It’s Cervical Cancer Prevention Week

It’s Cervical Cancer Prevention Week and 1 in 3 women still see cervical screening as a taboo topic.
CFHTT family member Rachel shares her story as Her self and a lot of my friends are now “of age” for a cervical screening invitation.
” When I was 23 I was referred for an early smear test due to my symptomatic abnormalities. I was so scared. No one talks about cervical screenings, so the fact I had to go for an early one filled me with so much fear. The doctors, nurses and Health Care Assistants were SO helpful in calming my nerves, answering my questions and making me feel as comfortable as possible. The actual smear was completely pain-free. Luckily I didn’t have HPV but was monitored with regular biopsies for about a year due to my abnormal cells. The biopsies are considerably more uncomfortable than a smear test, but nothing in comparison to what I may have had to endure later on if I didn’t have these early observations. Two years later and my cells are back to normal! I dread to think how things could have escalated if I had waited until I’d had the invitation, or even worse, if I hadn’t have gone at all. I’m so lucky to be in the position I am now. I thought having the HPV jab at school would have avoided all this, and that’s what confused me most of all. I was told that the HPV vaccination I had (which was the first lot given), doesn’t vaccinate against all forms of HPV. Whilst HPV is the leading cause of cervical cancer, even if you had the “good” HPV vaccine, it’s still so important to go to your smears – I didn’t have HPV but still had abnormal cells. I’m so lucky that I listened to my body, and I put my health before the fear or embarrassment of attending a smear test.

If you have a cervix, get informed! If you think something’s not right, or you’re due to go for a cervical screening yourself, GET IT BOOKED. It could save your life! If you’re able to, join me in the #smearforsmear for #cervicalcancerpreventionweek

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Allstar Dance’s Triple Crown: Louise Durrant

We’d like to introduce you to Louise.

Performing at worlds with Cheerforce Ladies of Ten

Louise Durrant is the only dancer to date to hold the triple crown of being accepted onto Team England Pom, Jazz and Hip Hop. She was one of the original members of the first ever unified England Pom team in 2016, competing with them at Europeans in 2016 and ICU worlds in 2017 and 2018, before being accepted onto the first unified Team England Jazz team, competing at worlds in 2019. 2020 was supposed to be the year she made her debut with Team England Hip Hop. Louise was also one of the coaches behind the Team England Adaptive Abilities Hip Hop gold medals at ICU in 2018 and 2019, and tin 2018 was one of the dancers on the team that won Cheerforce Ladies of Ten their first IASF Pom bid, all while remaining as a coach and teacher at her original team and school, The Cheerleading Academy (High Wycombe) and ESPA.

We speak to her about her training, her memories, tryouts for Team England and her plans for the future.

1. What is your dance background?

I started dancing when I was about 6 years old doing disco freestyle, modern and hip hop in my teenage years. When I was 18, I went to The Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts to do a foundation course in dance and then went on to Masters Performing Arts college to continue training. I’ve always been really interested in hip hop and started training locking in some of the clubs in Liverpool and a little while after graduating I started training and performing with an all female hip hop collective called Myself UK in London. I currently dance with JME Dance Company who are based in Nottingham and train mainly in waacking, vogue, hip hop and jazz funk. I actually really love training in new styles and will throw myself into anything, so over the years have dabbled in many different styles haha. 

2. What teams were you involved with before, during and after Team England?

Before Team England I was dancing and coaching with The Cheerleading Academy – High Wycombe. Since then I’ve also competed with Cheerforce Ladies of Ten and competed at Europeans with Bath Spa University. 

3. How did you hear about Team England?

Through my friend Alice Robinson who was the Head Coach of TCA High Wycombe at the time. Looking back, I was so clueless about Pom when I went to tryouts. I often joke about doing a baby freeze in my audition haha, but I learnt so much from that first tryout. 

4. What do you remember most about your first worlds?

Being overwhelmed and nervous haha. I hadn’t actually been a part of the cheer world for long and I didn’t really know much about Worlds. I found the whole experience so different from anything I had ever done before, but at the same time it was so exciting! I was amazed by the amount of talent I saw over the week and came away feeling so inspired and determined to be better and come back stronger. 

