AS we do every year, R.AGE organised the CHEER Clinic ahead of the big event this weekend – the CHEER 2014 finals.
Held at Dewan D’Kelana, Petaling Jaya, Selangor, the clinics gave the 21 teams who took part a chance to refine their routines and stunts ahead of the finals this Saturday and Sunday.
For many of the teams, it would be their only chance in the entire year to train or practise on full-scale facilities.
Xtreme captain Chenelle Wong, 16, said being able to practice just a few rounds on the competition-sized mats makes a huge difference.
“It’s important for us because it allows us to widen our routine, because we get to have more space between each cheerleader with a bigger mat,” said Wong.
Wong’s teammate Lee Ying Ching, 15, added that the clinic also helps newbies get used to the pressure of the competition at CHEER 2014.
“There’s usually such a huge crowd watching us at the CHEER finals, which can be very nerve-wracking for the younger cheerleaders, so it’s good that they get to try out the routine here with other teams watching them,” said Lee.
The clinic this year was slightly altered, though. According to Cheerleading Association and Register of Malaysia (CHARM) President and Secretary-General of the Asian Cheer Union, Beverley Hon, the two-day clinic is no longer just about teams running through their routines or learning about technicalities and permitted stunts.
“There are teams who come unprepared and they tend to expect us to fine-tune their routines for them.
“We’re trying to teach them to plan in advance. If they’re not sure of the legality of a certain move or are unsure of some technical details, they should contact us earlier. Don’t ask us at the clinic,” said Hon.
CHEER 2014 will see an important shift in the rules as well, as it has switched from the US-based National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) Spirit rules to the International All-Star Federation (IASF) rules.
The Malaysian cheerleading scene started off around 2000 with rules adapted from the NFHS Spirit rules. But as the scene gradually embraced the levels rules of the IASF and International Cheer Union (ICU), which is a range between level one to six, the NFHS rules were consigned to school competitions like CHEER.
“As a result, there was a fair bit of confusion because the NFHS rules had different restrictions from that of the IASF/ICU.
“Since the levels rules in IASF and ICU clearly define and encourage progress, which is what our still-growing CHEER community needs, we felt it best to stick to one set of rules - IASF/ICU.
Now, we have a level four division for more skilled teams and level two junior division for lesser skilled teams,” explained Hon.
Coaches recognise the benefit of the changes as well. Jonathan Tan, 24, coach of SMK Kepong’s team Zodiac, and Eric Chee, 28, who coaches SMK Puteri Titiwangsa’s Vibrant and Vibrant Junior as well as SMK Seri Bintang Selatan’s Anchorz, both said the new rules are more clear-cut with teams now having explicit knowledge of the dos and don’ts.
Chee explained that some teams were unclear of the rules, so they tended to push the limits of their capabilities, risking their safety in the process.
But with the “safety-first” ethos now firmly in place, CHEER 2014 is expected to reach new heights.