Welcome to our fourth edition of our Diary of a University Cheerleader. The past six weeks have been such an emotional rollercoaster. Managing my university workload, two part-time jobs, my All-Star team, numerous injuries and coaching the Vixens has been TOUGH. Most of our ladies are juggling heavy workloads, which does take its toll. That’s what makes our sport and our team that much more special. We can lean on each other and rely on one another to pick each other up.
Firstly, I’ll go over what made these past six weeks so busy. And then I’ll divulge into what we’re all here for, Future Cheer University Nationals 2018.
Let’s start with Charity.
Jodie, our Charity Officer had her hands full in January. We had a lot going on. Firstly, we had our monthly fundraiser.
I’m sure a lot of you saw over Christmas, thanks to the Cheer Community being so amazing, on Christmas Day, a lovely Cheerleader named Abbie Main lost her life at such a young age due to Sarcoma. Abbie was a Liberty Athletic Ambassador, as am I. Receiving the news of her passing was absolutely heart-breaking. Knowing Abbie was so passionate about cheerleading, we had all 3 of our teams come to training dressed in pink and sparkly attire. We raised almost £50 which has gone towards building Abbie’s Sparkle Foundation. It’s fantastic to see that Abbie has now touched the lives of so many cheerleaders up and down the country. If you want to donate, the link is:
Secondly, we hosted the Super Bowl in our Students Union. We started with the weekly SU Quiz which Jodie put together, of course with an American theme. One of our members, Alex, was really keen to get involved and be the MC of the quiz as she’s American, and in her words the Super Bowl “is like a national holiday”. I don’t know about anyone else, but we certainly enjoyed her handiwork behind the mic. We had a number of other themed games and drinks that we organised throughout the evening. All the proceeds went to B.I.R.D, a local brain injury rehabilitation charity.
Next came our annual showcase. This was bigger and better than any showcase we had put on before. We booked out the auditorium and transported our mats across campus (which again, was no easy task). Once the mats were all set up and we were all warm, the audience came in. We had no idea what the turnout was going to be, but it was brilliant, it was packed! Each Captain said a little piece about their team and their routine, and each team performed twice. As Club Captain, I was in awe with what our athletes had produced. Everyone seemed to be having the time of their lives out on the mat which is all I could have asked for. The audience loved it. Timing was fantastic, execution was solid, performance was on fire. I was left speechless. Each Captain was beaming from ear to ear with pride. Before the showcase, we were all a bit on edge with how Future Cheer was going to go, but after those performances, we were ready. Jodie had also arranged a raffle and again, all the proceeds went towards the charity B.I.R.D. Between the Showcase and the Super Bowl, we ultimately raised £300!
Following on from our Showcase success, ten of our ladies took the streets of Chester one wet Saturday morning, to take part in the Community Clean Up, arranged by our Students Union. Most students don’t stay in Chester all year round, but during term time, it is their home. Therefore, it’s super important we acknowledge that we are a part of the community, and are responsible for what goes on. Especially since Chester is such a lovely city, we want to keep it that way!
In case you didn’t know, February is LGBT+ history month. One of our Social Secs, David, has been busy organising events with the LGBT Society here at Chester throughout the month. To further show our support, during Cheer’s last session before Future Cheer we had a coloured theme training session, where each stunt group wore a different colour. Not only was it great to do this for a cause, but it’s always fun to have a themed session.
Unlike Pom and Cheer, Prep Squad hadn’t been feeling the pressure of competing. That doesn’t mean they haven’t been working hard. If anything, the showcase allowed them to reflect upon what is achievable if they really dedicated themselves to it. I know I say it a lot, but the improvement from Prep Squad since October is phenomenal. I recently coached a tumbling session for them, and their technique has improved so much. There were more people willing to try harder skills and even some new skills were achieved!
One member I’m particularly impressed by is Emilie. Emilie’s also on Cheer and is an exceptional gymnast, I love to watch her tumble. However, like many people, Emilie had experienced a mental block all year with backwards tumbling. Knowing she had the skills, technique and flexibility to perform a backwards walkover was so frustrating as a coach. We took it week by week. I supported Emilie as much as she wanted me to, in order for her to trust me and my judgement. We then had a 1:1 session where I took her back to basics. I wouldn’t let her progress until she could do a backbend, a bridge with one leg in the air and then a kick-over individually and independently. Of course, this got boring for Emilie because she can do them easy. That’s the key with mental blocks. When she was ready, I supported her backwards walkover with full support, then with a little bit of support, with the support of my “super strong” little finger, and finally none at all. I kept reassuring Emilie that it looked technically correct, that it was safe, and that I had no doubts that she could do it by herself. Then came the magic, Emilie did it by herself. Bit by bit, I took another step away from her, until I was stood nowhere near her and she was performing her walkover independently, consistently and beautifully. As you can probably tell, this is the first mental block I’ve dealt with and overcome as a coach, and I’m super proud!
