Choreograph weekend feels like the longest weekend ever. It consists of countless hours marking out a routine. Count by count we put a routine together that last two and half minutes. You wouldn’t think making a routine that lasts only two and half minutes long would take that long to create but it took my teams eight hours just to get the transitions right.
Our team was lucky enough to get the coaches from Kelowna’s Okanogan Fire Storm’s team to come to Kamloops and create a routine for us. It costs a lot of money to get other coaches to conduct a routine for you but when just so happen to be close friends with other coaches it comes in handy.
Choreograph weekend consists of having a lot of patients. I mean think about it, a coach is telling you “Okay on one you do this motion, on two you do this motion, on three you move here, on four you load, on five your up, on six you hit, on seven you pull, on eight you cradle”. Now there is a lot of eight counts in two and a half minutes and you cannot forget the counts. I mean if you forgot you were suppose to switch legs on three and didn’t do anything your bases would be trying to move you and all you would do is fall because you forgot to switch. It is so important that everyone remembers there counts because people can easily get hurt if your are trying to do something different then what the rest of your stunt group is doing.
It is a big relief at the end of the weekend when you finally have the rough draft of the routine done. It feels quite amazing. All the practices after the choreograph weekend consist of braking down the routine into parts and building up each thing.
Here in Kamloops the Thompson Rivers University Wolfpack Cheerleading team dedicates their training and hard work to Sea to Sky because it is our biggest competition we attend.
Sea to Sky is an international competition that takes place in Vancouver and is held at the Vancouver Convention Centre. Teams from all over the place come and compete at different levels. This competition you can compete as a team, as a stunt group, or as an individual. All six levels of cheerleading come to this competition. It is a two day competition, which means you get two chances. The judges take half the marks from the first day and half the marks from the second day which then equals your total score.
Sea to Sky is the end of our season as playoffs is for soccer or basketball. It is a sad time since you know now that you have to wait five months before starting up again. Sea to Sky is an amazing experience. You meet tons of cheerleaders, girls and guys who are incredible. Around the whole arena there are booths lines up selling bows, clothing, shoes, and many more cheer items.
The performance stage is this the biggest stage we hit all season. It is light up and you are under spot lights, with a massive crowd watching you. Very intimidating I know, but that is just more thing about cheer, performing. To be a good performer you must have faith in what you do and to not let the crowd and lights get to your head.
There is two weeks until my team hits the road to Sea to Sky and things are getting stressful in practice. Everything about our routine must be perfect. Stunt must look sharp, facials must look fierce, and tumbling must hit perfectly with one another. It is clean up week for the team. Every hand motion, every smile, everything we do must be sharp and clean for the judges to score us high.
All our team can do now is hope and prey that everything will hit perfectly. I hope I have well explained what we cheerleaders do and what it looks like by my numerous photos and videos. I hope to have a video of our performance at Sea to Sky up in two weeks!!!
Surprised? Well guess what. Cheerleading has been announced as the most dangerous sport out there. I didn’t think so either but it is. Not wrestling or football or hockey but cheerleading. We may not try to punch other people out or body check people into the ground or into a wall but a flyer will come diving through the air at you. Instead of having to catch a ball or move out of the way of a flying puck, you have to dive right under your flyer and brass her fall for her. Its either you risk severely hurting your flyer or even getting her killed.
As a the bases and third you must risk everything for your flyer as she is the one being thrown into the air at different feet. The flyer twists and flips and she needs to know her stunt group will be there to catch her so she doesn’t land on her ass.
A major factor in why cheerleaders get hurts so badly when they hit the ground is because most of the time the squad is performing on hard ground like, gym floors, concrete, grass, and the blue mat they usually perform on is also pretty darn hard itself. Cheerleaders do not get a very nice surface to fall on even when they are practising new and harder skills. Another factor to injuries is if your coaches are not up to pace with their training and experience.