Performing at ICU worlds with the first unified Team England pom

5. Can you give us a brief overview of what the audition process was like for Pom, Jazz and Hip Hop?

The pom audition was a full day audition with two rounds and they had a recall for the afternoon. The first round of the Pom audition covered kicks, leaps, jumps, pirouettes, motion drills and they also asked us to choreograph our own pom choreography with specific skills included. This was performed one at a time in front of a panel. The second round covered the same skills, but in more detail and we were asked to try some more advanced pirouette and a la seconde sequences, as well as set Pom choreography.

For the jazz audition we had the option to either attend the audition day or submit a video if we weren’t able to make the audition day. I submitted a video submission where we were asked to show specific skills and learn set choreography to perform back on camera. I enjoyed submitting a video audition, however it was quite a challenge learning the choreography from a video and performing it on your own in a studio to a camera rather than a panel. I think sometimes you have to work harder in a video audition to really show off your personality and performance when you a submitting a video audition and you don’t always get the same buzz that you would feed off in an in person audition. 

The hip hop audition was actually run like a workshop day. We started the day focusing on various different styles and foundations (house, breaking, locking etc) and then went on to learn a routine and perform it back in groups. 

Each audition was very much run like a workshop day and I learnt so much in each one. It took about a week for each team to find out whether we’d made the team or not. Usually each team will offer you feedback if you request feedback, so don’t ever be afraid to ask. It’s always good to know what you need to work on and shows that you are wanting to work hard and improve. 

6. What challenges have you faced when training for worlds? (other than COVID!)

Haha we’ll skip past covid! I think one of the big challenges for me ( was fitness… the older I get the longer my body takes to recover from training. Also the travelling can be tiring and a lot, but well worth it! 

7. What advice would you give for someone who wanted to try out for Team England?

Just GO FOR IT!!! Honestly, you just never know what will happen! Make sure you look at the list of skills they require you to have to be on the team and work on making them as strong as you can for the audition (this shows that you are willing to work hard, push yourself and have a lot of determination). 

Don’t think of the audition day as a tryout, but as a workshop day instead, that way it will take the pressure off and you are allowing yourself to learn and absorb all of the knowledge given to you on the day. If you get a place amazing and if not you have then learnt lots of new drills and skills to work on for auditions the year after. 

If being on a Team England team is something you really want then don’t give up. Keep trying out, practicing and working hard until it happens for you! 

Being crown World Champion in what was then called Para Hip Hop with Team England.

8. Can you recommend key skills to master before trying out for each Team England Dance team?

For pom and jazz it is really important that you have strong a la seconde turns, pirouettes, jumps and leaps. Pom requires really strong and sharp motion technique so work on strengthening those arms and I would say that jazz requires really strong artistry, musicality and performance.

For hip hop they have a list of tricks that they like you to be able to do including a headspring, resurrection and kip up. Their audition also includes a focus on styles including locking, house and breaking, so having an understanding of the foundations of each style would also really help. 

9. What is your proudest moment?

This is a really hard question haha, I don’t really ever think of being proud….I’m always like ‘right, what can I do now’ haha. I think one moment I remember being proud of myself was when I competed at Worlds as Dance Captain with TE Jazz. I remember really struggling with training that year and constantly telling myself I wasn’t good enough to be on the team, so being able to compete as DC and the team getting through to finals in 6th place made me really proud that I’d pushed past my insecurities and made it to Worlds with such an amazing and talented team. 

Another moment would be coaching Adaptive Abilities Hip Hop and watching them win gold after they had trained so hard for months. 

Team England Jazz uniform.

10. What different challenges do you face in coaching compared to being an athlete?

I love coaching! I really enjoy watching athletes determination and grit and love seeing them realise their potential. In coaching I would say the main challenges come when you have changes to the team line up and have to rework choreography and formations. For TE coaches they also have the responsibility of finding sponsors and organising the trip to Worlds. The hard work finding sponsors is worth it though, we’ve been lucky to work with loads of amazing sponsors such as Stateside UK, Ace Custom Prints and Lady Sparkle Designs.

