Lev­el­ing up

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - R. AGE - By LIM MAY LEE fb. com. my/ thes­tar­rAGE

UNI­VER­SITY cheer­lead­ing teams in Malaysia have had it tough. Not only is it dif­fi­cult to start and main­tain teams, there’s also a lack of plat­forms for them to com­pete. Thank­fully, CHEER is work­ing to change that.

“Other re­gions have had uni­ver­sity di­vi­sions for years,” said Sun­way Uni­ver­sity Col­lege ( SUC) coach Tan Kai Ling.

“In Malaysia, we’d feel de­mor­alised when se­condary school teams have bet­ter stan­dards and per­for­mances than we do, but we couldn’t im­prove much be­cause there aren’t any com­pe­ti­tions for us to per­form at.”

Well, now they do. SUC’s ju­nior and se­nior teams were both given the chance to com­pete at CHEER 2016, where a brand new Uni­ver­sity Elite Co- Ed Di­vi­sion was in­tro­duced.

CHEER, Malaysia’s big­gest cheer­lead­ing com­pe­ti­tion, has been around since 2000, but it was only open to se­condary school teams.

The move to open the com­pe­ti­tion to uni­ver­sity teams was wel­come by pretty much ev­ery­one in the cheer­lead­ing scene.

“I only started cheer­lead­ing af­ter se­condary school, so all this while, I’ve never had the op­por­tu­nity to com­pete,” said SUC Se­nior cap­tain Heng Sin Yi, who led the se­nior team to vic­tory at the CHEER fi­nals.

“It was al­ways a dream of mine to win a CHEER tro­phy, and now that dream has come true!”

But the Uni­ver­sity di­vi­sion is about more than just dol­ing out tro­phies and cash prizes. It’s about giv­ing the teams a chance for them to take their art and skills to the next level.

“When you test your­self against others, you learn more about your strengths and weak­nesses – and you learn about your op­po­nents’ as well,” said Cheer­lead­ing As­so­ci­a­tion and Reg­is­ter of Malaysia pres­i­dent Beverley Hon. “Then you go back and work to im­prove on things – as in­di­vid­ual ath­letes and as a team.”

Be­sides per­fect­ing their skills on the mat, win­ning com­pe­ti­tions also helps teams gar­ner sup­port from their uni­ver­si­ties and fel­low stu­dents.

“It was only af­ter our win at CHEER 2016 that our uni­ver­sity gave us fund­ing for mats and uni­forms,” said Liaw Wei Xiong, cap­tain and coach of run­ner- up team Puz­zle from Tunku Ab­dul Rah­man Uni­ver­sity Col­lege.

He is also plan­ning on us­ing their new- found pres­tige to at­tract new team mem­bers.

It’s not easy get­ting col­lege stu­dents to sign up for a sports club, and co­or­di­nat­ing their sched­ules to train a com­pe­ti­tion- ready team is even more chal­leng­ing, said Liaw.

“Get­ting ev­ery­one to­gether for CHEER was a huge chal­lenge, but my team is very ded­i­cated, and no­body skipped a sin­gle train­ing ses­sion,” he said.

Liaw said it was un­for­tu­nate that many other uni­ver­sity teams weren’t able to take part in CHEER 2016 this year.

“We’re lucky we man­aged to put a team to­gether. I’ve heard that other uni­ver­si­ties wanted to take part, but couldn’t even get enough mem­bers to form a team.”

It might be chal­leng­ing to start a brand- new team, what with con­flict­ing sched­ules and a lack of sup­port from the uni­ver­si­ties, but Hon has some words of ad­vice for those who want to get a team off the ground.

Start off with low- level stunts if the uni­ver­sity has con­cerns about safety, and use the cheer team as side­line sup­port for events both on and off cam­pus, she said.

So ap­proach the other sports teams in your uni­ver­sity, and of­fer to cheer for them when­ever they’re competing.

All the sports teams will get some ex­tra sup­port ( even if it’s just from the cheer squad), the spec­ta­tors will get some ex­tra en­ter­tain­ment, and the cheer squad will get more chances to per­form. It’s a win- win- win sit­u­a­tion!

“Don’t give up,” urged Hon. “There are ways to get it done. Show them what cheer­lead­ing is about and lead by ex­am­ple!”

CHEEr 2016 was or­gan­ised by

and sup­ported by the Youth and Sports Min­istry and Ed­u­ca­tion Min­istry. Grab­car was the of­fi­cial trans­porta­tion part­ner. Watch all CHEEr 2016 per­for­mances at fb. com. my/ thes­tar­rAGE!

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