A new advocacy group for cheerleaders has been created to quash many of the negative and sexist stereotypes surrounding the sport.
Directors from NRG Studios, Air Born and the Academy of Cheer (AOC) have come together to form the Illawarra Cheerleading Alliance to show the world their athletes were more than dancers with pom-poms.
Nicole Cassanego from AOC said while Sydney clubs were “growing rapidly” many people in the Illawarra still had the “wrong idea” which she believed was hindering the sport’s expansion in the region.
She said often people perceived cheerleaders as simply dancers in skimpy outfits who performed sexualised movements for a football club. The reality, she said, was cheerleaders were highly athletic sportspeople who trained in a mix of acrobatics, gymnastics and calisthenics.
“There are strict ruling regarding uniforms and in your dance movements,” Ms Cassanego said.
“If you dance inappropriately you will get a warning.
“It’s a very athletic sport, it is so physical, we get a lot of ex-gymnasts taking up the sport because they find it a challenge.”
Cheerleading is not for the faint-hearted with teams in high level competition completing stunts similar to Cirque du Soleil rather than than the Bring It On movies, she said. While athletes at high levels were predominantly male.
“Overall we’re trying to promote the sport and [change the perception] for All Star Cheerleading,” Ms Cassanego said.
All Star Cheerleading has been given provisional status as an Olympic sport and the Illawarra Cheerleading Alliance is working hard to ensure that the Illawarra is represented on the world stage.
At the Australian All Star Cheerleading Federation national competition in November, six championship titles were taken out by Illawarra teams.
According to the federation’s definition, the competition sport involves females and males performing a two minute and 30 second routine composed of stunting, pyramids, group tumbling, jumping and a dance break.
Teams consist of five to 38 athletes, with the routine performed and scored against other competitive teams at various local, regional, national, and worldwide competitions.