better.”
Sarah added: “Most of the friends I made during university were from Cheerleading, it’s about so much more than just the pompoms.”