11. What else would you love to achieve?

I would just really love to make it onto the Worlds floor with TE Hip Hop haha. It has been such a challenging year for teams all around the world and I have so much admiration for every single coach and athlete who has struggled through last year. It’s not been easy, but we’ve all worked hard to push through and continue training over zoom. I just really hope that we can get out to Worlds or onto the mat and show everyone how hard we have all continued to train. I would also love to focus more time on coaching for TE. Although I have coached before, I’ve always been competing for another team at the same time and so haven’t really experienced the full coaching journey at Worlds. Every coach I have had on TE has been absolutely incredible and I have learnt so much from them. I would love the opportunity to work with them and learn from the way they coach and encourage their athletes. They are a huge inspiration to me. 

photo by @htoymedia

We absolutely loved talking to Louise about her experiences. Who are your Allstar Dance inspirations? Send us a message @cheerfromheadtotoeuk on Instagram.

Watch our Team England pom documentary and see Louise in action on Team England Pom.

Written by Emma

I’m Emma and I am delighted to be writing up some more dance content for Cheer From Head to Toe. I was introduced to this world in 2010 when my school started up a Pom team which I was never on but I really loved watching them. I started Performance Cheer in 2012 at university at UEA and fell in love with it, working very hard to learn everything I could. I went from a reserve in my first year to eventually president of cheerleading dance in my final year. On graduating and moving to London, I felt I still had more to learn and achieve so I joined the Sparks Allstars Pom, Jazz and Lyrical teams in 2016 and have been very happy there ever since. I have competed in Pom, Jazz and Lyrical over the last seven years (I wish I was cool enough for hip hop – it might happen yet!). I’m a marketer for financial services businesses in the City of London, where I live with my Scottish boyfriend, and my cats.

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CHEER QUIZ 2020 Questions and Answers

What is the person called who is on the top of stunts?

Answer: Flyer

What is the stunt called where bases’ interlocked hands and is thrown?

 Answer: Basket

How long is a typical all-star cheerleading routine?

 Answer :2.30

Which teams auditions for  on Britain Got talent

 Answers: Goldstar Galaxy, Coventry dyminate and  Leeds Celtics Cheerleaders

In what year was Cheer From head to toe started

 Answer: 2011

Where is Rebellion Allstar base

 Answer Cardiff wales.

What does CFHTT stand for?

Answer: Cheer From Head To Toe

How many divisions were there at the first Cheerleading Worlds in 2004?

 Answer: Cheerleading Worlds 2004 – senior all girl and senior coed.

What is the name of the owners of Legacy Cheer and Dance

Answer: Aly & Andrea

This division is called Adaptive abilities what did it used to be called

Answer: ParaCheer.

Who is the Event provider who runs Flight School Coaches Conference every year.

Answer:  Future Cheer

In 2019 Strike Force Cheer had and all girl team that attend worlds what was their name

Answer:  Lady Mafia

Who is the governing body for  Irish Cheerleading?

Answer: Cheer Sport Ireland (CSI)

What was the first team Unity Allstars created?

 Answer :Unity Black.

What year was Phoenix Allstars established?

 Answers :2007

Guess the uniform

1 Rain Allstars

2 MCKA Cheer and Dance

3 Bournemouth Elite

4 St Marys Scorpion

What are the Mayne colours of Mayne Allstars

 Answer: Gold and Black

What does RSD stand for?

 Answer Richards school of dance

What is the Ascension Eagles gym Known as?

 Answer: Talent central.

Guess the uniform

1 Leeds Dynamite

2 RSD Gymnastics Dance and Cheer

3 Cheer Force ten

4 JC Glitter White

Who was the first adaptive abilities (Paracheer) team to compete at BCA?

 Answers :Phoenix Allstars

What is the theme to  Wolverines team names?

Answer :They are all linked to the Xmen comics

In what year did Wolverine storm win The Summit.

Answer: 2019

Guess uniform

Answer :Oxford Brookes

Name the team who are BACK TO BACK SUMMIT WORLD CHAMPIONS AND 2X NCA CHAMPIONS!

Answer: Zodiac Allstars

How did you do comment below ?

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Thank goodness the end of 2020 is here. Can we please see the terms and conditions before entering 2021?