Cheerleading is the most dangerous sport for women athletes and I know this because when you click into googles’ web browser cheerleading injuries the first think to pop up is that 66% of catastrophic injuries are from cheerleading.
Jumping is just one part of the routine. Its exactly what it sounds like but with a little twist. It not just normal jumping up and down if thats what your thinking. It is when you set, jump and pull. There is skills to pull in everything you do in cheerleading.
To be a good jumper you need to be able to do all three splits, left, right and middle. Also, it helps to be able to jump high. The types of skills you can pull in your jump are: a pike, toe touch, herki, and a herdler. As usual I will show you what these are at the bottom in photographs.
When you land your jump you can also pull a skill out of them for example, a standing backhand spring, a back tuck, or a fullback tuck. These are only seen and down by cheerleaders from the higher levels starting at level four.
In the routine you need a series of jumps to get full points for this section. For an example of a series, in my routine we do two jumps back to back, which are called whips when you do more than one, they are straddler, toe touch. Then we transition and pull are second whip of toe touch, toe touch, toe touch. In the first sequece of jumps the girls in the front row land there second jump and then pull standing backhand springs.
In cheer jumps are probably my least favourite just because jumping is hard on your knees and body, but also because my jumps are low. Once I improve my jump high I can see myself enjoying it a lot more because they will look nicer and I will feel better about them making me like jumps!
Baskets are the funnest part of cheer as a flyer. You feel like your on a ride at a fair. The amount of hight you can get and the feeling of free falling back into group has got be the best feeling ever, for some people. Some flyers absolutely hate flying in baskets because it freaks them out being that high in the air.
When flying in a basket you must be extremely tight, meaning you have to keep all your muscles tight. Also, make sure you keep your legs and arms tucked into your sides. If you start to flail in the air you could easily come down and hurt someone who is trying to catch you. Injuries occur quite of often when practicing baskets because it is very common for the flyer to get spooked. If the flyer comes down and their group fails to catch her you can cause extremely bad injuries or even death.
I myself love to fly in the baskets, but yes I have been freaked out a couple of times. You have to always make sure when you load into a basket launch that your feet are properly on your bases hands to when they toss you up you go straight up not backwards or forwards or else you group under you is going to have to run and catch you.
There are also skills that can be pulled in a baskets just like in a normal stunt. There is pike peters, pike stars, fills, double downs, ball stars, back tucks, and layout fulls. All these skills are seen at the different levels. Some of the skills I just mentioned are only possible if the group throwing you can toss you high enough to be able to pull these skills. The stronger the base group the high you can the more skills you can pull. I get to be only lucky flyer because my girls under me are the strongest on my team and get some extreme hight. I am talking about at lease fifteen feet in the air. Now you can see how that can be dangerous!
Here are a couple photos and a video to show you some of the baskets that I have done.
Worlds. The word sounds big by itself. I mean it’s the world we are talking about. And why yes it has everything to do with cheerleading. Worlds is an international competition that brings in teams from all over the world.
The best of the best come to Worlds to battle it out. Worlds happens twice a year and is held in DisneyLand. DisneyLand has become place that cheerleaders dream of. They wish every minute they could be there, not for the same reason all young kids want to go there, for the rides and disney characters. Cheerleaders want to go and be in DisneyLand because they know if they are there with there team than that means they are one hell of a team and down right amazing from where they come from. The teams that make it have to knock out all the other teams in there division around their area.
There is competitions all over the world that teams compete to hope to win a bid to worlds. Worlds is very expensive. These competitions give teams a chance to win all the money they need to get themselves to Worlds. To go to Worlds it costs each person on the team a minimum of twenty-five hundred dollars. Now thats a lot of money! I mean there is a maximum of twenty-four people on a team plus up to five or so coaches. Add all that together and your looking at a good couple grand and climbing. This is why teams work so hard to win a bid at the competitions that support Worlds.
