The perception of University Cheerleading from the inside

University cheerleading is an ever growing part of the cheerleading industry and something that we love to celebrate at Cheer From Head To Toe. Something that I believe is still a struggling part of University cheerleading though is how the sport is perceived from inside Universities. This lack of understanding is from other sports teams, prospective students, students union staff, non-sports students and even hopeful new members of the team and can leave teams with lots of issues to tackle throughout the year.

In my personal experience I really do not think the majority of people at my University understood what it was that we as a competitive cheerleading team did.

They thought it consisted of the stereotypical wearing small outfits, waving some pompoms, and chanting with some ‘girly drama’ thrown in – as shown by a lot of American teen movies.

This is understandable though if this is all you have ever seen of cheerleading. I think this is where one of the main issues lies, there was very limited exposure for other people within the university to actually learn and understand the hard work, planning and determination that goes into competitive cheerleading practices and competitions.

This is understandable though if this is all you have ever seen of cheerleading. I think this is where one of the main issues lies, there was very limited exposure for other people within the university to actually learn and understand the hard work, planning and determination that goes into competitive cheerleading practices and competitions.

One of the main issues I faced during my final year at University on the team was with kit. If you understand cheerleading, then you understand the importance of cheerleading kit. I’ve got a small story time for you now which I think demonstrated the lack of understanding of this issue and our sport as a whole from our University…

In my final year we had a slightly bigger team that in the previous years and this meant we did not have enough kit, there was absolutely nothing wrong with the kit we had, it was a classic kit however it was very old and could have done with a nice update anyway.

Due to how old it was we did not know where the kit had originally been made and neither did anybody in charge, so we were unable to go back to them and get some more made.

Our cheerleading committee saw this as a great opportunity to get a new updated kit and the team was very excited. The excitement wore off quite fast as the reality of trying to get a new kit set in. Our student union had just signed a deal with a kit provider for all sports teams at our University which meant ALL sports teams were supposed to have all kit supplied by them, however this was not a company that would normally make a cheerleading uniform. We immediately raised concerns about this and had meetings to discuss if the vision for our new kit was possible. It was heavily suggested that we could just have basically the same kit as the netball team, after all, it’s a top and skirt, how is that any different? As you can imagine a netball kit is not what we were after as a competitive cheerleading team, eventually it was agreed by our cheerleading committee, the Student’s Union and the new kit providers that they were unable to provide what we needed and we were allowed to look elsewhere. The point to this story is that as a cheerleading team we felt overlooked and unimportant to our University as they had clearly done no research into our sport and the support we needed in order to be a successful team.

I wanted to compare my experience with Cheer From Head to Toe’s Caroline’s experience to see how things have or haven’t developed over the years. With my time at university being a good few years after Caroline’s,

it was interesting to see we still faced a lot of the same issues and challenges. Having the correct space and mats to train with was a main one for both of us.

Caroline said

“The University didn’t understand why we needed mats and a large space to train and often double booked us.” They would give us small rooms to train in which weren’t suited for us to be able to train properly.”

I was lucky in that we had a solid booking of the sports hall for our team to train by the time I got to my University, but we still had the same issue with mats and the University didn’t understand why we needed more mats/better equipment in order to be able to train safely and effectively. We had 2 of those small blue mats you used to use in PE in school per stunt group and that was it.

We ended up spending our own money or taking money out of our budget to hire out a local cheerleading gym floor to practice on closer to competition. Another really important point raised by

Caroline was the battle her and her team took on to get Cheerleading changed from a society to a sport. She said, “We fought really hard for this, but it basically took our whole time at Uni to get it changed, getting it changed meant we got certain rights and meant we could be part of things at the University.”

Another issue I mentioned earlier on, I believe, is the way other sports teams perceive our sport.

There is so much opportunity for other sports teams to showcase what they do around Universities, with ‘BUCS Wednesdays’ the majority of teams will have matches/competitions pretty much weekly meaning that supporters, friends and staff can tag along and watch them put their training to work.

Don’t get me wrong, this is also a great opportunity for University cheerleading match day teams to get great exposure and show what they work on, however competition teams are left again unable to show everyone what they do.

Many don’t understand why competition teams can’t do half time match performances – not understanding the health and safety risks of performing dangerous stunts and tumbles on grass, AstroTurf or a wooden floor.

I spoke to a student from a smaller University who wanted to remain anonymous, unfortunately their experience has also been a less than positive one. She spoke about some of the main issues they faced.

They had a big issue with students actually on the team, she explained that the team was made up of a few people which had already done cheer before and had a love for the sport, and others that just wanted to try it out – but not all for the right reasons. There were a few which did not understand the sport and just wanted to fit into that American cheer movie stereotype to gain ‘popularity’. This created cliques within the team and left some member of the team feeling left out and unwelcome. She discussed that these students were then also the main members of the team that went on socials and interacted with other teams which subsequently spread the stereotype of cheerleading we are trying to move away from around their University.

I think it can be quite a shock for some new students when they actually learn how much hard work goes into the sport and how serious the sport is, this can lead to students dropping out or being removed from teams. Spreading as much information during the build up to a new year is a great way to avoid this, sharing videos and information on your team’s social media, talking to students at freshers fairs and holding taster sessions really helps new members to understand if this a sport they will enjoy.

So how can we change these perceptions?

We did a few different things which helped the perception of our sport begin to change and we had fun whilst doing them. One of our favourites which became an annual thing was a joint session with the rugby union team. We organised it so that they came along to one of our practices and tried it out, and we went along to one of their practices and tried to swap throwing people for throwing a rugby ball. It was a really enjoyable thing for both teams and increased understanding and appreciation of both sports. We transferred our skills to impress them with some strong line outs and came away happy that the opinion of our sport had started to change from another sports team. This is something which I would really recommend, do it with as many sports teams as possible and have fun in the process.