It’s quite easy to point out the negatives of 2020. Rightly so, we’ve lost so many lives, our freedom and to a degree, our sport also. But it’s not all bad, it never is. Remember when there were dolphins in the canals of Venice, Captain Tom raised over £30million for the NHS, how our communities came together to clap for our NHS each Thursday evening, remember the “Tiger King” phenomenon, how loungewear became a staple in our wardrobes, the likes of Ford, Tesla and other automakers made  ventilators and other medical devices to help with the pandemic, the creatives among us created facemasks and related accessories for our NHS staff, keyworkers and care home residents? Amongst all the chaos and heartbreak, there are positives. In times when everything seems so dark and bleak, we need to shift our focus not only on the good in the world, but also what we can control. For most of us, we can’t control the virus and how it affects the UK. But we can control our behaviours to limit the chance of it affecting ourselves and our loved ones, we can control our actions and follow the rules, we can control how we speak to others and brighten their days. We don’t have to think so big all the time, remember charity starts at home.

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

It’s the holiday season. December is supposed to be the month of spreading joy and celebration. Whether you celebrate Christmas or not, there’s no getting away from the Christmas lights around town, the carols and Christmas songs on the radio, the Secret Santas and gift giving. It’s a great way to end a miserable year. But Christmas isn’t a jolly time for everyone. The cold air and dark nights aren’t everyone’s cup of tea. Throughout the pandemic, we’ve seen just how damaging a lack of routine can be to our mental health, and how home isn’t a safe space for everyone. That, on top of struggles people can have from the food we’re told we must eat at Christmas, and how, for many, this may be the first Christmas without certain loved ones. Before shouting “bah humbug” or calling someone a “Grinch” for not being so jolly, take a second to realise there is more than just meets the surface. Support that person and sprinkle them with your own Christmas joy.

If this time of year is triggering to you, or if you’re just not feeling Christmassy this year, there are a number of things to remember:

And finally, remember that whatever your Christmas looks like, however you are feeling during the holidays, you are NOT alone, and there are people to help.

Instead of a wellbeing activity this month, I’m going to share a number of Helplines that are working throughout the holidays.

Papyrus:

For people under 35 experiencing thoughts of suicide, and those supporting them

Call: 0800 068 4141

Text: 07860 039 967

Email: pat@papyrus-uk.org

www.papyrus.org.uk

Samaritans:

24/7 listening service.

Call: 116 123

Email: jo@samaritans.org

www.samaritans.org

Childline:

A listening service for anyone aged under 19. Trained counsellors are ready to listen to any of your concerns or worries, 24/7.

Call: 0800 11 11

Online chat feature.

www.childline.org.uk

Silverline:

Providing information, friendship and advice to older people, 24/7

Call: 0800 4 70 80 90

www.thesilverline.org.uk

NSPCC:

When you’re concerned for a child or what happened to you as a child.

Call: 0808 800 5000

Email: help@nspcc.org.uk

Online webform

www.nspcc.org.uk

Shout:

Confidential 24/7 text support service for those struggling to cope and need mental health advice, help and support.

Text: 85258

www.giveusashout.org

If all else fails, here are some funny Christmas videos to bring a smile to your face!

Skip to 50seconds for LOLs

And a funny dog video for good measure:

On behalf of everyone at Cheer From Head to Toe, we wish you a safe and joyous Christmas and a wonderful New Year. Upside-Down-Time will be back in the new year with some upcoming interviews so stay tuned for those. Continue to tag us in your images and videos so we can feature them online.

Take care,

Rachel

Written by Rachel

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From Budget to expensive dance footwear that will perform all season.

Looking for your next pom, jazz or lyrical shoes? Look no further, we have a range of recommendations for you, plus we give you links to find more inclusive dance shoes for more skin tones, and vegan shoes. CFHTT Dance Writer Emma has had seven years of testing many out and she gives you a list of her favourites, from cheap too expensive dance footwear that will perform all season.

