CFHTT, got to sit down with coach of Queen Mary Angels Clare who will be taking the team into their 7 season
Tell us about Queen Mary Angels cheer history.
QM Angels (QMA) represents Queen Mary University of London in Mile End, and Barts and the London Medical and Dental School in Whitechapel, both in East London (shortened to QMBL). The team has existed for about 9 years, starting as a successful pom-dance team, before I was invited to be their Cheerleading coach 7 seasons ago.
How many teams do you have and what does each team do?
Our team gets bigger every year, starting with one team at Coed Level 2 seven years ago, then growing to 2, then 3 teams, and now we have 4 full Cheer teams of approximately 30 athletes each. Last season we had teams from Levels 1-4, both Coed and All Girl. We also have various group stunts and partner stunts. There’s a lot of us!
How many hour a week do you train
We have 2 training sessions a week at the unsociable hours of Friday night and Sunday morning! Our teams have one 3-hour session a week that’s compulsory, and then various opportunities to train more throughout the week.
What was your biggest achievement last season?
Our biggest achievement last season was taking a large squad of 105 athletes to competitions, and having all our teams hit their routines and be proud of themselves, as well as the team they represent, especially since we increased our difficulty for our final competition. We had a lot of success in terms of winning and placing, but more importantly, a really inclusive and positive culture all season, and so much support across our teams for one another.
How do you decide what competition you are going to attend?
I usually decide which competitions we go to before the season starts, as we have to plan as far in advance as we can, in order to ensure we have the training space and funds to compete. We plan out as much as possible, including charity events and socials, so we have a near complete calendar. This really helps our members in terms of payment deadlines, and arranging their workload from their courses. This helps our students plan their time effectively, especially our medical and dental students who have such demanding schedules. We are very limited when it comes to travel and budget, so tend to stay close to London if possible, and also look for opportunities for our teams to compete across a big division and against other universities.
Your team Royalty were crown grand champions at ICC what did that mean to your team
Winning Grand Champs at ICC was absolutely insane, as we honestly did not expect it at all. At University competitions, it is so common that Grand Champs goes to a lower level team that maximises on the scoresheet, and so we had no idea we had any chance of winning such a title. We took the decision to compete our most skilled team at Level 4, as we wanted a challenge and to push the possibilities of University cheer. It was our first time at ICC, and we went alone without the rest of our team. It was nerve-wracking to compete in such a new environment, and quite late at night as we were one of the last teams of the day, but the team were so focused on putting out a clean and energetic routine with as much skill and difficulty as we could. They exceeded my expectations with their performance. We were so happy to have hit our routine and then win our division that we were celebrating and taking photos when they announced it, and when we heard our name we were thinking – did they mean us? When the staff waved us over, I was shocked and thought there may have been a mistake. Our athletes were absolutely overwhelmed. For many of them the thought of winning a jacket just wasn’t a possibility for us this season, or possibly ever so it really did mean so much to us all. We felt so privileged for this honour and probably still aren’t over it! We all wore our Grand Champs jackets on the coach back to London that night (despite them being pretty thick – it was a sweaty ride!). I wouldn’t say there is even one individual that does Cheer at QMA for the awards and trophies, our athletes train with us to be part of the team, and anything else is a happy surprise. We have such a humble and inclusive team ethos and they had worked so, so hard to get level appropriate tumbles and stunts and to perfect the routine, so I truly believe they deserved it. None of our tumblers could tumble before joining QMA, and some of our athletes were on our level 1 and 2 team last season, so I was utterly thrilled to see them rewarded for being role models for the sport, as well as fabulous athletes.
“What was your favourite cheerleading competition of the past season?”
We really enjoyed ICC last season, everyone was very welcoming to us as a new team. We also enjoy BCA Uni Comp in Telford – great atmosphere and a nice end to the season to compete over two days. We also attended FC Uni Nationals as we like seeing so many other Uni teams all together, and competing in large divisions. It used to be a small competition, so everyone would sit close to the front and you could really feel the crowd’s energy whilst performing, and was really good at nurturing emerging teams. Now it has changed venue and is very grand. It’s our freshers’ first experience of being on the mat and I think sets the tone for how competitive the sport is which is equally as good.
Does your team do other things apart from compete?
