DISCOVER CHEERLEADING

Say goodbye to old clichés: cheerleading is a well-rounded sport! Looking for something different that will push your limits and increase your self-confidence? This spectacular and athletic sport is just the thing!

SAY GOODBYE TO OLD CLICHÉS AND DISCOVER A MULTIDISCIPLINARY SPORT: CHEERLEADING. LEARN MORE ABOUT ITS HISTORY AND UNDERSTAND THE RULES. AFTER THIS ARTICLE, YOU'LL KNOW EVERYTHING THERE IS TO KNOW ABOUT THIS MYSTERIOUS SPORT!

WHAT IS CHEERLEADING?

At the end of the 21st century, Thomas Peebles, a man from Princeton, had an idea to channel the crowd's energy during sporting events. When Peebles joined the University of Minnesota a few years later, he wanted to share his enthusiasm. Johnny Campbell, today known as the creator of cheerleading, became interested in the idea and added the first cheer to encourage their favourite team to victory. Little by little the squads started adding acrobatic movements and floor gymnastics (tumbling), and cheerleading was born. At the time, the squads were mainly all men. It wasn't until the 1940s that women really joined the squads. While cheering started out as mainly a masculine sport, today 90% of cheerleaders are women. Over time, more technical elements such as partners, stunts and pyramids became essential parts of cheerleading routines. The year 1975 was a big moment in the history of cheerleading: the first routine set to music was created, and the sport became a discipline in its own right.

WHAT'S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A CHEERLEADER AND A POMPOM GIRL?

In 1980, a difference began to form between "all star" cheerleaders (competitive level) and "high school" cheerleading (school sport entertainment). A journalist once tried to describe the entertainment he saw at an American football match, and called the cheerleaders "pompom girls". The term is not widely used today in English, with most people using the word cheerleader. Although cheerleading is much more popular in the United States, it has started to gain a foothold in France. Clubs are getting better every year, and France has participated in the World Championships since 2011.

THE RULES OF CHEERLEADING

There are several levels and age groups in competitive cheerleading. These include U11 (9-11 years), juniors (12-16 years) and seniors (over 17 years). Within these age groups, there are levels 1, 2, 3 and elite. The elite level is the highest category in France. The squads at this level can try to qualify for the world championships. In other countries, such as the US, there are up to six levels of squads. During competitions, squads perform 3-minute routines with required skills: Stunts performed as a group. Pyramids are series of stunts requiring connections between the flyers (those who are lifted in the air during stunts). Tumbling is the gymnastics portion. The athletes must do a series of moves on the floor depending on their level. The gymnastics techniques are specific to the sport. There is also a choreographed portion. The entire routine is judged according to a very detailed scoring standard.

THE BENEFITS OF CHEERLEADING

The main benefit to cheerleading is its multidisciplinary aspect. Cheerleading includes acrobatics, gymnastics and dance. There's no need to choose between several sports as cheerleading combines several disciplines!   Cheerleading is also a team sport that creates social ties. Ask any cheerleader - their squad is like their second family! The athletes have to trust one another to keep everyone safe. They are rigorous in their approach and always follow the rules. Finally, performing in front of a crowd and competing increases athletes' focus and involves developing good stress management.

IS CHEERLEADING FOR YOU?

Cheerleading can be done by anyone at any age or level. However, it is important to be physically fit when doing this sport. Excellent flexibility is a plus. Whether you're a girl or a guy, give cheerleading a try!

THE EQUIPMENT YOU NEED FOR CHEERLEADING

During competitions, you have to wear a uniform! It is very important for this sport, and squads put a lot of effort into their uniforms. When practising, there is no required outfit. But it is best to wear slim fitting garments that won't get in the way when doing lifts and jumps. Most important are your trainers. They need to be designed for indoor use, provide good support, and most of all be flexible for the bases who have to lift the flyers.

Let go of those old clichés - now you know that cheerleading is a real sport! Do you practise an unusual sport?

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Photos provided by the Viking Cheerleaders (Villeneuve d'Ascq - Hauts de France).

THE VIKINGS OF VILLENEUVE D'ASCQ
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