My favourite dance shoes (Pom, Lyrical and Jazz)

I’m Emma and I am delighted to be writing up some more dance content for Cheer From Head to Toe. I was introduced to this world in 2010 when my school started up a Pom team which I was never on but I really loved watching them. I started Performance Cheer in 2012 at university at UEA and fell in love with it, working very hard to learn everything I could. I went from a reserve in my first year to eventually president of cheerleading dance in my final year. On graduating and moving to London, I felt I still had more to learn and achieve so I joined the Sparks Allstars Pom, Jazz and Lyrical teams in 2016 and have been very happy there ever since. I have competed in Pom, Jazz and Lyrical over the last seven years (I wish I was cool enough for hip hop – it might happen yet!).

I’m a marketer for financial services businesses in the City of London, where I live with my Scottish boyfriend, and my cats.

I’m lucky enough to live in London (in case you couldn’t tell by the intro) which means every time I buy new shoes, it’s down to the dance shops in Covent Garden I go to wear, try and judge alllll of them – I am very lucky. In non COVID times anyway. I’ve metaphorically kissed a few frogs over the years and found my perfect dance shoes. Make sure to also check these shoes out on www.dancewearcentral.co.uk or www.dancewearsolutions.com as they can often come up cheaper and I would always recommend bulk ordering for a team if you can because you can sometimes get deals. Worth noting dance shoes tend to come up small. I am normally a ladies shoe size 3, but I wear a 5 or 5.5 when wearing dance shoes.

Bloch Pulse Leather Jazz Shoes

£44 (But make sure to check the websites mentioned above!)

Black and Tan. I’ve had this shoe for three years for jazz and lyrical and I love them so much. Perfectly moulded to your foot, supports my arches well and never budged – just feels like it’s part of my foot. They worked perfectly for me on floorings at Legacy and Future Cheer, BCA I remember the soles feeling a tiny bit on the slippy side compared to my pom shoes but nothing I couldn’t control. The lack of a heel means it wouldn’t be my shoe of choice for Pom (this has no solid heel and I personally like having a little more support under my heel in Pom) but the lack of a heel actually really helps with accentuating lines.

Bloch Neo Flex slip on leather dance shoe

Bloch Neo Flex slip on leather dance shoe

£34 (but cheaper on Move Dancewear! Capezio and So Danca also have similar styles to the Neo Flex but I own the Bloch one)

Black and Tan. These were my previous shoes for Pom, and I was not looking to replace them as I really liked them. Sturdy, flexible, versatile – Maintained a decent sole grip for two years – perhaps too good. While it was the perfect shoe for turning at BCA and Legacy, I found the shoe stuck a little on Future Cheer floors and meant I needed slightly more power than I did in the Pulse shoes to get round for extended turn sequences. Another very slight minus is that this shoe I have sometimes found to slip during any hyperextended jumps over 90o from the floor or when I went into box split. This could be because I have tiny feet? Largely though these were really amazing shoes.

Bloch Ladies Elasta Jazz Bouties

between £22-£50.14

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Bloch-Womens-Elasta-Jazz-Shoe/dp/B0041IXIME?th=1

Black. I discovered these a year ago and not to be dramatic but my life has been forever changed. It’s everything I love about the Neo Flex but the side elastic design makes the fit to the foot snugger and the minor hiccups I was having of the shoe slipping in box splits or jumps are no longer are an issue. This is my current Pom shoe and to be honest don’t think I’ll change any time soon! I only don’t have it for our lyrical team as it only comes in black. I’ve only competed on a Legacy floor with this so far (thanks COVID) so looking forward to see how it fares with the other floors! Please note this style is missing on some websites at present – I think they might currently be sold out.

Capezio Split Sole Jazz Shoe

Normally £38 on the date article is written the shoe are currently £7.20.

https://www.capezioeurope.com/split-sole-jazz-shoe

Black and Tan. I tend to choose to not have laces for convenience when dancing these days, but if you like to have laces on your dance shoes, this was the staple shoe I grew up with. I tried many lace ups before settling for this Capezio pair which had sturdy strings that wouldn’t wear over time, I like that the back doesn’t go too high on the heel – lessens chances of rubbing or irritating when pointing your toes which I found was a constant problem with other lace up styles as I was growing up.

