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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I want to talk about my favourite F word, feminism

Trigger/health warning: mentions of gender-based violence and misogyny.

March was women’s history month, and March 8th saw international women’s day. Yet the weeks that proceeded were jam-packed full of gender-based discrimination. Ironically, this year’s theme was “choose to challenge”. This meant challenge any gender-based inequality.

Action Aid have defined feminism as:

“an ideology and set of movements that work to achieve social, political and economic equality between the sexes.”

You see, feminism isn’t just a female issue, it’s an issue for everyone of every gender. Gender equality is equality for EVERYONE.

There are so many aspects of cheerleading to fall in love with. One of my favourites is that cheerleading is a female dominated industry. In gyms around the world females are both figuratively and literally lifting each other up. Teams are made up of strong, confident, sassy and talented woman. We’ve all heard the negative stereotypes that relate to cheerleaders. Why is that? Because like I said, it’s a female dominated sport and we live in a patriarchy (definition: a society controlled and powered by men). And anything female dominated is portrayed with negative connotations. That’s why I felt it relevant to write a blog on this topic. Gender inequality is something that impacts our wellbeing without even realising.

As your local feminist, I hear the same questions every time, “but why do we need feminism in the UK in 2021?”. I’ll narrow my answer down to a week of news stories from March 2021. Megan Markle (a black woman – intersectional feminism coming in here) was brutally questioned by viewers when speaking out about her struggles with mental health. Women were urged not to go out alone at night after Sarah Everard was murdered. The shocking fact arose that 97% of females aged 18-24 have been sexually harassed. Breonna Taylor’s family still have not had justice for her death a year on. Over 40,000 ASDA supermarket workers have taken ASDA to the supreme court after raising claims over equal pay. Our eyes were opened to the negative portrayal of Asian women in Hollywood and the media. Women and marginalised genders continue to be subject to gender discrimination.

But this is all really doom and gloom, so why am I being such a Negative Nelly? It’s important to know why this topic is so important prior to championing it. Otherwise, what exactly are you fighting for?

If we look specifically at sport, we see disproportionate pay, sponsorship opportunities and visibility in female athletes in comparison to their male counterparts. Even in our sport of cheerleading, a sport where there is a majority of female athletes, it’s still the males that are in the leadership positions – think coaches, choreographers, legislators, directors. Back to that patriarchal society. Let’s not forget, there are more than these two genders who even don’t seem to get a look in.

On the flip side, let me share some positive female achievements that deserve more visibility and more airtime! In the UK alone:

  • 2014 Women’s Rugby World Cup: England, champions
  • 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup: England, third place
  • 2017 ICU World Championships: Team England All Girl Cheer, WORLD CHAMPIONS
  • 2018 Commonwealth Games: England Netball, gold medallists
  • 2019 ICU World Championships: Team England Junior All Girl Cheer, WORLD CHAMPIONS
  • Ellie Simmonds OBE: 5x Paralympic gold medallist, 14x World Champion, youngest person to achieve an MBE.
  • Rebecca Adlington OBE: 2x Olympic & Commonwealth gold medallist, World Champion, first British swimmer in over a century to win 2x Olympic gold medals.
  • Dame Jessica Ennis-Hill, Olympic & 3x World Champion heptathlete, one of Britain’s most successful athletes.
  • Allyson Felix (USA) holds the record for most gold medals won at the World Championships. She actually surpassed Usain Bolt’s record AFTER the birth of her child.
  • The majority of board members across Sport Cheer UK are fierce females.
  • Sport Cheer Scotland is governed entirely by females – how awesome is that!

There are so many reasons to celebrate women. These achievements are just a few that I felt relevant enough to share here at Cheer From Head to Toe. And of course, you don’t have to be the “perfect” feminist to champion female rights, what does perfect mean anyway? As Maya Angelou once said,

“Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better”

My feminist journey has been rocky itself, even in cheer. I’m not afraid to admit that I used to be really snobby towards side-line cheer. I’m not now, I’ll add, it was my internal misogyny & unconscious bias. I thought it was un-feminist to be a female cheering on the boys’ sports teams. Then I became my university’s Club Captain where I oversaw the cheer, pom and side-line cheer teams. I then realised that these girls (and guys) just wanted to have fun by performing for a crowd and cheering on the games. It was their choice to do so, and I respected that. And that reflection seems so obvious to me now. All-star cheer is where my heart is at; side-line cheer is not for me, but neither is tennis. And that’s exactly what being a feminist is.

