Cheerleading is ‘going from strength to strength’

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LAST month saw the United Kingdom Cheerleading Association host its third National Event in Northern Ireland.

The Antrim Forum was the chosen venue, with its capacity to cater for approx 2000 over the action packed weekend.

The Friday programme started the proceedings with both primary and secondary schools performing in the disciplines of Pom Dance, Recreational Dance and of course Cheerleading which incorporates the technical elements of stunts, pyramids, jumps, tumbles.

Schools from both north and south of the border presented their teams to an International Judging Panel, a first visit to N.Ireland for this prestigious panel of judges but no strangers to UKCA’s Club and Elite National Events on the mainland.

The 3rd NI National Event attracted the attention of the VIPs as a result of the major development in cheerleading over the past 24 months in N.Ireland, headed by Home Nation UKCA Representative, Mrs Karen Graham.

Both participation levels and skill level here in NI has reached a parallel with our colleagues in England, Scotland & Wales with UKCA continuing to be the driving force behind coach education workshops, clinics and ‘come and try’ sessions delivered throughout out the province at Universities, Schools and Community Clubs.

Saturday Competition categories presented a higher level of competition to a swollen audience commencing with the Community Level Cheerleading categories and Pom Dance. Teams were in attendance from the whole of Ireland and all were judged to a tight criteria by again an International panel of Judges.

The positive feedback from this panel was very encouraging for the Home Nation and all participating teams, who, were delighted and proud to have the standard in NI recognised on target with the remainder of the UK.

This feedback is just the boost that NI has been striving hard to earn having only been introduced to the sport back in 2008.

The competition was to a very high standard with local teams again making their mark and taking major titles as follows:

TEAM UK SELECTION

The Riada ROCKETS Squad based in the north coast and trained by Home Nation Northern Ireland All Stars Squad Coach,Karen Graham, received an honorary prize at the Championships with a major announcement made following the award ceremony of the JUNIOR A Team winning a bid to compete as part of TEAM UK in Ljubljana this July at the European Championships.

UKCA have been selecting their 2011 UK TEAM from their National Events to represent UK at European level in July 2011 and for NI to be recognised and win a bid to compete at this International level was a great achievement.Selection commenced at the Manchester Velodrome on March 18th and 19th at the UKCA Elite Nationals with the winning teams from all age categories competing to win a bid for a place on Team UK.

NI All Stars, the newly formed NI Home Nation Team established by Riada Rockets Coach & UKCA Specialist Karen Graham, positioned third at this prestigious event on the 19th March , a great achievement for a new National Team, but sadly needing a first ranking to earn a European bid, so for the Riada Rockets Junior A home team to achieve the minors bid at the Home Nation Event last weekend on home territory was a fabulous surprise and achievement for Riada Rockets members and coaches.

England , Scotland and Wales did not have a young team at the required standard represented at the Velodrome this year leaving UKCA International judges to source their talent in N Ireland and this they did with the Rockets Team scoring a clear 27 points ahead of all other minor teams.

The prestigious ECA competition will take place on the weekend of 2nd and 3rd July in Slovenia and will be televised to a world audience.

United Kingdom Cheerleaders Association is a founder member of the ECA (European Cheerleaders Association) and is proud to offer its members a competition pathway to prestigious International and Worldwide events.

Riada Rockets Head Coach Karen Graham & UKCA NI Representative said: “All the foundation work since 2008 has been greatly rewarded with the news of a home team attaining the high standard to represent team UK, especially when it is my own local team.

“We have worked hard to increase our skill level and to share knowledge and passion in the sport to many clubs schools and colleges and sporting colleagues and the hard work has certainly reaped its rewards”.

“In my role as NI Rep I am delighted with the growth and popularity of the sport of cheerleading and have personally monitored and encouraged the growth and development both in participation and skill level throughout Ireland.

“To have great feedback from Heads of PE Departments comment on how the sport has ‘empowered their pupils and raised self esteem and confidence’ makes it all worthwhile.

“One Head commented on how ‘cheerleading has given those pupils who are not team sport participants the opportunity to increase fitness levels and find a sport which they can achieve personal goals and feel included’.

“Sadly cheerleading does not receive the credibility it deserves and still struggles to have recognition as a sport. This is due to the commercial American culture and strong influence which determines to keep the activity commercial.

“Lack of knowledge of the sport and certainly the media portrayal of vanity and dance shadow this incredible and unique sport.

“I find it undeniably frustrating that sporting agencies which have the authority to determine NGB status for our sport recognise gymnastics and dance yet shun cheerleading.

“Cheerleading is so unique in that it embraces tumbling

(gymnastic skills) , stunts, jumps (stamina, core power and lower and upper body strength all in demand), building of pyramids, arm motions and vocals (all aerobically demanding) in one routine. It most certainly is not dance.”

Unknown to many cheerleading has four disciplines:

1.Cheerleading as outlined above

2.Pom Dance which embraces cheer arms , jumps, vocals and team formation work.

3. Cheer Dance which demands leaps, splits, high kicks and pirouettes ( very technically demanding embracing ballet and rhythmic gymnastic skills)

4.Street Cheer street dance/ hip-hop influence with the common skills of cheer vocals and jumps which unite all four disciplines.

The original establishment of “cheerleading“ was to entertain fans at university / college matches hence the entertainment and dance factor and use of vocals.

The demanding technical elements have take cheerleading to new heights as a sport but sadly the picture portratyed via lack of knowledge and media influence is an entertainment.

The organisation is lobbying hard to achieve the recognition cheerleading deserves along with gymnastics, football, hockey, swimming to name but a few and to achieve Olympic status.

To learn more about the sport of smiles and to hear of all our success stories please visit www.ukca.org.uk .

Here you can also find out information on local clubs and classes and keep up to date on all events, festivals and workshops.