What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of cheerleading?
I asked some of my friends this question a few days ago after a routine viewing of the iconic 2006 Hayden Panettiere film Bring It On: All or Nothing. Their responses included prom queens, cliques, and the inclination to wear their uniforms wherever they go. Though their answers may have slightly been influenced by the aforementioned cinematographic masterpiece, they fell in line with the common reputation cheerleading holds in today’s society. Cheer is all too often reduced to merely being the activity a squad do on the sidelines of a field while the football team compete in the real sport. This could not be further from the truth, and the KCL Lions cheerleading squad are determined to prove it.
Established in 2007, the Lions have grown into one of the most successful collegiate cheerleading teams in the country. Attracting members from various athletic backgrounds, skill levels, and familiarity with the sport, the team is incredibly well-rounded and brimming with talent. I was lucky enough to be able to witness this first hand at the Lions’ last training session before their final competition of the 2017-18 season taking place on Friday 30th in Telford.
“Cheerleading is a high intensity sport that involves stunts, jumps, gymnastics, and dance.” Club president Abbie Spicer explained, speaking to Roar after wrapping up practice. “It’s a lot harder than people think.” Spicer’s teammate Kat Schubert emphatically chimed in. “It’s like CrossFit to music!” Veronica Sule added with a grin. “That’s the closest thing I can think of.”
Last season, the Lions reached new heights, beating out 18 teams and becoming the national champions in the All Girl Level 2 category. Hoping to build on their success, the girls are adamantly determined to defend their title, especially going up against their rivals, the Edinburgh Vixens. As they trained, they exhibited nothing short of complete and utter focus as they worked to perfect their competitive routine. From an observer’s perspective, I couldn’t believe what I was watching. The skill, strength, and trust that goes into completing a stunt was unlike anything I’d ever seen before. These girls are the living, breathing definitions of the word athlete. I was left wondering why they are so often treated as if their sport were inferior.
“People think of it as just pom, which is a lot of dancing, but cheerleading is not just pom.” Says club treasurer Patricia Thomas. “It can be really dangerous.”
Thomas couldn’t have hit the nail harder on the head. Studies have shown that in the US, cheerleading accounts for around 66.7% of all catastrophic sports injuries at a university level. Spicer emphasized how the risk involved in the sport renders the team closer thanks to a combination of confidence, hard work, and most importantly of all, trust. “We would do anything for each other,” Spicer noted. “If you have confidence in yourself and in your teammates, it will always get better.”
Going forward, the Lions hope to receive increased support from KCLSU in terms of promoting them as the successful sports team they already have proven to be Additionally, in the UK, cheerleading is not a BUCS sport, meaning that it is up to the team to finance their own activities through fundraising and sponsors. Significantly less funds are given to cheerleading at King’s compared to some of the BUCS sports, which is unjust especially considering the Lion’s competitive track record. The girls also expressed their desire to be included in the London Varsity Series as soon as next year.
On the whole, the Lions are only after one simple thing: recognition.
“When we win a competition, how is the Union recognising that this is a King’s team doing really, really well?” Thomas asks. “It doesn’t always feel like the university itself cares that we’re going out there and winning.”
“We just want to be treated the same as everyone else,” Spicer added pensively, before rightfully exclaiming, “especially because we’re national champions!”