However, Emilie is not the only member of Prep Squad! Here’s what Captain Summer had to say about Prep Squad’s progression in 2018:
“I have been extremely proud of the progress Prep Squad has made not only in their performances but in their confidence levels. It has been amazing to see the team become the sassy individuals I knew they would become. We have successfully attended Home and Away basketball games and taken part in our Charity Showcase. The girls were nervous about the showcase but really enjoyed bonding with all three teams and being able to support each other. Following the success of the showcase we are looking to advance our routine ready for the final basketball games!”
There had been some great sessions, and some tough sessions. But as someone once said, it’s the tough sessions that bring the team closer together. During one of our sessions after coming back from Christmas, I had arranged for Cheer to come dressed in army theme. I had one of my cheesy motivational talks, attempting to be stern but motivating as Future Cheer was just around the corner. I said, “if ever you start to lose focus during this training session, look down at what you’re wearing, because this is war”. For whatever reason, it was safe to say it was a fantastic training session.
After the showcase, we were absolutely buzzing for Future Cheer, both Cheer and Pom. The week before Future Cheer, we had one last full team session, where Cheer, Pom and Prep Squad ran on offs with each other. Performing to your teammates is so much better than performing to yourself in the mirror. Afterwards, we felt pumped. All of our hard work, extra sessions, extended sessions, one to ones, injuries, blood, sweat and tears all finally felt worth it.
The time had come, the weekend was upon us. As always, I managed to pull off a putting on a full face of make-up, eyeliner and false lashes included, on the coach journey from Chester to Birmingham. I also had a little surprise gift for everyone, a velvet coat hanger that had a bow shape in it, to put uniforms on. Nothing major, but it’s the thought that counts…
We arrived at the arena as the doors opened. It took nearly half an hour for us all to get in after security and bag checks. I then had 15minutes to settle us in seats, go to the toilet and put my uniform on before the coaches meeting. Straight after the coaches meeting we were meeting to warm up for Group Stunt. It was all systems go on the Saturday! Knowing we were in a division of twenty (that’s right T.W.E.N.T.Y), we were really nervous as it was our first time entering Group Stunt. Millie had suffered a recent injury in one of her shoulders, so we watered down our half up to extension to just a straight up. But after seeing the size of the division, she was debating putting it back in. After trying it in warm up, we all agreed to just keep the routine as it was and be as clean as possible. Stood in holding, we were all doing our weird nervous tendencies. Amy was looking into space, Millie made sure she had thoroughly clapped for everyone and I was doing my dad dancing. We did our awkward sway, our prayer and break before going on. We’re quite superstitious so wanted to make sure all bases we covered.
It’s safe to say it wasn’t the cleanest we’d ever performed that routine. We were all a little disappointed, but the experience of competing All Girl Level 2 Group Stunt is something we will all be able to share. We were aiming for top ten, and got 9th place. We achieved what we wanted, and after only a handful of full training sessions, we did pretty well.
After awards, we went on a wild goose chase to the hotel. It took about an hour, which we later found out could have taken us about 10 minutes. We’ll call it team building. We live and we learn!
Then came Day 2. Everyone was competing that day, so you could tell people were more on their toes. We had a lovely breakfast provided by the hotel and then headed off to the arena (which took significantly less time than it had the day before).
First up was Pom. We met for warm up, did our usual, then headed to official warm up. Most of the team are first years, so were all really excited to perform which was great. I was doing the music so got to see the routine from the front and centre. It was magnificent. Everyone was enjoying themselves, they all had smiles on their faces from start to finish, and they executed the routine marvellously.
