Cheerleading Feature

CHEERLEADING FEATURE: A taxing, yet family-friendly global sport that is constantly growing.

One of the most popular pastimes in the World, Cheerleading has grown from a strictly sideline pursuit into an ultra-competitive global sport that can be taxing both physically and mentally on its participants. 

It takes a lot be a cheerleader, far more than what you might initially expect but, and here’s the crux of the matter, it’s great fun and a fantastic way to be active and stay healthy whilst making close friends, and the ANU Cheerleading Club is the perfect example of that.
Maeve Rolland, President and Sideline Coach, is the motivating force behind the 2020 ANU Cheerleading Club as it looks to continue the fine work of its predecessors in a sport that is growing exponentially. 

Rolland, from regional Victoria, is in her third year of a master’s degree in International Relations and has been a member of the fledgling club for the past three years which now proudly boasts close to 100 members. As a member of the club almost since its inception, she has been in the perfect position to watch its natural growth. 

“We have four teams this year which is really exciting,” Rolland said. “We started off with one team which was a competitive cheerleading team, and we then gained a recreational team which is more social and this year we are up to four teams. We have competitive cheer, recreational, sideline and a competitive dance squad. We are like a family and fully inclusive.

“When we started off no-one really knew what Cheerleading was. In the ANU community people are now realising that anyone can join as we start at a beginner’s level, we are accepting of everyone and we have a great community at ANU Cheer.”

Whilst not competing at UniSport Nationals this time around, the club have their sights set on the Australian All-Star Cheerleading Federation (AASCF) competition being held on the Gold Coast at the end of November. The four-day event is one of the pinnacles for the sport with entries coming from worldwide. 
Preparation is everything with months of work going into the just over 3-minute routine and trust in your teammates is paramount. This makes team building events such as the proposed two-day Cheer Camp in Kioloa over the Easter break crucial.

“There’s an entire year of work in one routine,” Rolland confirms. “We start in March and the competition season is at the end of August. We are training twice a week, throughout holidays, constantly training to get the routine correct. Sometimes we do it in our sleep! We have a choreographer who comes in, and he choreographs his vision of how it looks, then the music is added a few months before. 

“It’s such a high trust sport that we need to be close as a group. We do a lot of team bonding through social events. That builds a real solid level of friendship and trust through that. Our cheer camp will hopefully help us to do that and we have a sister club in Fyshwick called Galaxy All Stars and they’re like a second family to us and we get adopted by the cheer mums!”

Cheerleaders come from a variety of different backgrounds and, with four sperate yet interchangeable sections within the club, there is a part of the sport that should appeal, and suit, everyone regardless of how well-versed you are in the art. 

“We get a lot of dancers and gymnasts, but the main group are people who have no background in Cheerleading,” Rolland commented. “I played soccer in high school and thought I’d give it a go. We have people who have an AFL background, people who play basketball, who swim, it’s for everyone really although we have lots of dance and gym elements. 

“For our sideline team we like to have members who have a bit of a background in that, who can do the stunts required. Pom is a little different, as they tend to be the dancers of the group, they’re more focused on that. It’s a mixed sport, although right now we are all girls, but the ultimate dream is to go co-ed. There’s more than you can do if we have guys in the team, but it’s great that we have women supporting women, literally in some cases!

“If you have a background in a certain sport, you bring that to Cheerleading. As a soccer payer I tended to have a better cardiovascular system and am very loud, which is important in an arena full of people. But, I couldn’t handstand, cartwheel or dance! Everyone brings their own skills to the team and that’s what makes the team successful.”

You’ve probably seen cheerleading on TV, whether through popular American sports such as NFL or Basketball, or through myriad movies, perhaps most famously through the ‘Bring it On’ franchise and cheerleading at ANU is run along similar lines as Rolland suggests.  

“It’s like what you see on TV in the way we compete which movies obviously show,” she said. “The perception is we are just a sideline team that cheers, and people are surprised when they learn it’s a competitive sport, which is the main reason we are here.
“There’s a new documentary on Netflix called ‘Cheer’ which really does talk about the sport in a positive way, and a better way, than the pop culture references. It shows what an extreme and competitive sport it is. It’s 2 minutes and 30 seconds of putting everything you can in one routine.

“Most of the points in competitive cheerleading come from chanting, which is about 45 seconds at the start of the routine and is heavily scored. The rest of the points are from whether you can put your stunts up cleanly and then the sharpness of the routine as a complete unit. You have level 1-2 skills and elite level skills – it can be quite difficult!”

Whether you’re up for the challenge, want to be involved on the sideline, or simply what to have bags of fun, Cheerleading might well be the sport for you! You can contact the ANU Cheerleading club at anucheerleadingatgmail [dot] com (subject: Cheerleading)

Story: Russ Gibbs