The Hallam Cheer team started up nearly 10 years ago and have won plenty of prizes in competitions this year. To top things off, they have qualified for the University World Cheerleading Championship next year in Florida, and have already started training and fundraising.
Suzanne O'Hara, the coach, says it’s been an extremely successful year for Hallam Cheer, which consists of 66 members, both male and female Hallam students. They entered two national competitions and won first place at ICC in the 'All girl stunt' category and three first places in different categories in the BCA competition.
"The team has been so successful as we have been driven by no one believing in us, and the sheer amount of determination amongst our members is what has given us such success. As a cheerleader you are constantly trying to gain approval from other 'sports'."
Suzanne says members need to be extremely dedicated as they train up to 20 hours a week near competitions.
"They also need to be tough. If a cheerleader gets injured they aren't able to call a timeout like in other sports, we just carry on. Teamwork is vital to the success of the team as you are constantly trusting others with your personal safety."
Mixture of skills
Suzanne is 21 years old, and has been coaching the team for the last two years. She is a final year student at Hallam University studying for a BA in Environmental Studies.
She got into cheerleading after watching American films like Bring it On, which inspired her to ask her secondary school to start the sport as an after-school activity. She has many years of dance experience, which she says is common for a lot of cheerleaders.
"The Hallam team is made up of a complete mixture of dancers, gymnasts and other athletes such as trampoliners and lacrosse players," she says. "We do get a number of team members who have experience in neither gym or dance but show the raw talent required to learn the skills."
Not just 'sideline girls'
The team only cheer for other sports teams as a fun break from their usual training. "The single reason we train is for competition, it is where we really get a chance to show what we can do. Many people think we are sideline girls but most of the team don’t even wish to attend such events."
Suzanne says it is common for people to think that what they do at varsity and other university events is what they do all the time. But to be able to truly show off their skills the cheerleaders need safety matting and sprung floor which is only available at competitions.
Expectations for World championships
The University World Cheerleading Championships next year features the best university teams from all over the world. Hallam Cheer have been selected as one of three universities in their division to represent the UK.
"The Americans are the bar setters in cheerleading as they have been doing it a lot longer, but every year the UK is closing the gap. With the right facilities and funding put into our sport we stand every chance of becoming on par with the Americans."
The team have already started training for the competition and are doing 12-hour training sessions at weekends. They need about £30,000 to go on the trip and are doing everything they can to raise the money; from car boot sales to sponsored runs.
"We are going into the competition with no expectations, we have no idea how strong the competition will be and therefore are just working as hard as we can so we can go out there and do our best.
"The level of competition will be above and beyond anything we have seen here in the UK but the experience will be once in a lifetime."