Inviting people along to watch you at competitions as well will really give them a better understanding of the sport as a whole, getting to see all the different university teams in competition, performing to their absolute best on the mat. In my final year we had a small number of friends come along from our university and support us at the competition and it was amazing for them to be able to experience what we had been training for alongside us and really appreciate the effort we put in. Plus, it’s always an added bonus when you have more people cheering you on at the front of the mat.

The final thing which I think is a great idea to really show everyone at University what the cheerleading team does is to show them. Sports awards are an annul event at Universities and a night to celebrate the achievements of the year. If you have a video of your routine from a competition, this is the perfect opportunity to show it off, ask your sports awards organisers if they can dedicate a couple of minutes to share the video, this way all the sports teams and staff will have a glimpse of what we do.

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World suicide prevent day

World Suicide Prevention Day

Today is World Suicide Prevention Day, and with that comes a trigger warning as this post will be making reference to Suicide 💛Did you know that Suicide is the leading cause of death in young people in the UK? Experiencing these thoughts and behaviours can cause us to feel so lonely and isolated. Yet one in four adults have had thoughts of suicide in their lifetime. If you think about how many people are in your class/lecture/office/gym etc, statistically there are multiple people in the room experiencing this too.And in those moments where you are feeling like you have no one to turn to, you have a ready made hype group in your cheer team. And don’t forget about your coaches too – they want you to be and will help you to be your best, mentally & physically! And in those moments you can’t bring yourself to go to training, trust me you will feel so much better afterwards.

💪🏻

There is such strength in reaching out for support.

💪🏻There is such strength in engaging with professional support.

💪🏻There is such strength in getting out of bed in the morning when all you want to do is escape the world.Even us in the CFHTT team, we’ve experienced concerns with our mental health.

It’s so so tough in the moment, but we believe in you!

When it’s difficult to remember, think about reaching out to a helpline who are fully trained and non-judgemental.

You can often call, text email or web chat!So far, you’ve survived 100% of your worst days, I know you can do one

more!

https://www.samaritans.org/how-we-can-help/contact-samaritan/

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The Strength of a Cheerleader

I know we’re heading into summer, which is the closest we get to “off season”, but I wanted to
touch on something we often take for granted as cheerleaders. Some of you may have attended FC Bournemouth, as spectators or athletes. Living in the North West, I’ve never actually been. This past weekend I did, however, judge and adjudicate at a cheer and dance competition in Mid Wales, Dance Creation Competition. I can only recall one other occasion I attended a competition not as an athlete, not as a coach, not having any stress or pre-performance anxieties. And that was following knee surgery, so I was still supporting my team. Don’t get me wrong I love the buzz of waiting for
your music to play stood on the mat with your fans sat on the other side, but I loved this stress-free version of comps! Watching from the other side had me realise a few incredible skills that we forget we even have. We do ourselves such a disservice by saying, oh it’s only a showcase, or it’s just a regional comp. It sometimes even feels that way at nationals.


At Dance Creation Competition, there were a lot of cheer and dance routines, but there were more solos than I’ve ever seen before. Maybe it’s a dance thing (that I wouldn’t know), or maybe covid has something to do with that (pesky covid, at it again). I spoke to a few athletes who were experiencing stage fright and gave them words of encouragement. There were some that I hadn’t spoken to beforehand, that were doing brilliantly, and then suddenly forgot where they were, panicked and ran off crying – hey, we’ve all been there! The most heart-breaking thing I saw, was an athlete
making a mistake mid-routine, and you could see in their face that they were petrified of what their coach/teacher would say. Yes, I know sometimes our coaches have that tough love approach, and they too can feel disappointed when something doesn’t hit or you lose out on your goal – but that should always come from a place of love, and you should be able to tell that.


The point that I will eventually get to, is that we forget just how much courage it takes to get on that comp mat, or a stage, and be truly vulnerable to tens or hundreds of people in the audience. It takes a lot of knowledge to perform your tumbles, jumps and choreo – hours of practise in fact. It takes heaps of teamwork to show seamless timing, to put up a simple stunt, and to make it through your pyramid. It takes confidence sing along to the music, to perform those cheer facials and to really have a good time. We see it as the same as every other full out. We’ve had over a year out of competitions (virtual comps aren’t the same), and so it might feel weird or more stressful than usual
to do all the things you used to do with ease. You might walk back onto the mat as if you never left. Whichever scenario you fit into, give yourself time, give your teammates time, and remember just how talented you are for doing exactly what you do. Remembering choreo, counting, stunting, singing, cheering teammates, tumbling all at the same time is some mega level of multi-tasking.


Whether you’re on a level 1 or a level 7 team, you got skills!
Amongst the INTENSE facials and lip syncing going on at the comp, I saw so many faces that weekend that looked so scared, so full of doubt and insecurity. It was such a shame because they were doing so well with fantastic technique. For far too long I was that girl. I was that girl whose coach (lovingly) made jokes about how moody I looked performing. The reason being, which I’m sure so many of you can relate to, is because I never felt confident in my abilities, I didn’t feel like I deserved to perform with the incredible athletes on my team. I had all that going on in my head as
well as the multi-tasking throughout the routine, I didn’t have the capacity to let myself have fun. The truth is: if you didn’t deserve to be on that team, you wouldn’t be. If you didn’t have the skills needed to perform that routine, your coach wouldn’t have put you doing them. And when I say skills I don’t necessarily mean tumble passes or hyperextended jumps. I mean the skills that I mentioned
earlier, the ability to multitask, your role within the stunt group, the ability to learn choreography, keeping in time with the music, supporting your teammates, stamina, flexibility, strength,
performance, self-awareness, confidence and self-belief. We don’t all start out with those skills.

