All about boy power
These male cheerleaders are smashing stereotypes with every stunt they execute.
COMBINING grace and physical strength, cheerleading is one sport where males and females have a chance to shine on the same mat.
While cheerleading is sometimes – inaccurately – depicted as a female sport, male cheerleaders play an important role as well – from being strong bases to executing complicated stunts on their own.
However, male cheerleaders still face a lot of stereotypes. One of them is that they’re “girly”.
“Non-cheerleaders are often under the impression that all we do is dance around with our pompoms,” said Teow Yueh Tern, who captains the Puzzle team from Tunku Abdul Rahman University. “There’s definitely more to cheerleading than that!”
Male cheerleaders play a greater role than most people realise. Being a base, for example, isn’t just about standing there, it’s also about – safely – throwing and catching flyers. It’s more difficult than it looks, and on top of that, requires a great deal of muscle.
“Other people lift weights, cheerleaders lift people. Weights are stationary and people are not, so it’s difficult to control the flyer’s balance,” HELP University’s Legacy All-Stars captain, Nicholas Yaep said.
The difference between a good base and a bad one could mean the difference between a perfectly-executed stunt and an injured flyer – something the average viewer may not pick up on while watching a performance.
That’s why male cheerleaders sometimes try to break the “girly” stereotype, by showing people what practice sessions look like. Stripped of the shiny accoutrements of cheerleading like pom-poms and glittery costumes, cheerleading’s base grit and difficulty shines through.
“I show them videos of my team’s routines and stunts. They don’t see dances and pompoms, they see people lifting others up, quite literally, and this surprises them,” said Teow with a laugh.
He isn’t the only one to attempt proving that cheerleading isn’t the fluffy sport people think it is: Tan Dao Jun, a cheerleader at Zodiac Co-ed, would occasionally invite his peers to participate in practices with his team.
“The practices are quite grueling,” he chuckled. “It’s satisfying to know that I’ve changed their minds about cheerleading when they realise it’s not as easy as it looks.”
While male cheerleaders clearly face a lot of scepticism from the non-cheerleading world, you’d expect them to be supported by their own cheer community. Sadly, this doesn’t seem to be the case.
Yaep believes that there is an element of sexism which exists within the world of cheerleading.
“There was one competition where I cheered with pompoms for a routine. After the performance, the judges commented that they’d rather not see boys cheer with pompoms, even though I performed the same routine as the girls did, and didn’t make any mistakes,” he said.
“Some judges also don’t like it when boys become flyers, even if they are the right size for it,” he said. So, in order to please the judges, Yaep and his team have revamped their routines to exclude male cheerleaders holding pompoms and stunting as flyers.
“It’s a bit sad, but we do what we have to because in the end, we want to win,” he said.
But because they love what they do, male cheerleaders press on, even in the face of injury. In 2016, Yeap almost had to sit out of the CHARM Cheerleading Competition because of a sprained ankle.
In the end, he gritted his teeth and performed anyway, something many cheerleaders would empathise with. Injury is such a part of their lives that, if possible, they wouldn’t let it stop them from giving it their all.
Tan runs on the same belief. The fear of injury shouldn’t stop cheerleaders from doing their best, he said. In fact, hesitation could end up more dangerous to both the individual and the team.
“Hesitating can cause injuries,” he said. “Just go for it, and be confident while tumbling and stunting. As long as you stick to the routine, you will be fine.”
To the boys who are thinking of being cheerleaders, but are afraid of not being up to standard, Yeap has this piece of advice:
“I once feared that I wasn’t athletic or strong enough to be a cheerleader, because there was so much strength involved in the sport,” said Yeap, who started cheerleading with Legacy All-Stars with no prior experience.
“Don’t hesitate to join, whether in high school or university, and don’t worry about what people say. The strongest boys I know are cheerleaders.”
Come on over and cheer our male cheerleaders on at the CHEER 2017 Grand Finals, held at Tropicana City Mall, Petaling Jaya, on Aug 19!
The event is organised by Star Media Group’s youth platform, R.AGE, and supported by the Youth and Sports Ministry, the Education Ministry and the Cheerleading Association and Registry of Malaysia.
XOX Mobile is the event’s Official Partner, with Sunway Education Group as Prize Sponsor, and Tropicana City Mall as Venue Sponsor.
For the latest information on CHEER 2017 and to download entry forms, visit rage.com.my/ cheer or facebook.com/thestarcheer. #TheStarCHEER #OneMusicCHEER #StarXOXCHEER
There is a lot of responsibility – figuratively and literally
– on male cheerleaders to uphold the sport and smash stereotypes.
The sheer strength required to be a male cheerleader smashes the stereotype that they’re ‘girly’.