CHEERLEADING is no one-man show. Just ask any secondary school cheerleader and they’ll tell you it’s a combined effort between parents, coaches and, of course, their schools.
According to Vulcanz captain Ariel Yew, her team faced financial difficulties and had to sell T-shirts and perform at events to pay for their coaching fees, props and uniforms.
However, despite the struggles, she credited Vulcanz’s teacher advisor Suntheriswari Pathmananan for being there with them every step of the way.
“There were talks that Vulcanz would be disbanded and CHEER 2015 would be our last chance to help keep the team,” said Yew.
“We won the best showmanship award and got fourth in the All-Girls category but I don’t know if our school will allow us to continue. Ms Suntheriswari said she will fight for us so I’m very thankful for her.”
This might also be the final year for team Anselm and Mathilde from SMK Infant Jesus Convent as well because their teacher advisor Tan Sock Horng wants to focus on rhythmic gymnastics.
Nevertheless, Tan has always done everything she could to help the girls.
Tan, who has been with Anselm for five years, was there at every practice after school hours and occasionally provided transport for cheerleaders whose parents couldn’t drive them to and from training.
“It’s important to have that support, especially from parents because the girls sometimes have to train at the gym, practice at night or go for tuition after training. Without parents, who’s going to fetch the girls, and pay for their outfits and props?” said Tan.
“This team is very lucky because the parents are very supportive and we won the CHEER Financial Aid, which helped us with the coaching fee.”
The CHEER Financial Aid of RM30,000 was divided among three schools earlier this year.
Suryani Sulaiman, teacher advisor of Ignite A and Ignite B of SMK Bandar Baru Uda, Johor Baru, is already working on the teams’ application for next year’s CHEER Financial Aid because the school is unable to support them financially.
Suryani uses cheerleading to help wayward students in her school turn their lives around. Most of the cheerleaders in Ignite A and B are from poorer classes, but Suryani said cheerleading has helped them learn discipline and team work. It even helped improve their English as they had to practice their cheer chants!
Ignite A placed second at the CHEER Southern Regionals and won an all-expenses paid trip to KL to compete in the CHEER 2015 Finals.
“My teams might not be very outstanding when it comes to cheerleading so the fully-sponsored trip to KL allowed them to watch and learn from some of the best teams in the country,” she said.
Apart from that, cheerleading also teaches students to manage their time and finances, said Zodiac coach Jonathan Gale.
“Some of these kids aren’t from rich families, but they have the passion to cheer. And when they say they have no money, I’ll talk to them and teach them how to save,” said Gale, who gave the cheerleaders discounts on his coaching fees.
“I always make sure I have a very good relationship with the school. I check with the school to make sure the kids are getting good grades. If they don’t, they cannot be part of the team.”
He added that the school is trying to get more safety mats for the team given their excellent performances at CHEER, which has motivated the kids to do even better in their studies and practice even harder to make the school proud.
Irene Kee, mother of Cyrens captain Genevieve Liew, believes a lot of parents don’t support their children’s involvement in the sport because they don’t understand what goes into their training.
“If they watch the girls train, and understand the pain and sacrifice they go through, they’ll know it’s not easy to be a cheerleader,” said Kee, who heads the Cyrens’ cheer mums and dads group.
“I would encourage any parent to allow their children to take up cheerleading because it’s very good training. I’ve seen a change in my daughter, attitude-wise. She’s more focused and determined.”
Cyrens and Calyx All-Girls head coach Tan Yee Ming agreed that cheerleading, like any sport, helps with personal development, something you can’t learn in the classroom.
“A lot of the cheerleaders who have graduated from high school said cheerleading has made them tougher and better at managing their time, and taught them leadership skills,” said Tan.
“My girls learn a lot about discipline because they have to train hard and be really committed to it. Some of them even sacrifice family holidays because they don’t want to miss practice.”
Tan, who coached the Cyrens to an incredible sixth consecutive win at CHEER 2015, said schools who want to excel in cheerleading need to get everyone involved.
She said: “It’s not just the coaches or the cheerleaders, it’s also the schools, parents, teachers, families and supporters. Everybody has to play their part. That’s how a team grows and becomes stronger.”