The lucky thing about our sport is that cheerleading an environment to build those skills in a safe space, to learn and to flourish. This was a relatively short and sweet article. But I wanted to remind you how talented you are. It can be tough to remember when we’re branded with labelled levels and surrounded by athletes who were throwing fulls in the womb. And when performing becomes second nature, it can be easy to forget just how much goes into being a cheerleader.

I hope you’ve found something useful in this month’s blog post. As always, if there is anything in
particular that you’d like us to cover, drop us a message on any of our socials. If you would like to
feature online, tag us in your photos and use the hashtags #CFHTT and #UpsideDownTime

Ta’ra,

Rach x

Written by Rachel

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How to apply to become Team England representation at the ICU World Cheerleading Championships 2022

TEAM ENGLAND REPRESENTATION AT THE ICU WORLD CHEERLEADING CHAMPIONSHIPS BY AN ALLSTAR ADAPTIVE ABILITIES TEAM

APPLICATION INFORMATION

This season SportCheer England are tendering out the opportunity for an Allstar team with an existing Adaptive Abilities Cheer team to represent Team England in the Adaptive Abilities Cheer division at the ICU World Cheerleading Championships 2022.

In order to apply you will be required to submit the following documentation:

· An application form

· Confirmation that your team is able to meet the ICU eligibility (including, but not limited to age of athletes, team size, disability athlete ratios)

· Confirmation of ability to travel to Florida for the championships in April 2022 (dates tbc)

Shortlisted teams will additionally be required to submit:

· Video footage of the team in action

· Confirmation of appropriate policies, qualifications, insurance, staff DBS checks

Applications will be assessed by an independent panel – details of which will be announced in the coming weeks.

MORE ABOUT THE OPPORTUNITY

The Allstar Adaptive Abilities team selected to represent England at the ICU World Cheerleading Championships 2022 will be managed and coached by the Allstar team’s regular coaching staff and managed by the regular team’s management, supported by SportCheer England. 

SportCheer England will provide assistance to the team in aspects relating to Team England branding, acquiring uniform and apparel, social media and ICU team application processes (including Adaptive Abilities specific aspects such as WADA compliant TUE forms).

The Allstar Adaptive Abilities team selected must additionally agree to their training and competition process forming part of a wider development project being undertaken by ParaCheer International and SportCheer England next season into best practice, policy, procedure for the national Adaptive Abilities Cheer team. This may include, but not be limited to, ParaCheer International and SportCheer England attending their training sessions, being asked to complete questionnaires and evaluation forms and potentially coaches and athletes contributing to informal discussions on their training process. (NB: individual consent will be sought from participating athletes)

To meet the criteria for selection, the management and coaches of the selected Allstar Adaptive Abilities team must agree to attend specific training required by SportCheer England of all its national teams, including (but not limited to) Safeguarding and Data management. Your team will also need to ensure that your policies (including Code of Conduct, Safeguarding and data management) are in line with those produced by SportCheer England for the national teams. (Publication of any policies not currently on our website, including Code of Conduct and Whistleblowing policy will be published by the end of July).

All national team positions (management, coaches and athletes) are voluntary, and as such, teams must be prepared to cover the cost for flights, accommodation, athlete fees etc for the event.

The division levels available within the Adaptive Abilities division are either Median (equivalent of IASF Level 3) and Advanced (equivalent of IASF Level 4) https://cheerunion.org.ismmedia.com/…/ICU_WC_Rules_2021…

ESSENTIAL

· Established Adaptive Abilities Team meeting the minimum ICU disability criteria.

· Minimum 16 athletes (14 years or older during the year of competition)

· Minimum 25% athlete ratio with disabilities meeting the ICU disability criteria (https://cheerunion.org.ismmedia.com/…/ICU_WC_Rules_2021…)

· Ability to perform an appropriate level of stunts safely (minimum ICU Median)

· ICU rules and regulations comprehension

· Appropriate policies meeting SportCheer England’s standards

· Level appropriate coaching qualifications

· Insurance

· Enhanced DBS checks and references for all staff

· First Aid trained staff available on-site during training

· Must commit to SportCheer England led Safeguarding training, Data management training, and ParaCheer International’s Disability Confidence Training for Cheerleading

· Ability to travel to the World Championships

· Management and coaches must be in regular communication with, and able to work effectively with SportCheer England and the other TE teams’ management, as well as agreeing to work and maintain regular communication with those partners in our best practice development project.

· Good communication, administration, timekeeping

· Ability to self-fund the team or secure appropriate funding

· Experience taking a team to a competition or event

DESIRED

· Previous experience with Adaptive Abilities/ParaCheer divisions at ICU

· Training in disability awareness

· Training in mental health First Aid

· Experience taking your Adaptive Abilities team to a competition or event

ADDITIONAL NOTES ON SELECTION CRITERIA

Priority will be given to established Adaptive Abilities teams who fulfill the above criteria. In defining “established”, consideration will be given to the number of years your Adaptive Abilities team has been running, how often you have been training during that time and whether you have attended any events

Disability Criteria: SCE follows the lead of the UK Government on the definition of Disability. “A Severe long-term impairment to the persons day to day activities”, we further encourage that the impairment should impact their ability to participate in Cheerleading activities.

To request an application form please email sportcheerengland@gmail.com

Check out our documentary where to film Team England Adaptive abilities on their journey to world

Living the Dream: What it takes to win Worlds

We have a handful of teams who have achieved the greatest honour you can achieve in the Allstar world: winning worlds.