“A huge part of being a feminist is giving other women the freedom to make choices you might not necessarily make yourself” – Lena Dunham.

We all have unconscious biases. That may relate to gender, sexuality, age, race, religion, you name it. What we need to do is reflect on what our unconscious biases are and be aware of them when they come into your mind. Replace those thoughts by treating everyone as a unique individual, regardless of their differences. As I said right at the beginning, feminism = gender equality. And gender equality is equality for everyone. I know we as cheerleaders love to celebrate the success of our teammates in the gym. We know that celebrating someone else’s success does not take away from our own. So let’s take that celebration from the gym out into the world. Whatever your gender, put feminism on your agenda. And most importantly, I’ll say it again for the people at the back, respect females enough to allow them to make choices that you wouldn’t necessarily make yourself.

To continue championing gender equality, follow feminist accounts to educate yourself on the cause. They often share female icons throughout history that perhaps haven’t been given the recognition they deserve. Accounts I recommend are Feminist News Now, UK Feminism, Munroe Bergdorf and Florence Given (a little less PG).

If any of the topics mentioned have impacted you directly, know there is support out there for you. For grounding techniques and tips to manage flashbacks, follow the link below from the National Association for People Abused in Childhood (NAPAC):

For further advice regarding your legal rights as a female, explore the Rights of Women’s website below:

Another fantastic resource if you have been a victim of any crime is Victim Support. They also have an email and telephone support line:

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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Division Spotlight: Traditional Pom

It feels a bit weird to be writing about an re-emerging division in the midst of a pandemic when the best competition experience we can hope for is virtual competitions. There is a glimmer of hope on the horizon though and hopefully we will be back to competitions soon.

The division is called “Traditional Pom”, or “Cheer Dance” depending on the EP (event provider) and until now the division has been growing stronger in Scotland. Traditional Pom is an old division that is moving down from Scotland, they have been making moves to bring this division down South so their teams could compete in England. (UKCA offer a division with the same name, but it means something completely different.)

What is Traditional Pom?

Traditional Pom is Pom, but with a focus on Pom Technique as opposed to skills execution. It is Pom in the purest sense, where the focus is on formations, performance, motion technique, complexity and strength and routine visuals. No turns or leaps. Jumps are allowed, but best used to support visuals.

I thought “Cheer Dance” was an umbrella term for Pom, Jazz, Lyrical and Hip Hop?

Technically, this is incorrect. The umbrella term should be “performance cheer” not “cheer dance” as determined by ICU, who are the Olympics-recognised international governing body. No doubt everyone will understand you if you use Cheer Dance to reference all the divisions, but “Performance Cheer” is the correct term. I often have to correct myself as this was such a learned behaviour when I went to university!

Why could it be an important division in England?

Quite simply, it could be more competitive.

1. Traditional Pom rewards the best Pom choreography and performance, while discounting skills. I don’t think it’s radical to suggest Pom is a fast growing sport with many new teams opening every year in this country, often fielding athletes with little performance cheer experience. These teams are hugely important for the future growth and competitiveness of the sport. Yet it takes time to build up the variety of complex skills in performance cheer, especially if you’re a grassroots team, and will put new teams at a competitive disadvantage to more established teams which might take many years to overcome. Traditional Pom puts all players on a more even playing field, with less for newcomers to work on, and really tests the strength of a team’s and their coaches’ core pom knowledge.

2. For more established teams, Traditional is also a hugely important opportunity. Even if you have skills galore, you will be fast overtaken in the Freestyle Pom division by teams with both a decent skill level and Traditional Pom skills. As a coach and team, Traditional Pom ensures that you are also working and actively thinking on the elements central to Pom, such as formations, Pom motion technique and performance. Competing in Traditional Pom is every bit as much a challenge for established coaches and athletes, it is useful to get focused feedback and you will definitely see the benefits in Freestyle Pom.

I would love to see teams both in university and Allstar circuits that attend BCA to give this division a go. I would also love to see ICE and Cheer City, traditionally competitions friendlier to grassroots teams, to add this division in and advertise it.

Can you get a worlds bid with Traditional Pom?