Our team is very close, despite being so huge! We have weekly socials with loads of different activities – bowling, lazer quest, food, pub golf, more food, and nights out at our Union bar, the infamous Drapers (if you know, you know). We also have Hail Mary once a month. This is where all the sports teams social together at Drapers to celebrate our sporting achievements. There are lots of traditions in this event such as ‘Session’ where we all wear matching social tops (a different colour for each sport) and play games and enjoy the delights of Red Beer. One team hosts it each month and at Midnight shows a spoof video of their club and mocking the other clubs (Rugby and Football are prime targets). It’s unique to Queen Mary and always a brilliant night. We also do fundraising and charity events through the year. I think what we mostly do outside of training is attend open gym!
We are fortunate to have open gyms available at East London Gymnastics club and Talent Central (Ascension Eagles’ gym) almost every night of the week. During the season and over the summer, you will almost always find QMA athletes there, probably in blue and white QMA merchandise training hard because they just love the sport. We also run open sessions at the University called ‘Get Active’ where any QM students can drop in and train throughout the year. So although our teams only train together one session a week, we see each other about five times a week!
What are your goals for this season
Next season our goal, as always, is to maintain, and build, on the reputation and success of the club, and most importantly ensure our members enjoy their time at QMA. We have grown our membership and opportunities year on year so hopefully we can continue to provide a brilliant experience for more and more athletes. We also want to build on all the opportunities we have had so far to develop our skill level, and continue to be thought of as one of the top University teams.
It’s that time of year where you guys will be recruiting what you are looking for from student?
In terms of recruiting new members for the upcoming season, we want to send the message that everyone is welcome! We do not hold try-outs to be on any of our competitive teams, and have opportunities for everyone to get involved in QMA, regardless of current ability or commitment levels. I truly believe in sport being inclusive, and I think that’s why we have been so successful as a club. Our most skilled athletes, some of whom have gone on to compete on Worlds teams such as Unity Allstars Black,, and Surrey Starlets Amethyst, came to QMA with no more tumbling than a questionable forward roll and absolutely no experience of Cheer. We are proud to develop our athletes, not just recruit them.
Why should people join QM Angels ?”
Why do I think you should join QMA? Because there is a place for EVERYONE and you won’t regret it! I’ve worked and been part of many teams over the years and I can promise you that QMA is special. You will have the time of your life and do things you never thought possible. You will be challenged, you will be supported, you will have fun, you will get fitter, and generally it will take over your life – and complete your University experience. You will be part of one of the most diverse, and biggest clubs that will value you for being you.
“What useful skills has cheerleading taught you?”
Cheerleading teaches many useful skills that I think benefit our athletes beyond their time at QMA. Being committed to something, time management, keeping to deadlines, working as part of a team towards a goal, resilience, and confidence. Allowing yourself to try new things and fail at them sometimes in the learning process. To have fun and make friends from all over the world. Putting the common good before your own. Sport is hugely important for young people to have an outlet and a place to feel included yet challenged to be the best they can. Cheerleading is unlike any sport in that I believe any person can make progress in their own way.
“Are there any transferable skills that you have learnt from cheer that you can use later on in life?”
Now that I am old (as QMA constantly remind me!), I can see what a difference Cheer has made. I am much more organised and focused. I have the confidence in myself to lead and perform that I never had until finding Cheer in my second year of Uni. I am reminded constantly working with QMA of how valued this sport and team is to them and how appreciative they are when they have to move on and leave Cheer and QMA behind. Our athletes are all extremely successful people of their own virtue, but cheer does make a difference in shaping them and giving them the best out of University life.
What would your lives be without cheer?
Life without cheer? Is there such a thing!? Boring I guess! Less fulfilled. I had done many sports before but Cheerleading is something I haven’t been able to leave behind. I think it’s the same for our club. We have a huge number of people who stay with us and compete and train as alumni, and even those who do move on always come back to visit and train with us! Even from as far as Scotland and Prague!
“Do you guys use social media platforms?”
We do use social media, we have a YouTube channel which has showreels and all our past routines (the most up to date and the truly vintage!). We use Instagram a lot to communicate what the club is up to to the general public. And of course Facebook is actually Cheerbook – we use this constantly to keep in touch with our members and alumni. We also use twitter to keep people up to date with what’s happening at QMA.
