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IT’S the home stretch for cheerleaders preparing to strut their stuff at CHEER 2014, the inter-school cheerleading tournament’s 15th anniversary.

So, everything hinges on their remaining training sessions before the combustible final on Aug 23-24.

Maintaining a strict training program while juggling their studies and parents’ concerns is already a huge task. With the competition mere weeks away, however, injury and well-being have become top priority.

“Because the competition is so near, we are actually cutting down practices to avoid injury and to make sure we’re well rested. Hopefully, it helps us stay calm,” said 17-year-old Cyrens team captain Rachel Lu.

Normally, the Cyrens hold four training sessions a week – three on cheerleading and one on gymnastics – with each session lasting up to three hours.
For now, they have cut their sessions down to three.

For the Mickeymitez, though, senior cheerleader and coach Chiam Shiun Jia, 17, reckons they will only reduce their practice sessions, from six to three per week, a week before the big event.

“The trial exams are clashing with CHEER 2014 and the Form Five seniors are unable to participate.

So, we’ll need the extra practice sessions to train the new recruits for now. They’ll need the rest during the week before the competition to recover and prepare,” he said.

Director of Cheer Aspirations and coach Lim Chee Wei, 28, agrees on the importance of avoiding injury.

At the moment, his focus for the teams he is coaching, the Vulcanz and Dstarz, is on improving their physical state and endurance.

“The teams also place emphasis on the relationships between members during training – working to build bonds and trust. This will strengthen their team spirit,” he added.

Lim also stresses that cheerleaders need to be prepared both physically and mentally before attempting their moves to ensure safety, as cheerleading is a very physical sport.

With CHEER 2014 just around the corner, teams around the nation, like the Mickeymitez, are taking their training sessions even more seriously now to retain fitness levels and prevent injury.

With CHEER 2014 just around the corner, teams around the nation, like the Mickeymitez, are taking their training sessions even more seriously now to retain fitness levels and prevent injury.

“We, as coaches, must invest the right amount of effort and time to toughen their bodies and minds to give them more confidence,” he said, intimating that this will allow them to perform stunts without hesitation and cope with the challenges of their routines.

“Commitment is the most important thing to us.

A cheerleader may not be as strong with her cheers, but with determination, she can be trained – unlike her commitment,” revealed Lu on the importance of dedication.

“If just one person is not present for training, it affects the entire team’s preparation.”

The tournament, according to Lu and the other seniors on her team, is placing a strain on their looming SPM and O-levels examinations.

So, they manage by helping each other through study groups to make studying “easier and more fun”.

”The biggest difference between All-Star and high school cheerleading training sessions is the timing – we hold our training sessions during the night while high school cheerleaders practice in the afternoon,” Cheer Aces member Michelle Kong, 20, expressed.

All-Star teams like Cheer Aces provide an avenue for college students and young working adults like Kong, who just finished her A-levels, to continue cheerleading after leaving school/college.

“Our members usually have other priorities like classes and work throughout the day. Hence, training at night can be more exhausting as it’s after a long day at work or school,” she added.

Sometimes, external factors like parents also hold a good cheerleader back, especially for the younger secondary school children.

“A couple of parents have been less than encouraging,” Lu informed.

“Carting their children to and from practices, especially during holidays, or seeing their kids injured, can upset them.

Sometimes, the kids stop coming all together.”

To help the situation, Lu’s school organises Teacher-Parents Days to define cheerleading and showcase what the kids can do.

Parents are also updated on the identity of coaches and the safety precautions taken during training.

“Schools are beginning to understand cheerleading better and accord cheerleaders the respect they deserve,” said Lim, adding that proper training venues, however, is still a common issue among schools.

However, Lim feels it bodes well that the development of training methods over the years has vastly improved to help prepare teams in an effective, fun and safe environment.

It has become more systematic and technical, with results now more reliable, too.

And that has helped grow the cheerleading community in high school teams like the Warriorz, coached by Kong on the side.

The team, according to Kong, had membership issues earlier this year, but have gotten an influx of members at the “last minute” to make up its competitive team.

They, too, have ramped up practice sessions from one to three a week.

Top teams like the Cyrens train all year round to be ready for competitions like CHEER.

Top teams like the Cyrens train all year round to be ready for competitions like CHEER.

Gears have been shifted and preparation is now in overdrive for all teams in anticipation of the mouthwatering competition.

Will the Cyrens, once again, claim the prestigious title, or can another team upstage the reigning champions?

Whatever the outcome, Stadium Bukit Jalil will definitely be rocking to the cheers of participants and supporters at CHEER 2014.

* CHEER 2014 is organised by R.AGE. It is co-sponsored by U Mobile and SimplySiti. Red FM is the original radio partner. For more info on CHEER, go to facebook.com/thestarCHEER.

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Former magazine and advertising writer who took up the job at R.AGE hoping to make a difference through his writing. Went undercover to research college marijuana dealers recently – that was pretty cool. Oh, and he’s the drummer for the band Once Upon A Time There Was A….. Never mind.

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