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Cheerleading competition, Wellington, Sunday 7 September

For the past two year’s Ministry of Cheer has been the biggest and most diverse competitive cheerleading competition in the lower North Island, and this year it’s back – and even more exciting than before. With the biggest Dance division, the most individual entries and the most diverse range of cheerleading gyms that any competition in Wellington has ever seen, not to mention nearly $4000 worth of cash prizes, it is one event you won’t want to miss.

“For the past two years we have seen exponential growth. In 2012 we had about 200 competitors, which increased to 350 athletes in 2013 and we have nearly doubled that for the 2014 event with close to 700 athletes, across a wide range of sporting codes,” says Ministry of Cheer creator Sofia McLean. Based on the increased range of divisions offered this year, including divisions seen in no other cheerleading competitions in New Zealand, the competition will no doubt be the most thrilling yet. “This year we are incorporating the art of tricking, which is a combination of various martial arts such as Wushu, Taekwondo, and Capoiera and fuses them with other acrobatic sports and art forms such as Gymnastics and break dancing. We really are hoping to help promote the sport and artistic expression to a wider audience.”

The type of cheerleading that will be showcased at this event is far from the pom-pom shaking stereotype that most people would think of. Teams are judged on a two and a half minute routine that is crammed full of acrobatic tumbling, and stunting and basket tosses, where ‘flyers’ are lifted and thrown into the air to pull different tricks. The routines are pulled together with energetic dance moves, high-octane music mixes, and glitzy uniforms, making the end result a definite crowd pleaser.

Ministry of Cheer was set up to help grow the sport in the Wellington region, and in the past two years this growth has been impressive. Many existing clubs have increased their team sizes or created new teams to account for athletes that have taken up the sport and some clubs have also started recreational or pre-competitive teams for younger children who are interested in taking up cheerleading, and although these numbers aren't showing in the competition entries yet, they're a sign that things are only going to keep getting bigger.

This growth can also be seen across the country, with more than half of the 40 competing teams travelling from outside of the Wellington region, including University of Canterbury who are competing for the very first time.

“As the only university affiliated cheerleading club to compete in NZ (and the only adult cheer team in the South Island) this competition gives us our first chance to experience performing under pressure, and a taste of what to expect in future years!” says coach Ellen Worthington.
UCheer started four years ago as a group of friends giving cheerleading a go, since then numbers have swelled the skill level has steadily increased. Ellen says “We are both a social as well as competitive team, and we see a number of new recruits every university term, nearly all who are complete new-comers to cheerleading. This event will hopefully show UCheer what level we can achieve, and inspire us to keep striving to make this club a success.”

There has also been an active push to better the technical standards of the sport in both Wellington and New Zealand, with the aim of bringing teams to an internationally competitive level. Due to increasing demand, the NZ Cheer Union holds regular coaching and judging courses across the country to help increase the knowledge base of all coaches. This is a good indicator for the future of the sport according to Sofia McLean. "The greater the knowledge base of our local coaches, the more they will be able to pass on to their teams, and the better prepared our young athletes will be to take over leadership of the sport in a few years. I've been able to see that there is a much better understanding of correct technique and what the judges are looking for."

The Ministry of Cheer competition is happening this Sunday, the 7th of September, at ASB Sports Centre Kilbirnie. Entry for spectators is $10 at the door with under 5’s free, and will provide plenty of entertainment for the entire family.

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