Move Full Sole Leather Ballet Shoe

£7.50

https://www.movedancewear.com/move-dance-full-sole-leather-ballet-shoe-pink-p2614/

Black and Tan. When I was at uni, I wouldn’t have dreamed to have the more expensive dance shoes I have now. My third year of uni pom, I had a pair of ones super similar to these after a couple of years of a cheap badly made ballet shoe that fell apart after competing in them twice. I can’t prove they’re the same as the ones I have as the tag on mine has rubbed off from overuse but it looks identical and Move are a good maker of shoe! I used to compete at ICC and BCA with these (admittedly before BCA had a non-sprung dance floor) and they worked well – just make sure to wear dance tights or socks to cover the gap over the foot so you have a nice uninterrupted line!

I don’t personally use half-shoes, Turners or Footundeez, but there’s a really good selection on the Capezio and So Danca websites. There’s a lot of dancers who swear by these but I much prefer shoes! www.capezio.com www.sodanca.com if you want to have a nosy.

Looking for different skin tones?

Looking for different skin tones?

The dance industry as a whole is slow in evolving their shoe range for a variety of skin colours and to be honest the market is still lacking in many options. Please let me know if you’ve seen more elsewhere so I can update this article! While I haven’t personally tried any of these shoes, I’ve put together a list of more inclusive brands! Shout out to my friend Laura who is a pretty accurate walking dictionary when it comes to just about anything for helping me research this.

Jazz shoes beyond “tan” and “black” are pretty much impossible to get in the U.K. BUT we can order some from the US, and this beautiful Balera Slip on is $18.99 at the time of writing and comes in three different colours:

https://www.dancewearsolutions.com/shoes/jazz/b80.aspx?position=0

Ballet shoes, you have a little more choice and are stocked in the U.K. These £19 Bloch Canvas ballet shoes for instance: https://uk.blochworld.com/collections/adults-dance-shoes-ballet/products/ladies-performa-stretch-canvas-ballet-shoes-white-canvas

but the award for best variety of shades goes to Freed, who have a couple of different choices and a choice of satin or leather: https://www.freedoflondon.com/aspire-ballet-shoe-now-available-in-ballet-brown-and-ballet-bronze/ PLUS they also stock different skin colour dance socks and tights.

You can buy them here, currently on sale for £12.15: https://www.adancersworld.co.uk/freed-aspire-brown-satin-full-sole-ballet-shoe—medium-or-wide-fitting-31268-p.asp?_=&variantid=31315&gclid=CjwKCAiA_Kz-BRAJEiwAhJNY72751WrfR6_fRAskS4qZlXd9ivkPYSZAyVTK7hj16vRa3t4dtURt2hoCcbIQAvD_BwE.

Generally, though, there is a gap in the market here to do a greater variety of skin tones so if any businesses were interested in stepping in, let us know, we would be happy to support you.

Want Vegan Ballet shoes?

Yes they’re a thing and they look beautiful. Have a look at this selection on Dance Direct: https://www.dancedirect.com/dance-shoes/ballet-shoes/vegan-ballet-shoes

Hope this is helpful, remember these are my preferences over what I have tried over my lifetime for my feet: I have really tiny feet and what might work for me might not work for you! I’d recommend trying them on if at all possible, but definitely give the above a try! Disclaimer prices are correct at the time of writing.

Written by Emma

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Coaching adaptive abilities -an insight

As the sport of cheerleading progresses many teams are looking at what teams they offer and whether they have the opportunity to begin accommodating for Adaptive Abilities Athletes. I talked previously in my article on Adaptive Abilities Cheer about the opportunities for Athletes to get involved and join already established teams, but what about those programmes who are interested in starting an Adaptive Abilities team and don’t know where to start?

Phoenix Allstars

Speaking on behalf of Phoenix Allstars who currently have an Adaptive Abilities Level 1 team, the decision to introduce an inclusive Adaptive Abilities team was not a deliberate one. At the start of the 18-19 season an adult cheer for fun class was introduced with the possibility of developing into a Masters competitive team. While some work had been done to consider the option of an Adaptive Abilities team and some training was completed to facilitate this, the move to an AA team was only made once athletes contacted to see if Phoenix Allstars had a place for them. As a programme we look to be as inclusive as possible for all athletes, and embraced the opportunity to introduce an AA aspect to our competitive teams.