As ISASF does not offer this as a division, you cannot currently get a worlds bid when competing in Traditional Pom. Pom bids offered by EPs are going to go to the “Pom” (Freestyle Pom style) category.

We are delighted that a couple of teams in Scotland spoke to us about their experience with Traditional Pom/Cheer Dance. Scotland is currently the strongest country in the British Isles for Pom, their teams consistently placing the highest at worlds and getting the biggest % of Pom bids and perhaps their understanding of divisions such as Cheer Dance is why. Scottish teams are generally lauded for their performance, visuals and strong and consistent Pom technique, many of them entering this division in addition to Freestyle Pom/Pom.

Leanne Wrench

is the programme owner of Silver Spirit Cheer and Dance in Helensburgh, and was also recently announced as one of the Scottish National Coaches for 2020-21 for Adaptive Abilities Pom. SSCD frequently has successful athletes audition for various divisions of the Scottish National Teams.

Karen King

is the programme owner of Blast Cheer and Dance in Glasgow. Blast was formed in 2005 and is part of Blast Dance Academy.  They have won many first place trophies over the years but Cheer Dance/Traditional Pom has been where they shine with their senior team in particular being undefeated in many years.  Karen’s background is in dance and have qualifications in tap, modern, Pom, jazz, hip hop and cheer.  Her biggest achievement in Allstar dance has been competing at US Finals in Virginia and coming first place.

1. When did you start competing in this division?

Leanne: We began in the cheer dance section around 5 years ago (2016).

Karen: We started competing in cheer dance around 2011.

2. Why do you choose to compete in this division in addition to/instead of Freestyle Pom?

Leanne: We chose cheer dance instead of Pom as we were a beginner team and found cheer dance more suitable to the beginners we had at the time. As we grew as a team, even those who crossed over from Pom say they have MUCH more fun in the traditional section as there is no technique it is much less pressure.

Karen: When we originally started competing back in 2005 there was only one division and this was Pom.  Pom at that time was nothing like it is now and although there were technical elements like pirouettes, you rarely saw fouettes and advanced turn sequences. As the years went by, Pom became much more technical and as a team we were strong in motions and jumps but had some way to go with our dance technicals. When we first saw cheer dance at Scotcheer we realised that this was the division to better show off our skills.

3. What elements did you notice vastly improved in your dancers by competing in this division?

Leanne: In general our team seem to adapt much better to fast-paced choreography and formation changes, our dancers became much sharper and much more keen to work as a ‘larger’ team.

Karen: Without the pressure of adding technical skills, we were able to spend more time focusing on other areas of the score sheet. Our Cheer Dance teams are generally sharper with more strength behind their motions than some of our Pom teams. Any of our athletes who started off in a cheer dance team before moving into a Pom team has the advantage of going in with strong jumps and motions already under their belt.From a coach point of view, it has made me stronger at creating levels and formations.

4. Best advice to be competitive in this division?

Leanne: My best advice would be to create choreography that the athletes enjoy, the more enjoyable it is for them to perform the more enjoyable it is to watch. Keep it clean but visual and to learn as you go.

Karen: It’s important to have fun with choreography. If the music and choreography is fun then the athletes can really get into it. Just because there isn’t technical skills doesn’t mean it can’t be entertaining. Show off your best skills!  

5. With more EPs introducing it, what else do you think is needed to help grow this division?

Leanne: More teams entering the division is all we can hope for. We’re delighted BCA are catering for the division to English competitions too!

Karen: There just needs to be more awareness of the division and what it looks like since this division has only really existed in Scotland until now. Cheer dance can be extremely entertaining and impressive to watch and a great division to dance in. I would be happy to chat to any coaches who were looking for more information or clarification on how to create a team for this division.