There was a Scottish Pom Duo from Stephanie and Natasha Trainor who won in 2012, plus our Paracheer Pom and Hip Hop (Adaptive Abilities as they are called now, but not then) teams have a handful of gold medals each.

Those are ICU medals. USASF worlds has only ever been conquered by one team and

one team only: ADA Dark Angels, who won once again in 2019 having previously taken

the gold medal in 2008.

ADA was founded by Tracy Bedford in the 1990s. ADA Dark Angels are arguably the

flagship team at Angels Dance Academy in Bristol, although they field worlds teams in

Hip Hop, Jazz and Lyrical. You might remember them from The Greatest Dancer on the

BBC last year (although I highly doubt anyone reading won’t remember)!

We spoke to their head coach, Charlie Bedford, who has been co-owner of ADA for

sixteen years, and two of their athletes, Becky (who was previously featured in our

Freelancing article) and Ruby about how it felt to win worlds, the mindset and work

required to get there and what their take away moments were from the experience of

winning worlds.

Charlie Bedford, Coach

1. Describe the moment you realised you had won worlds?

Winning worlds was a feeling I can’t really explain! I always knew that if I won worlds again

I’d take every minute of it in! The feeling of relief was the most overwhelming feeling! As

weird as that sounds… I always new I would win as my mindset is that way, but although

you’d think joy would be the biggest feeling for me it wasn’t… I felt so content and

relieved.

2. How long had you waited for it, and how did you manage expectations of the team in the year leading up to it?

Winning is always our mindset…. it takes a lot of training and coaching to mentally prepare

my athletes to manage that expectation but also to know that the possibility of losing is a

lot bigger than winning. The year before we placed 8th in worlds and had a really bad year,

not just because of placing but because of team moral, certain Athletes not being at the

level they needed to be and also a massive learning curve for me as a coach as I didn’t

manage the team how I should have, I let things slip and I took full responsibility! As a

coach it’s your job to dot the i’s and cross the t’s and I didn’t! The 2018 worlds although

being a bad year had to happen… the learning for me was so valuable and we’re the team

today because of 2018! You need set backs!

3. Is there anything as a coach you feel was different in this specific year? (ie. new way of choreographing, different conditioning or just team dynamic?)

I took a completely different approach to coaching, more of a professional way… training

was/is brutal. I am completely open with my team… everyone needs to know where they

stand! Knowing weak links and addressing them straight away. In my teams, everyone

knows who’s the weakest and everyone knows who’s the strongest! You need to all know

this as we all need to be as one on the floor. I also have higher expectations in athletes….

making them accountable as well as myself. Training to win rather than training to

compete, there’s a huge difference between the two!

4. If you could relive one moment again, aside from the announcement you had won, what would it be?

Getting my scores in semi finals, it was just me my wife Steph and my little girl Bea!

Finding out your sitting in first with them two was special and I’ll never forget that moment.

5. What in your mind makes a successful team?

• Honesty from your coach… no matter how uncomfortable it may be.

• Putting the team first always rather than the individual.

• A team that’s willing to give you everything!!! I know I’m biased but my team are beasts

and will go through walls for me and their team mates.

6. Who behind the scenes would you like to thank?

My wife Steph! She’s my absolute rock!

7. What can we look forward to next season?

An absolute showcase!! I’m pushing my team to better themselves every rehearsal!

I cannot wait for you all to see what we’ve been doing.

Athletes Becky Mancini and Ruby Gardiner

Becky Mancini
Ruby Gardiner

1. Describe the moment you realised you had won?

Becky:

WOW I remember the whole team crumbled to the floor! So overwhelmed with

emotion and just so happy! It was literally euphoric!

Ruby:

The moment they called out 2nd place and the realisation hit that we had won was

AMAZING. You could physically see the whole team crumble and then erupt!! I will never

forget that moment.

2. How did you celebrate?

Becky:

With the team and all our other worlds teams and family! We won together 1 team

dream! And I got a tattoo to mark the occasion.

Ruby:

With the team and the whole academy. We are one big family, so we celebrated

altogether. (And got a tattoo of the worlds finals date!!)

3. What did you do that you feel most prepared you for worlds – mindset and in training?

Becky: We never train like we’ve won – never complacent. Train like you have nothing to

lose but everything to gain!

Ruby:

You have to find the balance between believing in your self and your team and not

becoming complacent – and I think that we found that perfect balance. Hard work pays off.

4. How often did you train and what was your favourite part of training?

Becky: We train around twice a week however as athletes nearly all of us train in multiple

teams! My fav part oddly is the really tough stuff the being majorly pushed to the point of

exhaustion.That’s where athletes are made!

Ruby:

We trained as a team twice a week but most of our athletes train in multiple teams

as well – I think the team moral is so special in a team. Training is hard and can be

challenging but that’s what makes a difference!

5. What would you most love to relive from that worlds year, aside from placings?

Becky:

Being back stage after winning getting sized up for our rings – before we walked out

to greet our family’s we had a moment as a team where we huddled in and just soaked it

up! I’ll never forget that moment with my team! My family!

Ruby:

Being backstage day 2 was one of the best experiences when I think back to worlds

2019 sitting in 1st place. You could see in every single persons eyes how much we wanted

this, and it just felt really different, I didn’t feel nervous at all, I just felt so excited and

wanted to get on that stage and perform and hold our spot!!

6. What – to you – makes a winning team?

Becky:

Teamwork, discipline and accountability!

Ruby:

Hard work, dedication, trust, (and an amazing coach)

7. Now you’re a world champion, what are you focussing on now for the future?

Becky:

Being a returning world champ of course 🤷

Ruby:

Keeping our spot !! The hard work never stops, if anything we need to work even

harder now!!