There are a number of areas to consider when introducing an Adaptive Abilities team. I talked directly to Rick Rodgers at ParaCheer International to gain an understanding of the most important things to consider. The first piece of advice was to look at the venue itself and ensure it is accessible to all individuals with additional needs. There are a number of resources available on www.paracheer.org to assist with this, but ultimately individual risk assessments need to be carried out per venue used. For Phoenix Allstars, we have a number of athletes using wheelchairs so we had to ensure our venue allowed them to access and exit the venue safely, as well as ensuring we have accessible parking options.

Team England Adaptive Abilities 3x World champion.

The next area to consider is providing any additional safeguarding practices for athletes. This may involve updating all policies for the programme to focus on inclusivity and extra safety concerns. Some insurance policies require coaches to complete additional qualifications to be completed, so always worth looking into this too. Cheerleading specifically do not yet have any specific qualifications for Adaptive Abilities, but there are a number of workshops and courses available to support coaches in their understanding of inclusive practice. Disabilitysportscoach.co.uk among others also provide an Elearning course focusing on Disability awareness in sport that may be beneficial to coaches working towards an Adaptive Abilities team.

Ultimately I have found that coaching Adaptive Abilities (as well as coaching All Star Teams in general) needs to be predominantly Athlete led. Athletes are aware of their own needs and are best placed to advise on any extra help/allowances they may need to train and compete safely and effectively. It is also worth including their healthcare professional in these decisions. While overarching policies are always useful, it is important to realise that every athlete is different and may need different adaptations depending on their condition or needs.

Once an Adaptive Abilities team has been introduced, the next thing to consider is routine choreography! Again there are a number of resources available on www.paracheer.org to assist with this, but ultimately the decisions need to be made based on the athletes. It is important to ensure all athletes are included in the best way possible to create a strong routine, while also taking into account any additional needs. Ultimately, as long as everything is safe and legal there is a great opportunity available to create creative stunt sections that allow all athletes to be involved. For example, Phoenix Allstars were struggling with height differences between standing and seated bases. To overcome this, the standing athletes often complete sequences kneeling to accommodate.

Gloucestershire Cheerleading Academy

My biggest piece of advice when coaching an Adaptive Abilities team is to embrace the opportunities and learn as much as possible. In a constantly evolving and changing sport such as Cheerleading new resources and opportunities are appearing every day, and the more the community embraces Adaptive Abilities the more this area of the sport can continue to grow.

Written by Molly

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We need to see my representation of Afro hair in the Cheer community

We are changed by what we see. Just as we are changed when we are seen.
Natural curly and Afro-textured hair is rarely ever seen in the cheer industry social media, let alone cheer brands. To many, this may seem unimportant but trust me when I say, I have had many chats and messages from athletes, coaches, and parents whose athletes have non-straight hair, who feel like they don’t belong or need to change themselves to fit in.
The lack of representation can be detrimental to these athlete’s mental health and may cause a self-hatred that can take years to heal. Please remember you are beautiful. Your hair that grows out instead of down is beautiful. Your Naturally, curly and Afro-textured hair is elegant and there is nothing on your body that you should be ashamed of especially not your hair.

Here is a hair tutorial on how to get the perfect Afro for a cheerleading competition.

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Remember, remember, lockdown in November.

Winter is here. Some strange people actually prefer winter to the summer. Whereas some people really struggle with their mental health in the winter months. It may be due to the lack of vitamin D the sun provides, the cold days, dark nights, a change of routine, or something else entirely. Oh, and this time round, we can add lockdown in too. Now it’s very difficult to keep up with the different lockdown rules across the UK. But at this present moment, I’m pretty sure each country is doing something different entirely. I can’t wait for the day when my blog posts won’t involve COVID, but the reality is that COVID is hitting us hard and affecting our mental health. It’s turning our lives upside-down. And that’s what these upside-down-time blog posts are about; how to deal with those upside-down feelings.

This November, I want to share with you four simple words that were recently shared with me. Four simple words that allow you to stop, think, and perhaps alter your perception. And they are “shift your focus outward”. And I’m going to explain those four words with three topics.