What do you think about traditional pom? Do you have any questions about it? Message us at @cheerfromheadtotoeuk

Written by CFHTT Dance writer Emma

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Hope is on the Horizon

Knowing a lot of our viewers are university students, I wanted to write about something in line with
University Mental Health Day, which was Thursday 4th March.
In this month’s blog post, I wanted to explore some wellbeing tips of mine. I know we’ve already
ridden the highs and lows of the Corona-coaster, and whilst there is hope upon the horizon, these
last few weeks and months may feel harder. You’re know that last week of the month before
payday? Those moments where you’re literally looking for pennies under the sofa to get through
each day until you feel like you hit the jackpot when you pay rolls in? I’m guessing that’s exactly how
these next few months will feel. Except it’s not a week, it’s several.
Come rain or shine, the summer is looking fabulous. Whether the magical June 21 st fairy is able to
wave covid away or not. Naturally infection rates reduce in the warmer months. With the added
bonus of the roll out of the vaccines, infection rates should start dropping rapidly – so long as we’re
still following guidelines. With that end goal in sight, it’s important we start preparing ourselves to
go back out into the wild. It was a huge shock to go into lockdown initially. As I’ve always said, one of
the greatest strengths of humans is that we are adaptable. And to some degree, we’ve adapted
pretty well to lockdown measures. To prevent another shock to the system come the summer
months, I want to share some tips on how we can remain positive and utilise these next few months
to prepare ourselves.

Prep


Whether this is cheer prep, meal prep, fitness prep, packing prep, etc.; preparation is key! I will
never forget the quote that was written above my high school’s changing room corridor:
“The failure to prepare is preparing to fail”
Now I am someone who goes completely overboard when it comes to preparation. I’m not expecting
you to be as precise as me, but I’ll tell you why I plan every little detail. Each day we only have the
capacity to make a certain amount of decisions before we start experiencing that decision-making-
burnout. That number will be different to each individual. If we just think about the most basic
decisions: deciding what outfit to wear, what socks to wear, what we’ll have for breakfast, lunch and
tea. That is already five decisions before I’ve even gone about my day. Making those decisions ahead
of time saves me using up my decisions on little things like clothing and meals.
Initially this level of planning took a long while. Now it takes less than five minutes as I’ll just have
the month on repeat. That way it’s not even all that repetitive. Again, you don’t have to be as precise
as me, but incorporating little things like this will help relieve day-to-day stress. It is also a great help
if you can be forgetful. Something as simple as planning your meals for the week will also help you
spend less on your weekly shop and waste less food also. It’s a win win!

Goals

Something that goes hand in hand with preparation is goal setting. Now I’m not going to sit here and
teach you how to suck eggs, don’t worry. Setting goals provides you with a timeline and helps keep
you motivated when you can see your results before you’ve even reached your end target. The key
there is setting mini goals.

For example, if you want to get your needle, we know you should probably start with your splits
each side, bridge work and shoulder flexibility. Already there are several goals you can hit along the
way to make yourself feel better before you’ve grabbed that needle.
The same with any kind of flexibility, tumbling, strength and conditioning, cardio and even things like
tidying up. Of course, I’m a sucker for a list. So something as trivial as tidying my flat, I’ll have a list
for each room. E.g. put clothes wash on, hang clothes up to dry, fold and put away clothes, tidy the
floor, hoover and mop. Sometimes those six mini goals feel a little less daunting than “tidy
bedroom”. It’s the same with anything. Ticking off those mini goals will help keep you motivated and
give you the feeling of accomplishment.

Routine

Over the past year I’ve noticed how integral a routine is to my wellbeing. I know just how difficult it
is to wake up each day when you don’t have school or work to get up for. If you don’t want to be hit
with the shock of early mornings come the summer months, I’d advice tweaking your routine now.
Think of it this way, our cheer routines are set routines for a reason. If your team did a free-for-all
for two and a half minutes, the judges wouldn’t know where to look and it would not do for easy
viewing. Be your own cheer coach; organise your daily routine with what works for you. At the top of
the scoresheet is motivation, life satisfaction and happiness. Keep them in mind during your
planning process!

Self-Care

A common misconception is that self-care is all about “me time” which includes face masks, bubble
baths and spa days. I’m not saying that spa days aren’t an integral part of my wellbeing – and if I had
more money, they’d definitely be a regular thing, but I digress. Myself and Caroline touched on this
topic during our Instagram Live which you can now catch as an IGTV on the Cheer From Head to Toe
Instagram. Self-care is so much more than the lotions and potions located in your bathroom. Self-
care is sometimes about doing the tasks we don’t enjoy. For me those include washing my hair,
cleaning the bathroom and washing out my water bottle (why do they make water bottles so
difficult to clean?). As much as it drains my energy, if I don’t do the above, it’ll be detrimental to my
health.
Also, in my self-care routine is exercise. Physical activity is imperative for our wellbeing for a huge
number of reasons. Sometimes I’m so keen to get moving. Other times, not so much. Whether it’s
your cheer session, a HIIT session, yoga or a run; stick it in your routine and do it no matter what.
Worst case scenario is that you will only do a short five-minute burst. That’s five minutes more than
you would have done if you’d have stayed in bed. Usually, once you’re up and moving, you’ll want to
carry on anyway.
Next time you sit down to do goal setting and routine planning, think about both the fun and the
not-so-fun self-care tasks. And make sure you plan something enjoyable and motivating either side
of the tasks that you feel may suck the life out of you. Expecto Patronum those dementors away!