The competition is filmed on TV everywhere like the Olympics, its just the majority of the population does not know much about it and doesn’t watch it. If you win Worlds you are awarded with leather jackets, metals, trophies, and rings. The rings are the most special award to the cheerleaders because it is the only competition that you receive something like that. To cheerleaders Worlds is the most important event out there and everyone is dying to go. Yet only level five and level six compete at Worlds. So every cheerleader pushes themselves to grow and to become better so that they can get on a level five or six team and get the chance to go.
Here is a video of a team competing at worlds to give you an idea of what it is like. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YncPTI54hEs
We all know that in high school or university when we are on sports teams we don’t have a celebrity high schooler we look up to or a university celebrity we want to be. We usually look up to the major leagues, the Pros like Lebron James in basketball or David Beckham in soccer.
Well, in cheerleading we look up to all the girls we compete against or know from other teams around the world of all ages and levels of cheerleading. I find this to be one interesting thing about cheerleading when I came to this sport. In cheerleading it is different than all sports because of this, because we look up to our opponents not down on them. We cheerleaders admire others skills and dedication and hope that one day you or your team can achieve those things to. So what was that people were saying about cheerleaders? Oh, that we are stuck up, only care about ourselves, and have high attitudes? Well guess what your wrong if you say those things. We have sass which makes us feel strong and powerful that makes us look like we have big attitudes, but we never said we were out to kill another team or cheerleader.
Some famous cheerleaders that are the same age as me (twenty) and are on only a level or two high that are currently going to university in the states names are Jamie Andries, Gabi Butler, Chealsea Boleyn, and Matt Smith. These people are average young adults trying to make it in the world just like us but have become famous in the cheer world because of there amazing skills. These people can do almost every type of stunt, tumbling pass, have perfect jumps and skills. The got recognized through competitions and winning Worlds more than once. Worlds is the next step up from nationals, in other words the biggest competition a cheerleader can attend and the highest title you can take.
I hope I have made you realize that cheerleaders are so much different than what the stereotypes are. Cheerleaders do not only aim to be the best but they look up to everyone around them in the cheer world. Becoming a cheerleader is like joining a family that is linked from country to state to city to town. You create so many friends from so many places and meet coaches from all over who want you to succeed even if they are from another team. Cheerleading makes a new term for sportsman like, we call each other family and work together even when we are competing. You always cheer on the team that is on the mat and hope for the best for everyone even if you want the win more than anything.
In the routine that we use to compete with at cheerleading competitions there has to be a pyramid in it. The pyramid is usually constructed towards the end of the routine and its the last hurrah and image the judges and crowd remembers you by. Its like the signature of the routine. The pyramid is also a fantastic part of the routine because this is when all the stunt groups finally come together to work one big stunt.
In the pyramid there is flipping, spinning, dismounts, raises, lowering, skills being pulled, and motions. Now this is a lot to do in about four counts of eight. Its exhausting but do-able once you get fit enough and can learn to breath while being tossed around.
I will explain what my pyramid looks like and show you with two videos what parts of our pyramid looks like at the end. Firstly, we start by having all the stunt groups loaded into there groups and when the count hits five we the flyers get pressed up to extension. On one the flyers hit there first motions, third count the second motion, and fifth count the flyers attach arms getting ready for the next stunt. On seven two of the flyers drop down on to their backs in their stunt group, on three the flyers legs straighten to above there heads and on five six the bases and third toss their flyer in backward motion making the flyer do a backwards flip. On one the flyer is caught by her ankles and is pressed back up to extension. On five the two flyers who got flipped get pressed down to elevator and the flyers who did not flip get pressed to extension. On one the flyers that are in extension lift one foot up turing the stunt into libs. Then finally on three two of the flyers do double downs and the other three flyers do a front walkover out of their groups. Lastly, we as a whole team then move to our spots to start are next section, the dance.