Social Connectedness:

Years of psychological research has found that positive relationships are a protective factor for our mental health and are the key to happiness. As cheerleaders, we have a ready-made social support network around us, our teammates! We may not be able to give them a hug every session, or even be in the gym to see them right now, but we have the gift of technology to maintain those relationships.

How does this relate to shifting your focus outward? We can wallow in self-pity all we want, but it’s not going to make us feel any better. Shift your focus to your friends, your family, colleagues and teammates. You are there to support the people in your life, just as they will be there to support you. How are they doing? How can you help them? Can you share a joke or funny story? Coronavirus restrictions have made it very difficult to maintain those relationships, but not impossible. Can you host a Zoom quiz, a virtual social, or a virtual coffee morning?

A sense of purpose:

A really great quote to describe this is “if you can find a purpose for your suffering, you can tolerate all the pain that comes with it”. Just as our muscles suffer in training so we can shine in competition, we suffer through lockdown so we can go back into the real world/the cheer gym (because the gym is where it’s at). Having a purpose gives us a reason to wake up in the morning. How much easier is it to wake up at 7am for school or work, then waking up at 7am on your day off? Near impossible if you have no purpose waking up at 7am (well, for me it is anyway). Whether your purpose is cheerleading, volunteering, your career or being there for others. Have a purpose that you’re passionate about.

Inspiration:

This is more difficult to find. What is the reason for your purpose? Is it the joy you feel or is it a bigger picture idea? Think of your morals and values. Whilst thinking of the bigger picture and our goals for the future may help us stay motivated, it’s important we live in the present. This lockdown may feel pants now, but it’s unlikely we’re going to get another time like this where we can really focus on ourselves, inside and out. Learn to love your quirks, learn to love your body and everything it does for us, learn to be your own inspiration, because you deserve it!

 It can be difficult to keep your motivation, and that leads me onto this month’s wellbeing exercise:

Gratitude:

The Oxford dictionary describes gratitude as “the feeling of being grateful and wanting to express your thanks”. Some people find it helpful to keep what is known as a gratitude journal. This can be done at the beginning of the day, or the end of the day, or both. And it’s where you note down three things you are grateful for that day. Whether it’s having your favourite breakfast, a snuggle with your dog, or a meaningful conversation you had with someone that day. It’s to remind us that even during the darkest of days, there is light to be hopeful for. There will be times when we struggle to even think of one thing to be grateful for, especially in lockdown! If you’re stuck inside because of the weather, aren’t you grateful for the roof over your head? Try and flip your perspective.

For some people, a gratitude journal is just what they need. For others, it may be a case of just thinking in your head of 3 things before going to sleep at night. You may even what to try a gratitude letter, which can be directed at one person. You don’t ever have to send the letter, but then again it may be a lovely surprise for someone. Whether gratitude is something you practise daily, weekly, or periodically, it can be a key tool to remain in the present, be thankful for everyone and everything around you. The world is such a magnificent place, it can just be difficult to remember sometimes. You are pieced together with such incredible traits, but again, sometimes it can be difficult to remember.

That’s all for this month’s upside-down-time’s blog post.

As always, we’d love for you to be involved in our Upside-down-time feature. If you’re part of a university team that would like to be featured in an upcoming article, please get in touch. Those who have already shown an interest will be contacted shorty.

If you want to be featured next month, post a photo or video of yourself upside-down (e.g. handstands), tagging #upsidedowntime and #CFHTT. Lastly, we want to hear your nominations for someone who has gone above and beyond for their team, charity, community, etc. This can be yourself, teammates, coaches or cheer-parents! Message us with any nominations you have!

Ta’ra for now!

Rachel x

Written by Rachel

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Part 2 of why representation matters

Tonight the conclusion of the video series ” Why representation matters.”
In part two of this video, we break down the topic of hair. We talk about Team England, Sportcheer England, Cheer brands and what steps the cheer community needs to take to reflect the importance of diversity and inclusion.e forward in making this much-needed change.
I, encourage you all to watch this video and take the time to acknowledge without judgement or guilt as to what the people in this video are saying and take the necessary steps to make sure all members of our community feel heard, respected and valued.

Please leave your feed as I would love to hear your thoughts.

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