Simply the best
Meet the teenage girls behind the Cyrens, arguably Malaysia’s greatest cheerleading team. EVER.
WHEN Jaymee Tan first started coaching the Cyrens cheerleading squad in 2010, they had placed 21st out of over 30 teams at CHEER, Malaysia’s biggest cheerleading competition. The very next year, they were the champions of Malaysian cheerleading, a title they’ve held ever since.
Just two weeks ago, the Cyrens, who represent SM Sri Kuala Lumpur, won their record- extending seventh CHEER champions’ trophy, making them the most successful team the country has ever seen, and arguably its greatest.
The team now boasts some incredible young athletes. They might still be teenagers, but every time they perform, they leave people awestruck with their acrobatic stunts and perfectly choreographed routines.
But that wasn’t always the case, according to Tan.
“When the Cyrens first started out, there wasn’t much of a support system or proper structure in place,” she said. “The girls were talented, no doubt, but cheerleading was still a new thing back then.”
She got started on whipping them into shape. Within weeks, the squad of 21 girls had dropped to just 12 because they couldn’t handle her gruelling training routines.
“But it didn’t matter, because those 12 were really committed and disciplined. So I trained them up anyway and they did really well for their school’s sports day performance, and that attracted three more girls to join, so we had 15, and we brought those 15 to competition. And they won!”
That was seven championships ago. Now everyone in Sri KL – and the wider Malaysian cheerleading scene – knows that if you want to be part of the Cyrens, you’d better be willing to work insanely hard. And you’d better be good.
The Cyrens train four days a week, all year long, doing strength exercises you’d expect more from military bootcamps than secondary school cheerleading practice.
They do a combination of spine rolls, sit- ups, squat jumps, banana rocking, back raises, push- ups, high knees, leg kicks and sprints for two- and- a- half hours; and that’s not even including their performance rehearsals, where they practice all their high- flying stunts.
“It’s definitely difficult for first- timers,” said Cassandra Yang, the Cyrens’ captain for 2016. “Most people aren’t used to that level of intensity and I’ve seen people struggle because they’ve never done anything this hardcore before.”
Caityin Tania Dean, 16, hates jump squats the most. “Every time we do it, my legs feel like they’re going to fall off.”
If the girls train like soldiers, then Tan is their drill sergeant, and she has a zero- tolerance policy on complacency or sluggishness.
“I’m very big on efficiency,” said Tan, a former competitive cheerleader herself. “Moving fast so you can get more done in the same amount of training time is something I constantly emphasise.”
The team’s attitude towards training wasn’t the only thing that changed in 2010. After they won that first trophy, the school’s administration began to pay more attention to the Cyrens, according to Joanna Johan John, the teacher in charge of the Cyrens.
“The school began cultivating this culture of support, holding events where parents and the other students would come and watch videos and demonstrations from the cheerleaders, listen to the coach’s speeches and mingle with each other,” said Tan.
“Events like that help everyone become more supportive and understand the sport better. And when people understand something better, they feel more emotionally invested.”
To get the entire school hyped up for CHEER each year, there’s the traditional promise of a holiday the day after every win. No surprise then, that the supporters of the Cyrens and their junior sister team, Rayvens, have won the CHEER Best Supporters Award almost every since 2010 ( they missed out in 2011).
Their supporters arrive at CHEER every year by the busloads and, in true cheerleading spirit, make it a point to cheer and support even the Cyrens and Rayvens’ biggest rivals.
But probably the biggest secret to the Cyrens’ success isn’t their strength training or their school’s support system – it’s the school’s
The Cyrens performing at CHEEr 2016, en route to the senior All- Girls Division title – their seventh consecutive win. — sAm THAm/ The star
Cyrens captain yang taking a selfie – cheerleader style – with her teammates, a week after their CHEEr 2016 win. — yAp CHEE HONG/ The star