You can watch the 2019 world champion routine here:

You can keep up with their next season on their instagram @adadarkangels or @angelsdanceacademy. 

Written by Emma

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Pride Month 2021

In this article, we’re going to explore the meaning of pride, that it’s STILL a protest, how we can be better allies, what is meant by intersectionality and how on earth does cheerleading come into this?

I want to start by identifying my privilege. Whilst writing this, I am a white, heterosexual, cisgender person. I didn’t think it’d be appropriate for me to write this article independently, as I wanted to amplify the voices of those within the LGBTQ+ community. That’s why I spoke with two coaches and athletes within the cheer community to open up the conversation and to really fill this article with the information we need to know.

With that being said, I want to thank Jasmin Panayi and Nat Cox for their invaluable involvement in creating this article. They’re knowledge shared has been invaluable!

From the outset, I learned something new. Did you know that the second A within the acronym stands for ally? This is because the LGBTQ+ community is inclusive of everyone. Theoretically then, we should ALL be within the LGBTQ+ community regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. However, being an ally is much more than a label, it’s an action.

For further clarification on sexual orientation and gender identities, please see the infographics below:

“One in eight LGBT people (12 per cent) avoid going to the gym or participating in sports groups because of fear of discrimination and harassment” – Stonewall

What a shockingly sad statistic. So in terms of cheerleading, how can we be better allies and inclusive to our LGBTQ+ athletes, coaches, and families?

  1. Language

For coaches, be mindful of the binary terms. I’ll hold my hands up and say in the past I have often used the term “ladies” when coaching in the past. Over the past couple of years, I have started adopting gender neutral terms such as “team” or the team’s name. I don’t know if someone in that room is not non-binary, trans, etc., and sometimes it’s none of my business. But it’s my role as a coach to make sure my session is inclusive and I’m allowing everyone to feel welcome. Coaches: it’s our role as a leader to ensure our athletes feel safe, welcome, and loved in the gym.

Leading on from that is pronouns. To have a space to put the athlete’s preferred pronouns is so simple on something like an athlete sign up form. You can follow this up with a conversation with the athlete to help you understand how you can best support that athlete in the gym and within the team. This should then be shared with all coaches. This is something Ultimate Cheer are already implementing, and it would be fantastic to see something as quick and simple as this become widespread across the UK cheerleading community. If you mistakenly use the wrong pronoun, it’s important to apologise and correct yourself. If this is new to you, it may take time. But it’s important we take that time to make our athletes feel comfortable in the gym environment.

  • Uniforms

Just because someone is called “Rebecca” and has long hair, doesn’t automatically qualify them to wear a uniform with a skirt. Uniforms can be a huge barrier in general. Just like pronouns, we need to be thinking about a non-binary uniform alternative. Should the whole team wear a gender-neutral uniform? Should you offer a non-binary alternative? Does anyone really need to wear a bow? (ok, that last one is just for me). We need to be having these conversations within our coaching teams. And if you already have that alternative uniform available – make it known within your teams, don’t wait for someone to come and ask for it.

  • Binary division.

We’re very binary in cheerleading. We have “all girl” and “co-ed”. We even have rules on how many males should be on the team above Level 2. Again, a huge barrier for someone who perhaps doesn’t identify with their “legal gender”. I know that UK EPs are very much of the mindset that an athlete can compete in the category they identify with, no matter what stage of transition they are in – in relation to transgender athletes. Whilst this is a step in the right direction, we need to be thinking about our non-binary and gender-diverse athletes and the psychological impacts these categories have within the LGBTQ+ community. Event Providers need to be thinking about improving the binary structures we currently have in place. If that’s something they’ve already thought about, we need to hear about it to lift that weight from our LGBTQ+ athletes.

  • Actions speak louder than words.

It’s great to see the rainbow behind your logo and creating rainbow stunts to show your support for Pride month. It’s important to raise awareness, but we need to be doing more to really open up those important conversations. How are you being inclusive to your teammates, how are you challenging stereotypes and bias? That’s what we need to be loud about. We need to show the LGBTQ+ community that they are welcome in cheerleading.

Pride Month:

Pride itself is a celebration of equality, diversity and celebrating our “otherness”. It’s about recognising who paved the way for the community to celebrate their identity, and how much work we still have to do to ensure LGBTQ+ individuals across the world can celebrate their “otherness” free from discrimination.

Here are just a handful of facts about the inequalities the LGBTQ+ community still face:

  • Homosexuality is illegal in 71 countries.
  • Same-sex marriage is only legal in 29 countries.
  • Whilst some countries have different rules regarding bans, conversion therapy is only completely banned in four countries.
  • Those in the LGBTQ+ community are more likely to experience a mental health problem due to discrimination, social exclusion, isolation and rejection.

For further information on the Stonewall Uprising, follow the link below:

https://www.stonewall.org.uk/about-us/news/stonewall-uprising-50-years-lgbt-history

Pride Events:

As an ally, it can be an exciting time heading to a Pride event. But it’s really important to understand that it is way more than just a party and photo opportunity, and remembering those points noted above. Whilst attending, it’s important to support any individuals who may be experiencing discrimination. Share that load, as it will feel much heavier for those who experience discrimination more often. And most importantly, as an ally, do not push to the front of the event, pushing past LGBTQ+ people to get there. I know at the beginning I explained that allies were a part of LGBTQ+, and yes, allies are welcome at Pride. But as allies we already celebrate our cisgender heterosexuality each day by being free of homophobia and transphobia. Allow LGBTQ+ people to enjoy this celebration.