“Is there any other information you would like to share with CFHTT?”
I think our inclusivity and willingness to teach anyone from the ground up has led to us being so successful, and to year on year having a high proportion of male athletes. I think we are one of the biggest Uni teams in the UK with 4 cheer teams, and have won many divisions and titles at many levels. We have also achieved Grand Champions twice for Coed Level 3 at BCA and once with ICC at Coed Level 4. We are really proud of our team for all our successes and the routines we put onto the floor, but also for the enjoyment of our members. We also emphasise the importance of Sportsmanship toward others, and have had some really lovely messages from other coaches saying how supportive our members have been to other teams – I think that in itself is success. I believe it is important to give our members the best during their short time at University. Through the hard work and commitment of the members to bettering their skills, we have been able to, over the years, compete at higher and higher levels with our most advanced team.
We started off in Coed 2, then moved to Coed 3, are now Coed 4 and competed in Coed 6. There is always a lot of conversation about teams being level appropriate, and maybe because of this University cheer has not been able to come into its own. Safety is the number one priority of course, but for many of our athletes, they only have a short window to cheer (3-4 years) before it ends. That, coupled with a much shorter season that Allstar cheer (ours is October to April,) means we have much less time to progress. We have always tried to push our more advanced athletes to compete at the highest level they can, and believe me they rise to the occasion! The decision to compete at Level 6 was a difficult one to make, but we believed we could do it and wanted to Cheer in a more Collegiate appropriate way (Universities internationally all compete with Open/Level 6 rules). We believe University Cheer should not follow the Allstar development, but rather develop down its own progressive path. Many teams do Varsity events and matches where they can perform these skills at a game or performance, but we do not have a Varsity match against another Uni to take part in. As a result of taking the plunge to put out a Collegiate routine, QMA have been very lucky in the opportunities we have been afforded by many generous event producers and companies.
We have competed at the European Championships for BCA in Cheer Coed 6 and Coed Group Stunt. We attended ICU University Worlds in Florida for Future Cheer which was a once in a lifetime experience. Four of our coaches recently attended UCA Spirit Camp in Wisconsin that Varsity UK helped us to organise, to better understand Collegiate style Cheerleading. We would love the University cheer scene to work more collaboratively, so that we can develop the sport more effectively throughout the UK. This season we hope to reach out to other Uni teams, so we can share our respective experiences, train together and create more of a community.
University cheer is unique and dynamic, and in my opinion houses a huge amount of talent and progression.
Lastly what is your favourite UK Cheer team (apart from your team) and your favourite International cheer team and why?
My favourite UK cheer team is Goldstar Galaxy. When I first started cheerleading I saw them compete and couldn’t believe that what they were doing was real life. They have always had the most flawless stunting technique, they push the bar with difficulty, and Claire McKay is an amazing choreographer. They literally never disappoint at competition. Internationally, it has to be the Chinese Taipei National Coed 6 team (National team for Taiwan at ICU) and Monster Cheerleading from Taipei, Taiwan (a lot of athletes do both teams). Cheer in Taiwan does not get enough credit whatsoever. I was fortunate enough to train with them and get to know them last year. I have never seen so much talent in my entire life at the Monster Cheer Team open gym – it was like being in a YouTube video. Every person there was throwing round-off full rewinds like it was nothing, back handspring double ups, rewind cupies, all sorts of inverted baskets. It was insane. They are most definitely on par with the Americans, but are normal sized people! What struck me most was how incredibly humble and welcoming they were. Everyone spots each other in large groups and every claps and congratulates one another and helps one another. No matter what skill you throw, there are people there willing you and supporting you to succeed. They only recently found a small space for a half size sprung floor, before this they trained outside on concrete so opportunities and funding are far and few between. They won Gold against Team USA last year at ICU 2015 after taking Silver for many years and I have never met people more deserving. For such a small island where Cheer is unknown, that is an unbelievable achievement. I urge you to get on YouTube and watch Chinese Taipei at ICU and Monster Cheer Team Black Team and their partner stunts and become a fan! There are also far too many University teams that we enjoy seeing at competitions that deserve much more credit than they get. I wouldn’t have space to fit them all in, but we do try to congratulate them over social media and show our appreciation
Until next time guys
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