By GINGER ANG
LIKE most teenagers, 17-year-old Mandy Chang hates being compared to her sister. Unlike most teenagers, they’re on the same cheerleading squad. Comparisons are inescapable.
Blessed with similar skills and strengths, siblings are often invaluable team assets. But it’s not always a bed of roses, as Mandy will tell you.
“I often worry if my sister’s better than I am,” the SMJK Katholik’s Calyx All-Girls cheerleader says. “And when other teammates start comparing us, I get frustrated and start doubting myself. I start to wonder if I deserve to be on this team.”
Little sister Joey, however, doesn’t see it that way. “There are occasional arguments during practice, but it’s just our way of communicating with each other,” the 15-year-old says. “But we do fight for the front car seat!”
Of course, sibling warfare isn’t anything new. “Isn’t there always a teeny bit of rivalry between siblings?” Nur Fatihah Abu Hassan says. The current captain of Sri KDU International School’s Xtreme cheer team, she shares an easy rapport with older sis Hidayah.
“We’re always trying to improve. And we help each other out whenever the other is struggling,” the 16-year-old says. “It’s healthy competition!”
But when tensions rise, it’s usually the siblings that start warring first. This has led some coaches to avoid putting brothers or sisters on the same team.
Coach Tan Yee Ming of Cheer Aspirations explains that siblings tend to use harsher tones when speaking to each other. “This isn’t a good thing when you’re in a team environment.” she says. “You really have to get their side of the story and understand the situation to help them work things out.”
“It’s very hard to treat your sisters as teammates during practice. You tend to get more personal,” says Rachel Lu Tze Ee. The eldest of three (all members of reigning CHEER champs, the Sri KL Cyrens), she captained her two younger sisters to the title last year.
Younger sister Rhyon, 15, says: “Sometimes, we end up arguing in the middle of practice. Our teammates have to separate us and talk us out of it.”
Spats aside, their partnership seems to have worked pretty well. The trio has won CHEER 2013 and 2014 together, with Rhyon and 17-year-old Ryane hoping to bag another win for the family this year.
Rachel recalls making farewell videos for each of her teammates, including Ryane and Rhyon. “When you have sisters, you don’t really show your feelings. You act all tough instead.” She admits to being extra harsh on them in training.
But when the time came for her to make her sisters’ videos, Rachel let her guard down with a heartfelt message. “I told them how proud I was of the both of them, and how fortunate I felt to be able to spend my last year of cheerleading with them,” she says.
Cheerleading isn’t exclusive to girls either, as Peh Yong Sern will tell you. But the 16-year-old from SMJK Katholik admits to having reservations about joining his school’s cheer team due to its popularity as a female sport.
“My brother, who was one of the founders of our Calyx Co-Ed team, promised to look out for me and be by my side through it all,” he says.
Sadly, their partnership was short-lived, with Yong Ching forced to stop competitive cheerleading after tearing a ligament in his knee. “I couldn’t relieve his pain, but we’d have long chats with each other to help him get through it,” Yong Sern says.
With injuries common in the sport, the Pehs aren’t alone in their display of sibling solidarity.
“When I hurt my lower back, my sister would accompany me to the chiropractor, and I did the same for her, when she had an injury,” says Mandy. “Although we try to one-up each other on the outside, ultimately, we’ve always got each other’s backs.”
At the end of the day, these cheer relationships forge a bond like no other. “Cheerleading’s definitely brought us closer,” says Mandy. “Although we argue sometimes, it has helped us understand each other better.”