If everything you know about cheerleading you learnt from American High School movies, you’re not alone. But turns out cheer is kind of a big deal here - and one local squad is about to take on the world stage. Naturally we had to know more (like, is the Spirit Stick from Bring It On legit? So many questions!)
There’s a serious cheerolution (that’s a cheer revolution) going on. All over Australia, squads across the country are tumbling like it ain’t no thang. And on Sydney’s Northern Beaches, Gymstars, one of the only all-girl cheer gyms in Australia, is kicking some serious – er, air.
Right now the club’s spotlight is on the Gymstars Lady Vixens, the star team that competed at the Australasian Cheer and Dance Championship (otherwise known as Nationals) to qualify for a place at the 2015 Cheerleading Worlds. They smashed it, coming second. Team member Bryanna Jones, 16, reflects on the pressure of the high-stakes competition.
“It is seriously the most stressful experience you can imagine,” she says. “Not only are you putting your body through physical stress with vigorous exercise and training in preparation – but also your mind. If you aren’t ready mentally there is no amount of physical training that will help.”
And yes, the atmosphere is as crazy as it is in the movies.
“There are thousands upon thousands of people screaming and chanting your name, your squad’s name – it’s insane!” Says Bryanna.
And it’s going to be even crazier when the team take on Worlds in Orlando, Florida USA this month. The team actually qualified for Worlds in 2013, but they deferred their bid to compete for a year in order to fundraise for their journey.
“We’ve been busy selling chocolates, making and selling cheerleading bows and holding barbecues and sleepovers,” says teammate Rachel Fehily, 16.
A member of Gymstars since it opened in 2006, Rachel has worked her way up the levels to be a top competitor. But what she loves most about cheering is bonding with her besties.
“Our squad is a family – I met two of my best friends through cheerleading, and I love getting to compete with 20 of the most amazing girls,” she says. “We all trust each other with our lives.”
She’s not exaggerating – imagine being thrown five feet in the air, mid-pose, relying only on your teammates to catch you (and then probably throw you again.)
“Cheerleading is a team sport and relies heavily on teamwork and spirit,” says Bryanna.
“It isn’t as mean as they make it out to be in the movies.”
“It gives you the chance to fully trust someone and have someone put their trust in you. When that happens you become a real team – it’s the best feeling.”
So there’s the good stuff – but what about the bad? In the movies there’s always the rival team, the mean squad leader, the body bullies… (OK our main reference here is Bring It On, but you were thinking about it too.) Is there truth to that stuff?
“Yes and no,” says Bryanna. “It isn’t as mean as they make it out to be in the movies. The only element of that is when you are at competitions – some people can get really competitive! But overall, cheerleaders are some of the nicest most supportive people you will ever meet.
You always see teams wishing luck to other competitors, regardless of whether you’re part of their club.”
Sounds like a Girl Gang we wanna be a part of.
(Oh, and the spirit stick? It’s the real deal - but we’re sworn to secrecy.)