Now that was probably really confusing for those who have little knowledge about cheerleading. This is why I am going to upload some videos for you to help explain what all that meant. If you do have knowledge about cheerleading you would know this is a very easy pyramid and had little difficulty involved in it. But, as the year progresses you can change or create more difficulty as things start to hit fluently and the stunt group become more confidant.
Here is what the pyramid looks like: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z0iT6CYWsqI&feature=youtu.be
When I talk about pulling stretches in a stunt I am talking about the flyer. You don’t see bases holding a flyer up in the air and trying to pull a scorp. I mean there are time when in practice the stint group will mess around and try cool things, for example at the bottom of this post I put a picture of my stunt group all doing heel stretches, this means my bases and my as the flyer. This you do not see in a routine or anything but when we are cheering on our University teams we will mess around and show off with this kind of stunt.
Well lets see, the first pulling skill acquired by a flyer is usually an arabesque. This is one of the easiest skills and it does not require you to be extremely flexible. This is when the flyer is on one foot, leans forward and sticks the other foot out straight behind her. To met it looks like a flying airplane. I have photos for you to see and understand what I am talking about at the end, so stay enlightened.
All the pulling skills that come after the arabesque require some well established flexibility. Next pulling skill to acquire is the heel stretch, which is demonstrated in the above photo on the right hand side. The heel stretch is also done on one foot, and the other foot comes up by your head. Its doing the splits standing up right. Once you have a good heel stretch you can start stretching for a bow and arrow. This is a heel stretch but then you grab your foot with the opposite arm and put your other arm around the leg the is straight up and down. This skill needs a lot of flexibility.
Next pulled skill would probably be the scale. This is where you are on one foot, you rotate your hips sideways and pull up on your foot with your hand getting your leg to stick out the side. This is demonstrated in the above photo on the left hand side.
The last pulled skills to require are two of the toughest and require a maximum flexibility in your back, legs, and shoulders. They are a scorpion and a needle. The scorp is done by standing on one foot and pulling the other foot up to the back side of your head. This is shown in the above photo in the centre. Once your scorp is good you can pull harder on the foot that is behind you back until your leg is fully straight up your backside. This pose when then turn into the needle when your knee is straight. This is a very hard skill to get and needs lots of flexibility in all parts of the body.
All these skills are done by the flyer when her stunt group has her in the air. As you can see all these skills are done on one foot so you would be in liberty or in torch to be able to do these skills. Oh and yes they hurt and you are probably thinking that dosen’t look to bad, but I promise you they are!
My stunt group playing around at a game all doing our heel stretches:
My first attempt at pulling my bow and arrow: (Today it is a lot better)
Pulling an arabesque in lib:
The uniform just like every other team out there represents your school colours and sometime the school’s mascot. In all-star cheer the teams don’t come from a school they come from a gym, so there uniforms represent the gym they come from.
Here at Thompson Rivers University you can see from the image above my uniform is black and orange with the letters TRU on the front of them. Thompson Rivers University’s colours are black and orange and our mascot is a wolf pack. On our track suits we have written on our backs, ” Thompson Rivers University Cheerleaders, We Back the Pack”. All the gear the team owns represents our school in some way.
In cheer the uniform in usually pretty small and doesn’t cover that much of the body. There is a resin for this. It is because the more the skin shown the easier it is to catch your flyer than if she were covered in material making her slippery. Also for when you are tumbling. It is not easy to flip yourself around when you have loose, baggy clothing, or are wearing full pants and a long sleeve. This is why cheer uniforms are small. Not because we are trying to show off or think we are groupies.
Cheerleaders get judged so fast on there appliance, but little did you know there is reason for almost everything we do. Us cheerleaders are trying so hard to break all the stereotypes but we can’t do it alone. We fight for your sport to be a recognized sport, our dignity, and respect, but will ever get it? Who knows? I hope now you understand why the makeup, with the big hair, and why the small uniforms. There are reasons you just have to ask or read my blog because my plan is to explain everything I can think of that we get stereotyped on.