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Wellington Cheerleading Competition This Sunday

Wellington Cheerleading Competition This Sunday

Last year Ministry of Cheer hosted Wellington’s first ever competitive cheerleading competition with the Central Cheer Championships, and this year it’s back – but bigger and better than before.

“Last year we had about 200 competitors, but this time around we have over 300,” says Central Cheer organiser Sofia McLean. And judging by the competition she’s seen around the country so far this season, Sofia thinks that the performances are going to outdo last year’s too. “The skills are getting more difficult and are being competed with high accuracy. I’ve seen a lot of very creative, tidy routines.”

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.

Cheerleader Alexia Hutchinson says that the stereotype is still hard for people to get past. “When I tell people what I do, the first thing they always ask is ‘what sport do you cheer for?’, but the cheerleading that we do is the sport in itself. It’s closer to the Bring It On style of cheerleading – just without the cheesy one-liners.”

Ministry of Cheer was set up to help grow the sport in the Wellington region, and in the past year this growth has been impressive. Three new clubs have opened in 2013, and many existing clubs have increased their team sizes or created new teams to account for athletes that have taken up the sport. 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.

William Davenport, owner of Tawa’s Bigair Cheer Sports, thinks that having a competition close to home has made the sport more accessible. “We used to have to travel to Auckland for every competition, and although we try to fundraise some of the money, a single trip can still end up costing a few hundred dollars per athlete. That sort of travel just isn’t feasible for a lot of people, especially for families with more than one child in a team.” The Central Cheer Championships have meant that all Wellington teams are able to get competition experience. “It can be a real confidence boost to perform in front of a crowd for the first time. It’s also useful for teams to see how they stand compared to other teams at their level, and to hear from the judges what they could be doing to improve,” says William.

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 held a coaching course in Wellington for the first time this month, which in the past coaches would have had to travel to Auckland to attend. 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 Central Cheerleading Championships are happening this Sunday, the 4th of August, at Capital Gymnastics, 11 Hutchison Road Newtown. Entry for spectators is $10 at the door, and plenty of refreshments are available for purchase inside. Sales from the cafe will contribute towards fundraising for two local teams to compete at the Asia Pacific Grand Finals in Australia later this year. For more information about the Ministry of Cheer or the Central Cheer Championships please contact Sofia McLean at ministryofcheer.comp@gmail.com or on her mobile 022 462 4035. Sofia will also be able to direct you to teams from your local area that will be competing in this competition.


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