Cheerleading is still often seen as a very American activity – perky cheerleaders waving pom-poms and getting the crowd cheering for the players on the field. Competitive Cheer is a fast-paced, high-energy sport in its own right, and not just a sideshow at the Super Bowl. Cheer is one of the fastest growing sports in this country, too, with its trademark blend of performance and athleticism.
The HW Whirlwinds, based here in Tring, started competing in 2022. Since then, the Whirlwinds have grown from one team to six, with girls aged between 5 and 14 years old training hard every week, honing their skills and stunts. And with all the physical training comes discipline, commitment, teamwork and confidence.
It’s not all pom-poms either. In fact, with a lot of competitive cheer, there’s not a pom-pom to be seen! The routines are tightly choreographed, blending skills from gymnastics and dance and demanding incredible physical strength and flexibility. Like all team sports, there are a range of roles for the cheerleaders: some are ‘flyers,’ being lifted up; some are ‘bases,’ holding up the flyers; and some are ‘spotters,’ who ensure that the stunts are safe.
Cheerleading is all about strength and coordination, with elaborate and acrobatic stunts that demand an incredible relationship of trust between the cheerleaders. Routines are judged on technical elements – the goal is to ‘hit zero’ by having no technical deductions in your score – as well as performance, and the result is an incredible spectacle of skill and excitement.
It’s a great way for young girls, in particular, to gain fitness and confidence, finding their role within the team – whether that’s as a flyer or a base – by playing to their strengths. There are great opportunities in place for training as a cheer coach, and two of the HW Whirlwinds competition team recently qualified as Junior Cheer Coaches and now assist with training the younger teams. Laura, one of the new Junior Coaches, says, ‘Competing has given me so much confidence, and it’s great to be able to work with the younger girls and help them build their skills.’
The cheer spirit is important, too. Harriet, head coach, says, ‘It’s so important that the girls see competing as something positive – and that they support each other and are respectful and supportive of the other teams. It’s a huge part of any cheer competition.’