Intersectionality:

Intersectionality can sound complicated. Ultimately, it’s about privilege and oppression. The more marginalised traits you possess, the more likely you are to be experience systemic oppression. For example, within the LGBTQ+ community, black transgender women are more likely to experience discrimination than a white, cisgender, non-disabled, lesbian woman. Whilst the latter will be at risk of homophobia, that intersectionality of race is also present in that example. I am a white cisgender heterosexual woman. I am therefore at risk of sexism, but I am not at risk of racism, homophobia or transphobia. I don’t have to worry about being “randomly” stopped in the street by the Police because of the colour of my skin, or worry whether the country I want to visit criminalises my very existence. We need to recognise our privilege in order to support those without.

Inclusivity Workshops:

Throughout this article I’ve expressed the importance of educating ourselves. Nat Cox, of Ultimate Cheer in London, has created an inclusivity workshop exploring appropriate language, challenging stereotypes and bias and allyship. The workshops are a safe space to discuss and ask questions relating to the LGBTQ+ community. Nat is happy to deliver these workshops to programmes or provide them with the resources to deliver themselves. The content has also been vetted by a Stonewall representative.

In summary, we need to raise the bar for what is acceptable in the cheer community. We need to be mindful of the language we use, open up conversations with industry leaders in things like uniforms and all-girl vs co-ed divisions. We need to educate ourselves with the resources that are now so readily available, so we know why we celebrate Pride month.

I’ll share some further organisations that provide advice and support for the LGBTQ+ community, and for allies seeking further information:

https://www.stonewall.org.uk/

https://lgbt.foundation/

https://mindout.org.uk/

I hope you’ve found something useful in this month’s blog post. As always, if there is anything in particular that you’d like us to cover, drop us a message on any of our socials. If you would like to feature online, tag us in your photos and use the hashtags #CFHTT and #UpsideDownTime

Ta’ra,

Rach x

Written by Rachel

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Breaking news: the decision has been taken not to field a Unified Adaptive Abilities Cheer team for the 21/22 season. What you need to know.

This decision has been made so that we can spend the necessary time required to develop improved policy, procedures and support for disabled athletes on a national team.

Replacing a Unified Adaptive Abilities Cheer (TEAAC) team for the 21/22 season, SportCheer England (SCE) will be creating two alternative options for participation by disabled athletes:

1. TEAM ENGLAND REPRESENTATION AT THE ICU WORLD CHEERLEADING CHAMPIONSHIPS BY AN ALLSTAR ADAPTIVE ABILITIES TEAM

One of the main issues arising from the review into the TEAAC team was the need for coaches and managers to be better equipped to understand and support the individual needs of disabled athletes with whom they do not regularly work. Developing a robust framework for supporting this scenario is required and will take time. Therefore, in the 21/22 season we will be tendering out the opportunity for an Allstar team with an existing Adaptive Abilities Cheer team to represent Team England in the Adaptive Abilities Cheer division at the ICU World Cheerleading Championships. This opportunity will mean the disabled athletes on the TEAAC team are already well known to their coaches, with established appropriate support in place: allowing representation from England within the Adaptive Abilities division, while minimising the risk to athletes’ health and safety.

Details including the criteria for application and an application form will be made public in the coming week via social media and the SCE website. The selection process of an Allstar team will be undertaken by an independent panel. Details of this panel will also be made public in the coming weeks.

2. OPPORTUNITY TO PARTICIPATE IN A RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT PROJECT INTO BEST PRACTICE, POLICY AND PROCEDURE FOR THE NATIONAL ADAPTIVE ABILITIES CHEER TEAM.

Inclusive cheerleading charity ParaCheer International (PCI) have been commissioned by SCE to lead a research and development project into best practice, policy, procedure for the national Adaptive Abilities Cheer team. SCE and PCI will partner together on the project, as well as working with other external organisations with expertise in inclusive sports to design a best practice framework for future Team England Unified Adaptive Abilities Cheer teams. They will also look to provide some domestic performance and competition opportunities for participants as part of the project.

SCE is seeking disabled cheer athletes to participate in this project. We will also welcome participation from non-disabled athletes who have previously competed on Team England Unified Adaptive Abilities Cheer. The selected Allstar team representing England at the ICU World Cheerleading Championships for the 21/22 season will also participate in this project.

Details of how to apply for this opportunity will be made public in July.

*A copy of the national team report can be found here: https://sportcheerengland.org/review-into-policy-and…

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Lyrical v Jazz and how to excel at both

In 2017, The addition of a Lyrical Contemporary division was a step in diversifying the dance categories offered in Allstar dance, and creating a home for a myriad of Lyrical or Contemporary inspired routines which had been creeping their way into the Jazz category over a number of years.

The addition did lead to confusion, and often at competitions it is still not uncommon to see routines entered into the wrong category.

We spoke to some of the best in the business, who consistently deliver in both Lyrical and Jazz, about their tips for choreographing for each style – and Star Spirit give us some tips on how to excel in each of them.

Charlotte Bromilow owns Star Spirit Cheer & Dance in Liverpool with her husband Gareth. Charlotte is an ex-professional dancer and is a qualified Ballet, Tap, Modern Jazz & Contemporary Lyrical Teacher & Examiner and has been teaching dance since 2000.

Charlotte & Gareth opened Star Spirit in 2007 and have never looked back!

Star Spirit Zero Gravity have been competing in Jazz since 2009 and Lyrical since 2018. We first competed at Dance Worlds in 2012 placing 23rd overall – but over the years have then had numerous top 10 finishes.

Zero Gravity have won consistent National & Grand Champion titles every year since 2011. Our highest placement at USASF Worlds is 6th in Jazz and 10th in Lyrical and they can’t wait to see what happens in 2022.

