26 April 2024

Canberra team heads to US to spread cheer in global cheerleading competition

| James Coleman
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Sirens Cheerleaders club

Teams from the Canberra Sirens Cheerleaders club regularly attend international competitions. Photo: Sirens Cheerleaders, Facebook.

Forget simply stamping your feet, waving shower puffs around and yelling at the top of your lungs – cheerleading is an official sport.

It has a global governing body, recognised by the International Olympic Committee, and in April every year teams from around the world gather in Orlando, Florida, to perform their immaculately choreographed moves for the holy grail – the Cheerleading Worlds Championship.

Canberra has made waves on this international front before and we’re there again, with even higher hopes.

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Sirens Cheerleaders is Canberra’s largest cheerleading club, with its own dedicated gymnasium in Mitchell and 30 weekly recreational and competitive classes said to cater for all ages and skill levels.

“We don’t cheer for other sports – cheerleading is a sport in its own right and we attend state, national and international competitions,” founder and head coach Belinda Dawson says.

A team of 22 called ‘Anthem’, made up of seven males and 15 females between the ages of 15 and 39, left for Orlando late last week. They’ve visited the US a number of times before this – mostly Dallas and Los Angeles – for other competitions, and are enjoying the city’s sights ahead of this weekend’s serious work.

Over the past six months they’ve spent about 10 hours a week perfecting their cheer routines, and that’s on top of the “years” before that.

“The team trains three times a week and the athletes have been working towards this for many years,” Belinda says.

“They are a very well bonded team and like to spend time together. We work in building strong physical and mental skills to help cope with the pressure of an international competition of this importance.”

Cheerleading traces its roots to US colleges in the 1860s, as a form of war-cry during Ivy League games.

Sirens Cheerleaders

The Sirens Cheerleaders were founded in 2011 by head coach Belinda Dawson. Photo: Sirens Cheerleaders.

The “yell-leaders” were almost entirely men, at least until it worked its way into all-female colleges. In the last 50 years, as cheerleading exploded into a sport, the gender split has moved almost entirely in favour of females – most figures put it between 80 and 90 per cent.

The Cheerleading World Championship was established by the US All Star Federation in 2004 with 14 teams. Since then, it’s “blossomed into a grand celebration, encompassing over 500 teams yearly”.

More than 10,500 All Star athletes from 25 nations come together for The Cheerleading Worlds, described as “the ultimate reward after a season of hard work, training and focus”.

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Only teams from the highest levels of cheerleading are eligible to receive the invitation, and the team must have “won” a bid to compete. The routines are judged on difficulty, execution, creativity and overall composition over four days of preliminaries, semi-finals and finals.

Belinda describes it as the pinnacle of the sport.

“It combines acrobatics, tumbling, dance and performance into one.”

The Anthems are enjoying the sights around Orlando ahead of the weekend’s work. Photo: Sirens Cheerleaders, Facebook.

The team won the right to compete in a NSW state-wide competition in August last year, judged by US Cheerleading World executives. On Saturday, 27 April, and Monday, 29 April, they’ll be up against 19 other teams in their division.

“Having gone last year and placing sixth, the Anthems are keen to put their best routine on the floor and do better this year.”

Regardless of the outcome, however, Belinda says they’ll love the experience.

“The journey, the hard work and dedication and the experience are as important as the end result and we talk often about enjoying the process, being present in the moment, understanding the needs of their team members and enjoying the whole journey.”

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