All about boy power

These male cheer­lead­ers are smash­ing stereo­types with every stunt they ex­e­cute.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - R.age - By YEUNG YEU-GYNN fb.com/thes­tarCHEER

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

— LOW LAY PHON/The Star

There is a lot of re­spon­si­bil­ity – fig­u­ra­tively and lit­er­ally

– on male cheer­lead­ers to uphold the sport and smash stereo­types.

— SAM THAM/ The Star

The sheer strength re­quired to be a male cheer­leader smashes the stereo­type that they’re ‘girly’.

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