By DANIEL SUBRAMANIAM
SAMUEL L. Jackson isn’t usually the first name that comes to mind when you think of cheerleaders.
Yet, the actor with a tonne of attitude was, in fact, a male cheerleader in college. Yes, Nick Fury used to cheer.
That might seem funny to most since cheerleading is viewed as a female sport these days. But the fact is, males were the first to start cheerleading.
The stereotypical image of cheerleading involves skirts, pompons, loads of make-up and plastered smiles, with male cheerleaders usually relegated to the sidelines. But the boys have started inching their way to the top of the Cheer scoreboards in recent years.
Eight years ago, the first all-boys team, Vulcanz Team B (now known as Vulcanz Co-Ed) from SMK Seafield in Petaling Jaya, stepped out onto the mat at Cheer, and promptly grabbed the Best Newcomer award that year.“We already had eight guys in the co-ed team so we just needed to find another seven or eight members for the all-boys team,” explained then-captain Lim Chee Wei.
Even though teams like Vulcanz had already laid the path for male cheerleading, that didn’t mean that newer male teams had an easier task of finding members.
“We had trouble forming the team when we started. We just kept asking around to see if people would join the team but the response wasn’t good. We only managed to get 13 members (teams need a minimum of 12 members to participate) so we made do with that,” said Jake Lim Jia Ern, 17, captain of reigning Co-Ed Champions Mickeymitez of SMK Damansara Jaya, Petaling Jaya.
The team made their Cheer debut in 2010 and bagged the Best Newcomer Award that year. “When we first started, there were people who were making fun of us but after we won the Best Newcomer Award people did warm up to us a little,” added Jake who has been with the team since its inception.
But not everyone was won over, and some were still unsupportive of a boys cheerleading team. “When people started to make fun of us again last year, we decided it was time to prove them wrong. So when we were announced as champions (in the Co-Ed category), they really had nothing to say,” added Jake.
Lim, now 26 and a professional cheerleading coach, added that the perception for many is that male cheerleaders are “sissy” or effeminate. However, he feels that things are a little better now. “At least, there are two sides to the coin now. There are more and more people who are beginning to recognise that cheerleading is not easy and that it is actually a very athletic sport. However, people will still find the concept of male cheerleaders foreign unless they’ve been exposed to the idea.”
“There are some people who still think that cheerleaders are a bunch of girls who wear skirts and jump around,” said Vulcanz Co-Ed captain Muhammad Danial Syafiq,16. While they do not cheer with pompons or put in as much time into hair and make-up as their female counterparts, male cheerleaders still have to battle the stereotype that cheerleading is a feminine sport. But they are also winning over some fans.
“There are people now who say, ‘Wow, those guys are actually doing backflips and stunts. That’s really cool.’. These are the people who then decide to join the team.”
In fact, male cheerleaders have an advantage over their female counterparts when it comes to the execution of their stunts. “The boys tend to be more adventurous and less timid. This allows them to learn the routines more easily. Of course, they are also physically stronger than girls,” said Lim who coaches both all-girls and co-ed teams.
“All-boys teams tend to jump higher, and perform sharper, cleaner stunts.”
Cheer 2012 will see six co-ed teams battling out in the Co-Ed Category. Expect to see stunning moves and jaw dropping stunts as these boys take the floor at Cheer 2012.
n Cheer 2012 is organised by R.AGE and Galaxie, co-presented by Silkygirl and co-sponsored by Sugus. The Cheer 2012 finals will be held on June 16 and 17 at Stadium Malawati, Shah Alam, Selangor. Admission is free.