Charlotte (alongside her Star Spirit coaches) have coached and choreographed 11 USASF Dance Worlds/ ICU Worlds routines since 2012 and she is excited to be taking three teams Zero Gravity (Choreographer Charlotte Bromilow),

Odyssey (Choreographer Lauren Kilgallon) and Ascend (Choreographer Natasha Page) to Dance Worlds 2022!

Sabrina Steele Mountjoy is the Jazz and technique coach at Richards School of Dance (RSD), based in Treforest in South Wales.

She graduated from the University of Southern California and went on to become a professional dancer for 10 years, working all over the world. RSD have consistently been awarded Pom, Jazz and Lyrical bids to USASF words since 2011, and have placed top 10 on many occasions and have represented Team Wales in Jazz and Pom numerous times at ICU.

When asked about the key differences between choreographing a jazz routine vs a lyrical routine, Charlotte said: “Jazz is about precision, power and technical skill – it’s the most technically demanding Dance Worlds division and we spend a lot of time working on technique and incorporating difficulty in both team and highlight elements.

We want our Jazz routines to motivate and inspire audiences – this is one of the reasons we chose Defying Gravity as our 2019 Jazz routine – it’s impossible to hear that music and not feel empowered and uplifted.

Our 2022 routine is a little darker but you’re still going to be left with a lasting impression.

Lyrical

is much more fluid and the story or theme is always the driving force behind the choreography.

We include a lot more pedestrian and abstract movement in this division. Breath, contraction and release and emotion are what make this division for me – I’m also obsessed with clean lines and beautiful feet! I love that we are able to tell a story. Our 2019 Lyrical Routine was “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” and explored the idea of Dorothy not wanting to grow up and step into the real work and become an adult – every movement told a story or had a meaning. I always think it’s important that dancers can fully relate to the story they are telling – if there’s a disconnect it shows on stage. After all dance is an art form before a sport and it’s a means of expression that we are so lucky to be able to access.”

Sabrina said: “Getting Lyrical v. Jazz “right”is definitely hard and something I think we will be working on, refining and trying to perfect for a long time. Having clear distinctions in the technique used and manner in which the technique is delivered in classes has had an effect. For example, contraction and release being used in different ways and use of balletic elements.

I also think that the manner in which it is choreographed, the theme and choice of music is crucial in communication of the style”.

Charlotte agreed that music was crucial, and when I asked her how she picked songs for each style she said: “Honestly music comes to me in the strangest places –

I have a notes page in my phone and whenever I find something it goes in there until needed.

The music immediately needs to evoke a feeling, mood or an atmosphere. We get 2 mins on stage so the music has to be memorable. We also edit the music to see if we can get an exciting build with some tempo changes and moments of interest. I hate music that fades out so that’s always a no if we can’t find a good way to end. Tempo for turns is also a major consideration – all of our Dance coaches can edit music so sometimes we challenge each other to create the best edit.”

Charlotte then went on to help illustrate how Star Spirit ensure their dancers excel in each style:

How do you ensure your dancers best articulate each style while on stage?

Our dancers have mostly grown up in the gym/ studio taking classes in each style in addition to team training. We do a lot of work on musicality and improvisation and educate them from a young age on placement, alignment and performance of each style.

What do you love watching in other teams’ routines for each style?

Our favourite teams in the USA that inspire us are Dance Dynamics, The Vision & Dancer’s Edge. You never know what Dance Dynamics and The Vision are going to do – their style is so diverse and there’s always something new. Dancer’s Edge’s technique is simply spectacular!!!

Do you have tips for cleaning and perfecting both styles – do you treat them the same or have different focuses?

We clean obsessively. We used to get choreography finished and then go back and clean but that allows so many habits and differences to creep in – although it can feel frustrating we move more slowly with choreography now and insist on cleanliness before we move on. It saves a lot of time in the end.

We also clean each other’s routines – having a critical friend to look at your routine with fresh eyes makes such a difference. The other thing I would suggest is develop your language – make sure your dancers speak your terminology, give everything a name, a pathway and a count. As artists we want to dance how the music makes us feel but this doesn’t translate in the “Uniformity” element of the scoresheet so being aware of this from the outset is essential.

I loved learning more about Jazz and Lyrical from Charlotte and Sabrina, and I hoped you did too! Comment on our post – what do you love most about Jazz and Lyrical? I can’t wait to see all the routines on the floor next season! 

Written by Emma

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commonly hear people interchangeably using the terms mental health and mental illness to mean the same. In reality, they’re actually opposites.

Mental Health Awareness Week 2021

Two weeks ago we saw mental health awareness week. What better time to check in with our mental health and wellbeing and reflect on how well we have coped over the past year, and how we can move forwards? It’s now a common fact that one in four of us will experience some form of mental ill-health each year. But four in four of us have mental health, and that’s why it’s important for us to take the time to check in to protect our mental wellbeing.

I commonly hear people interchangeably using the terms mental health and mental illness to mean the same. In reality, they’re actually opposites. Mental health simply relates to the state of our health in terms of our mental wellbeing. Similarly to how dentists and toothbrush advertisements talk about “oral health”. So when we talk about disorders such as depression, that’s a mental health concern, or a mental illness.

A few months ago, myself and Caroline did an Instagram Live where we spoke about how to manage our mental health during covid and being stuck/safe at home. Some were covid-related, but others can be utilised every day. In this blog I’m going to focus on three of those we mentioned. Firstly I’m going to talk about physical activity, and how cheerleading can help us in this new transition phase of covid recovery.