For some reason awards were in the foyer this year. Pom were in a tough division, a large division of sixteen. There were some really talented teams and some amazing choreography. Due to Future Cheer’s online system, I knew our scores, but I didn’t know them in relation to any other teams. We were called in thirteenth place. Again, it was slightly disappointing for the team as they had just performed an outstanding routine. Captain Ellen was quite upset, blaming herself and her choreography. But as I said to her, she’s an amazing dancer and talented choreographer, but she’s new to Pom, so there are bound to be some teething issues. The only thing to do now is to look at the scoresheet and use it to upgrade the routine ready for our next competition.
I was keeping our Activities Manager in the Student’s Union up-to-date throughout the weekend. Ninth and thirteenth place aren’t usually what we come away with from Future Cheer. I said to her, “I really hope this isn’t a pattern forming for Cheer later”.
The time came around for Cheer to warm up. I explained the system as for most of the team, this was their first time competing. I explained how we have to be focused and on it. Checking into warm up was all fine until one of the official guys told me that athletes aren’t allowed to have jewellery taped up, it had to be taken out. Whilst I had mentioned in at training and in Facebook posts, it was something I had overlooked as I just assumed it was obvious. Lots of the girls were getting quite flustered, taking our piercings and going to the medics to have awkward ones taken out. Nevertheless, it turned out to be one of the strongest warm ups I had ever experienced. Everyone was hitting, jumps and tumbles were in time, we were pumped.
As we were stood in holding another official reminded me again that jewellery had to be taken out. We had one more jewellery whip round. We did our awkward sway, our motivational speech, our prayer and break. There was nothing more we could have done at that moment. We ran onto the mat, I set it, the music started, muscle memory kicked in and it was all a blur. After the last count of the dance section, the team went wild. We hit, we performed, we slayed. Most importantly, we enjoyed ourselves. We saw the instant replay and saw that we had one bobble in our stunt section. I am however very happy that the stunt group had listened to me and been smart with how they brought it down, making it a bobble, not a fall. Overall, we were confident.
I then looked at my phone. I’d received an email saying we had incurred 3.5 points worth of deductions. I quietly asked my Vice, Millie, to follow me over to the judges table where infractions were discussed. The 0.5 was the bobble, which we had anticipated. The 3 points were for safety due to jewellery. Our hearts sank. Emotions were running high. We were feelings utter heat-break mixed with rage. We had just thrown away three points. I saw our score, 112/140. For a Level 1 team, 112 was still pretty strong. It was two points higher than our winning score last year so we were feeling cautiously optimistic. Awards came around, again, out in the foyer. Future Cheer, if you’re listening, please put our awards back on the mat…
We were in a division of nine. It got to fifth place, we still hadn’t been called. I potentially cut off the circulation to whosever hand I was holding/squeezing. We were called in third place. I put on a smile and picked up our trophy and clapped for second and first place. Five years running we’d won national champs. Had our deductions not had changed the rankings, we would be ok in the knowledge there was nothing more we could have done. Going off raw scores, we would have come first. We would have had our sixth consecutive Future Cheer University National Title. People asked what the deductions were for and I said we’ll talk about it next training session. However, someone caught on that it could have been because of jewellery and it spread like wildfire. It was a weird atmosphere on the bus back. What could have been…
HOWEVER, we placed THIRD at a national competition. That’s impressive. Not only that, but for most of the team, it was their first cheerleading competition. Myself and Millie are so proud at what we as a team produced. From where we were in October, people not knowing what a prep was, to now, third place at nationals, it’s phenomenal. Onwards and upwards from here!
Having been national champions for so long, there was bound to be a time that came to an end. Not surprisingly, we’ve had a bit of backlash for it, there’s been a lot of negative talk towards us. Most of which has not been from the cheer community. But try telling any of the winter Olympics athletes that their third-place medal wasn’t good enough, you’d be wrong!
So, we went into Future Cheer with some aims and goals that we didn’t achieve. It wasn’t the weekend we expected. We live and we learn. Nonetheless, we all had a spectacular time at Future Cheer, and enjoyed performing so much! There’s definitely a positive to be found there.
Over the next few weeks we have ICC coming up, we’re training in an actual Cheer gym for the first time, and we have Varsity (where our University go head to head against another university in sport). We also participated in the making of the Varsity video. That was fun and we can’t wait to share it with you. Prep Squad and Pom are also performing during International Women’s Day. And finally, we will be having our AGM where we will be voting in the new committee for 2018/19 – exciting stuff!
If you are enjoying these diary entries as much as we are please give this a like and go show some love to Chester vixen
Don’t forget to follow us on twitter and like us on Facebook and check out our