Illawarra cheerleaders return home after successful nationals

Flipping out: The Academy of Cheerleading team have returned from a successful nationals in Melbourne. Picture: Sylvia Liber.
Flipping out: The Academy of Cheerleading team have returned from a successful nationals in Melbourne. Picture: Sylvia Liber.

The Illawarra’s best junior cheerleaders have returned home from a successful national championships in Melbourne.

The Academy of Cheerleading team achieved two third placings and four top five finishes as they took on the country’s best cheerleaders.

Head coach Nicole Cassanego said the competition was stronger than ever as the sport continues its rapid growth.

“At nationals over 15,000 athletes from Australia competed,” She said. “We took 83 athletes to Melbourne and everyone did exceptionally well. We had six of our teams place in the top five, which was a fantastic achievement.

“The sport is growing rapidly every year. Usually we’d take home a few more places, but it’s a really high standard and a lot harder to place. All of our teams performed excellent routines and in some cases the score difference between first and fifth was less than a mark.”

While many outsiders may not take the sport seriously, Cassanego says it’s a challenging sport that requires regular training in order for the athletes to perfect their routines. 

“Our training starts in February and ends in November. It’s a 10-month commitment from the kids. Leading up to the end of the year they knuckle down and work very hard.”

Despite the sport’s challenging nature, Cassanego said routines are choreographed at an achievable level and athletes of any sporting background or level of expertise are welcome to join.

“When we choreograph, we choreograph to suit the athletes on the team. So we put athletes in teams suitable to their ability. In terms of completing their routine, we make them challenging but achievable so the athletes aren’t overwhelmed at competitions.”

Judges mark teams on the difficulty of their routine as well as the overall execution of the moves. The ultimate goal for every team is to hit zero. To hit zero is to be hit with zero deductions by the judges for making an error. Two Academy of Cheerleading teams were able to achieve this feat.