Self-maintenance

I debated putting this in. For so many years I had my head stuck in the sand when it came to self-
maintenance. I didn’t think it was important at all and thought it was just for those people who
loved themselves. And I want you to just think about that for a second. When we say someone
“loves themselves”, it’s often used as an insult. Often it comes from a place of jealously. In reality,
we should all love ourselves! We should love every part of our mind and body, inside and out. It’s
not a crime to feel good in your body or wear the clothes you feel comfortable in. So work on that
skincare routine, go through your wardrobe, update your underwear drawer to some that actually fit
you and fit you well. Learn how to manage your hair. Make sure your wearing the correct size shoes.
Put up some decorations or pictures that remind you of the good times. We need to get rid of this
stiff upper lip mentality if we want to truly embrace positive wellbeing.

Social Support


Lastly is social support. Whether it’s talking to friends about your day, colleagues about post-covid
plans, or close family about the tough day you’ve had; don’t play the martyr. You can’t pour from an
empty cup, so you can’t expect to be there for everyone without allowing people to be there for
you. If you need a chat but don’t feel like anyone in your life is able to provide the level of support
you need, there are organisations set up to help people in situations just like that. There are so many
helplines out there (telephone, email, online chat and text) that I couldn’t write an exhaustive list as
there is such a huge variety of needs. If there’s a specific topic or organisation you are looking for,
drop us a message on our socials. We’ll be sure to signpost you to the most appropriate
organisation. Failing that, speak to your GP if you feel you would benefit from long-term support, or
to signpost you to local support services.
Before I sign off, I just want to add that you don’t have to be proactive every minute of every day.
There will be days where your routine does not go to plan. We’ve all been in those positions where
you have all the will in the world to keep that stunt in the air, but it still falls to the ground. What do
you do in that situation? You get back up and give it your all. One blip does not determine the end
result. Keep pushing and we’ll be there before you know it!
That’s all from me, take care,

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Breaking News:Worlds move to September so international team can attend.

On Wednesday 17 of February 2021 it was announced yesterday on IASF group that Worlds will be moved to September so international team may attend.

Below is the official statement released.

This statement was releases by IASF Secretary General Les Stella, who also just announced that he will be leaving his role.

” Update: 2021 IASF Worlds ChampionshipsWith the goal of making some level of participation available for our athletes worldwide, the IASF has been working to secure dates sometime in September 2021 for its annual Worlds Championship in Orlando. In the event that travel continues to be impacted due to Covid 19, the IASF is considering a virtual 2021 IASF Worlds Championship option as well. We are also not ruling out some type of hybrid format that allows for both in-person and virtual categories. We hope to have the dates finalized within the next two weeks and will post this information as soon as we know it.Teams that are eligible to participate in the International divisions for Cheer and Junior and Open divisions for Dance in the USASF Competition this May will also be able to participate in the IASF Worlds Championship this September. • The IASF will also honor all bids for teams who earned bids to either the 2020 or 2021 Cheer and Dance Worlds. • The only teams that are not required to receive a bid are Level 7 teams. All Level 7 teams are welcome to attend (including Level 7 teams in the U.S.) • The IASF substitute rules and regulations will not be enforced for the IASF Worlds Championship in the Fall of 2021.Lastly, the traditional bid distribution model will be used to determine which teams qualify for the 2022 IASF Worlds Championship and the IASF plans to return the IASF Worlds Championship to the customary date of late April in 2022.”

Photo by Anna Shvets on Pexels.com

It is great to see IASF making a path way for international teams to compete but if we can’t train it doesn’t matter, I’m not getting to excited yet.

What are your thoughts comment below

until next guys

Delightfully Dyslexic

Caroline

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