Competitive Cheerleading is one of the fastest growing sports in the UK with new gyms, competitions and university teams popping up each year. For those of you thinking ‘cheerleading’s not a sport, don’t they just shake pompoms?’, keep reading and by the end you’ll see what cheerleading really is. Only last year, the Olympic committee gave cheerleading provisional recognition as an Olympic sport and at Worlds this year Team England won 2 golds (in all-girl and para cheer) and a silver in the coed division.
While there is pom cheer, the Oxford Sirens is a competitive cheerleading team. This means we compete a two-and-a-half minute routine packed with stunts, tumbles, jumps and dance to fast-paced and energetic music. We have two teams; coed level 3 and all-girl level 2. The levels in cheerleading go from level 1 to level 6, with level 1 being the lowest and level 6 the highest. Each level has its own rules on what stunts and tumbles are legal; for example pyramids and stunts three people high are only allowed in level 6 and until level 3 no somersaults are allowed in running tumbling. Last year the Oxford Sirens competed in two national competitions; Future Cheer University Nationals in Birmingham and BCA Summer Showdown in Exeter. Level 3 had a brilliant performance at BCA which won Grand Champs of the open division while level 2 put out an amazing routine putting them in 4th.
Now for a little bit more about what stunts are:
A stunt involves four people; a flyer who’s thrown up in the air, two bases who do the main lifting of the stunt, standing on either side, and the back spot who helps lift as well as stabilising the stunt. For a stunt to work and look effortless, all members of the stunt group have to work as one and put in all the strength they have to keep the flyer balanced up there while she squeezes all her muscles as well as sometimes pulling stretches.
When the flyers join hands to help other flyers perform more difficult skills, a pyramid is formed. A pyramid often involves the flyers doing somersaults, extended stunts and skills which are legal in the next level up without being braced (flyers holding other flyers arms to help them). The best way to understand how all this comes together is to watch it being done, so enjoy level 3’s performance at BCA in February:
Here’s a little more information on some things mentioned above:
- Worlds – the biggest cheerleading competition in the world, held each year at Walt Disney Resort Florida around the end of April. Over 40 countries turn up for the international competition (ICU worlds). After the international competition, individual teams from the USA and the rest of the world compete in Senior and Open divisions (levels 5 and 6)
- Para cheer – a division in cheerleading where athletes with disabilities are integrated into a routine with a few able-bodied athletes. Stunts and tumbles are adapted for the athletes and overall the difficulty of the Worlds level routines is roughly equivalent to level 4
- Pom cheer – a type of cheerleading which is a routine involving jumps, dance, gymnastics and pompoms
- BCA – British Cheerleading Association