By LIM MAY LEE
UNIVERSITY cheerleading teams in Malaysia have had it tough. Not only is it difficult to start and maintain teams, there’s also a lack of platforms for them to compete. Thankfully, CHEER is working to change that.
“Other regions have had university divisions for years,” said Sunway University College (SUC) coach Tan Kai Ling.
“In Malaysia, we’d feel demoralised when secondary school teams have better standards and performances than we do, but we couldn’t improve much because there aren’t any competitions for us to perform at.” – SUC coach Tan Kai Ling
Well, now they do. SUC’s junior and senior teams were both given the chance to compete at CHEER 2016, where a brand new University Elite Co-Ed Division was introduced.
CHEER, Malaysia’s biggest cheerleading competition, has been around since 2000, but it was only open to secondary school teams.
The move to open the competition to university teams was welcome by pretty much everyone in the cheerleading scene.
“I only started cheerleading after secondary school, so all this while, I’ve never had the opportunity to compete,” said SUC Senior captain Heng Sin Yi, who led the senior team to victory at the CHEER finals.
“It was always a dream of mine to win a CHEER trophy, and now that dream has come true!”
But the University division is about more than just doling out trophies and cash prizes. It’s about giving the teams a chance for them to take their art and skills to the next level.
“When you test yourself against others, you learn more about your strengths and weaknesses – and you learn about your opponents’ as well,” said Cheerleading Association and Register of Malaysia president Beverley Hon. “Then you go back and work to improve on things – as individual athletes and as a team.”
Besides perfecting their skills on the mat, winning competitions also helps teams garner support from their universities and fellow students.
“It was only after our win at CHEER 2016 that our university gave us funding for mats and uniforms,” said Liaw Wei Xiong, captain and coach of runner-up team Puzzle from Tunku Abdul Rahman University College.
He is also planning on using their new-found prestige to attract new team members.
It’s not easy getting college students to sign up for a sports club, and coordinating their schedules to train a competition-ready team is even more challenging, said Liaw.
“Getting everyone together for CHEER was a huge challenge, but my team is very dedicated, and nobody skipped a single training session,” he said.
Liaw said it was unfortunate that many other university teams weren’t able to take part in CHEER 2016 this year.
“We’re lucky we managed to put a team together. I’ve heard that other universities wanted to take part, but couldn’t even get enough members to form a team.”
It might be challenging to start a brand-new team, what with conflicting schedules and a lack of support from the universities, but Hon has some words of advice for those who want to get a team off the ground.
Start off with low-level stunts if the university has concerns about safety, and use the cheer team as sideline support for events both on and off campus, she said.
So approach the other sports teams in your university, and offer to cheer for them whenever they’re competing.
All the sports teams will get some extra support (even if it’s just from the cheer squad), the spectators will get some extra entertainment, and the cheer squad will get more chances to perform. It’s a win-win-win situation!
“Don’t give up,” urged Hon. “There are ways to get it done. Show them what cheerleading is about and lead by example!”
CHEER 2016 was organised by R.AGE and supported by the Youth and Sports Ministry and Education Ministry. Grabcar was the official transportation partner. Watch all CHEER 2016 performances on our Facebook page!