Traditionally, cheerleading has been given a bad rap because its image gets tainted by unforgiving representations in movies or TV. This couldn’t be further from the truth as it’s a lot of work to do the wonderful things that these girls and sometimes boys put together in order to get everyone on and off the field, court, or other sporting venue in the mood to cheer on their team. We sat down with the coach of the Dulwich College Junior School’s cheerleading team to learn more about their path to pep and spreading cheer from one sport to the next and everything else in-between.
What’s your team’s name?
When we started the team we were just known as the Junior School Cheerleaders. As we got more exposure through school sporting events, volunteer opportunites and performances we inherited the nickname Dulwich Cheerios. The nickname grew on us and ended up sticking.
When did the cheerleading group at the Junior School of Dulwich College of Beijing begin?
The cheerleading ECA was started by another American teacher that worked at DCB before I moved to Beijing four years ago. Since I had some experience with dancing in high school, she asked me to carry on with this club when she left. Being an American I was more familiar with cheerleading than the other teachers, but I still had a lot to research and learn. It was a big learning experience for me, but I soon came to love coaching this team.
How are the girls selected for this group?
All Junior School students are allowed to join our group. They can choose cheerleading as an after school ECA (extra curricular activity).
Tell us what training for cheerleading is like?
First we start with the fundamental arm movements of cheerleading. Once the girls start to look sharp and strong with those basic moves, we move onto jumps and stunts that require more strength. We also spend a lot of time practicing our cheer chants. In addition to strength and skill building, we also like to have fun and play games that build confidence and teamwork skills.
When and where do the girls perform mostly?
The girls mostly perform during half time or before sporting events to encourage crowd participation and enthusiasm. They do a great job at encouraging others to cheer and support our Dulwich Lions.
Were you involved in creating/planning the moves in the performances when you train the girls? Were there any special moves for different occasions, say games or opening ceremonies?
We often like to create our own cheers about the events we are going to. For the netball tournament, the girls learned how to toss and catch poms to look as if they were playing netball. The girls came up with that idea, which made it even better!
What do the parents say about their girls doing cheer leading? Were they supportive?
The parents are very supportive of the girls. They are very pleased with the confidence and teamwork skills the girls are gaining from this sport. We are very lucky to have many proud parents attend our sporting events in support of the girls performances. They are also very happy to see the girls smiling and having fun.
Among all the activities your team have performed in your school, which one impressed you the most? Why?
I was most impressed by the volunteer opportunities my Cheerios have worked at. Earlier in the year, they helped run different events at the Early Years Sports Day. During this event the girls were responsible for teaching short activities and helping the younger students complete each event. This was great to witness because the girls worked hard and were fantastic role models for the younger students. I felt very proud of their selfless work and beautiful attitudes that day.
As far as I know, some parents have negative impressions about cheerleading from TV or movies, what do you think about that?
I spend a lot of time explaining to the girls the difference between movie cheerleaders and athlete cheerleaders. They understand the difference and work hard to break barriers against the stereotypes by being strong, smart and independent girls.
In your opinion, as a sport, what advantage or positive effect does cheerleading bring to the girls?
I believe that there are many positive benefits to cheerleading. The greatest benefit for me would be the increase of confidence and courage in my girls. Some of them have additional English needs or are quite shy. Cheerleading has really helped my girls come out of their shells and show their personalities. I also feel that my girls have gained a lot of courage since they’ve joined the team. At the beginning of the year they were terrified of cheering in front of crowds. I was constantly encouraging them to cheer louder. By the end of the year they are loud and proud!
Photos: Courtesy of Dulwich College Beijing
This article appeared on p28-29 beijingkids November 2017 issue.
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