In March I was involved in choosing an ambassador for a dance competition (Dance Creation). During that time, I was reading statements, looking at images and watching videos of the candidates. There was one video that struck a chord with me. It was a really talented athlete, but the video was so simple. She just did a running tumble pass on a sprung floor. I can’t even remember what the pass was. It was the sound that I remember. The sound of someone tumbling on a sprung floor, something I’ve not heard in so long. How trivial is that? But it was that one reflection that reminded me of the buzz of the gym and everything that comes along with it. It had me really excited for the upcoming season and seeing everyone back in the gyms, doing what they love.

It’s been so easy over the past year to have become complacent with not attending cheer IRL. If you’re in a cheerleading-slump, think back to your why. Why did you start in the first place? Why haven’t you given up already? What goals are you going to set to keep you motivated? Which feelings do you miss from being with your team, in training or at competitions?

Under 18s may have been back in the gym for a few weeks now. Over 18s may have started that return also, but there will be plenty of us that still have that degree of apprehension, and that’s ok too. We have completely changed our lives over the past year. Some of us may have adapted well, others not so well. But now we move into a new phase and it’s not going to be the same as “pre-covid”. In saying that, it’s not necessarily a good or bad thing. It’s important to remember that any phase in life is different from the previous. Things will never be the way they were, and that’s a good thing. Each day we evolve into a better version of ourselves. So it’s only up from here!

We know that physical activity and exercise can have a huge positive impact on our wellbeing. And if you didn’t know that, take it from someone who has spent a big chunk of my life studying and applying sport and exercise psychology and mental health practise. To strip it down to basics, when we exercise our body releases endorphins. Endorphins are feel-good chemicals. These biological impacts are just a short snippet of why physical activity makes us feel better.

In addition to increasing our mental and physical health, attending training helps with our routine. If you’ve been here for a while, you’ll know just how important I believe routine is for us. We’re humans and creatures of habit! I once read that the more decisions you have to make in a day, the longer you take to make a decision, and the more stressed you become. If you have a set routine, that’s less decisions for you to make, and more wiggle room for important decisions. For example, I have a conveyor belt of outfits in my wardrobe. Each outfit already has underwear attached to it. Each morning I pick an outfit from the front of the wardrobe and at the end of the day the outfit goes at the back of the wardrobe (if it’s not going in the wash). So it’s on a rotation.

Now I’m not saying this is something everyone must do – I know, it’s extreme, but this is a level of routine that works for me. I don’t have to think about what outfit I’m wearing, even my underwear is picked out for me already. That’s already at least five decisions I didn’t have to make in the morning. Now this works for me, it probably won’t work for most, but it’s an example of those micro-routines you can put in place to reduce overall stress. Other examples include a weekly meal plan, the time you eat each day, exercise, a bedtime routine, even a skincare routine. That’s not to say we can’t be spontaneous every now and again. Having a routine also helps regulate our sleep, our most basic necessity. And who doesn’t love sleep?

Lastly, I want to talk about nature. This year’s mental health awareness week’s theme was nature because it’s so important to us. Until recently (generally speaking in history) we as humans lived in and amongst nature. Even now, most of our food comes from nature and getting out into nature is a treat.

Growing up whilst attending church, I used to always hear the phrases “ashes to ashes, dust to dust”. Religious or not it always filled me with some comfort, that I was born from nature and at the end I’ll be at rest in nature. We are at our most natural state in nature, and that’s why it feels so good. Even if you live in a built-up city, getting out into fresh air and feeling the ground beneath your feet can be really grounding and helpful for our wellbeing. Next time you’re feeling overwhelmed or stressed, I encourage you to take just five- or ten-minutes walking outside, whatever the weather.

As I mentioned at the beginning, around 25% of us will be impacted by mental health concerns each year. Unfortunately, this has been exacerbated by the pandemic. Recognising our potentially negative thoughts and behaviours is the first step. Sometimes once you’ve recognised these unhelpful thoughts or behaviours, you’re able to manage them independently yourself, with social support or even with something like exercise. If it gets to the point where it’s impacting your everyday life and you feel like you can’t cope alone, there is most definitely help out there for you.

If you need long-term support, I would always advise haveing a conversation with your GP.

If you require an as-and-when chat or bit of advice, or even in-the-meantime whilst on a waiting list, I’ll share some useful organisations that may be able to provide you with just that.

Mind

Infoline: 0300 123 3393

Email: info@mind.org.uk

9am to 6pm, Monday to Friday (except for bank holidays).

https://www.mind.org.uk/

Papyrus UK

Call: 0800 068 4141

Text: 07860039967

Email: pat@papyrus-uk.org

9am – midnight every day of the year (weekends and Bank Holidays included)

http://www.papyrus.org.uk/

The Mix (for aged 14-25)

Helpline: 0808 808 4994

1-2-1 chat

https://www.themix.org.uk/

Samaritans

Call: 116 123

Email: jo@samaritans.org

Available 24/7

https://www.samaritans.org/

I hope you’ve found something useful in this month’s blog post. As always, if there is anything in particular that you’d like us to cover, drop us a message on any of our socials. If you would like to feature online, tag us in your photos and use the hashtags #CFHTT and #UpsideDownTime

Ta’ra,

Rach x

Written by Rachel

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Videos from Cheerleading world championships 2021: Brandon Allstars, Brandon Allstars Pink,Woodlands Elite Black Ops, California Allstars Black,Cheer Athletics Wildcats, Cheer Athletics Cheetahs Ops,Stingray Allstars Peach ,GymTyme Allstars Chrome, California Allstars Vixens

Brandon Allstars Pink

Woodlands Elite Black Ops 

California Allstars Black Ops

Cheer Athletics Wildcats 

California Allstars SMOED

Stingray Allstars Peach 

GymTyme Allstars Chrome

California Allstars Vixens 

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