Interview with Lancaster Roses Cheerleading Captain

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Photo by Tom Starbek-Wazynski

With try outs around the corner, SCAN speaks to Lancaster Roses Cheerleading Captain, Shona McGinn, about expectations and ruling out old-time prejudices:

The Lancaster Roses Cheerleading Squad has gone from strength to strength in recent years and represented the university on both campus and university levels, what can we expect from the squad this year?

After returning from the British Cheerleading Association’s (BCA) annual university competition in April, we aim to build on our success. Our Co-Ed squad came 2nd, All-Girl Squad achieved the highest score they’ve ever received and our Dance Squad narrowly missed out on a trophy. We plan to compete at BCA again alongside another university open competition earlier in the year – which we have never done before. We will also, as always, be supporting societies like the American Football team at their games and performing at various events such as Roses, the Charity Ball Showcase and the Campus Festival.
For those who aren’t as aware of the club make up, what squads do the Lancaster Roses have and how do they differ?

We have three squads that make up our society; dance, all-girl and co-ed, all of which are entered in national competition. Dance Squad is usually the smallest of the three. They work on fast paced dance routines using pom-poms and involves no stunting. All-Girl Squad is one of our uniformed squads and is, as the name suggests, entirely made up of girls. They work on a 2 minute routine in which they dance, jump, stunt and do gymnastics plus use pom-poms. Co-Ed Squad is made of both girls and boys. They also wear the traditional cheerleading kit and enter competition at a higher level because having men on the team enables them to do bigger stunts.
Who is coaching the various squads and what credentials do they have?

We coach ourselves; each squad has two coaches that have attended a coaching weekend by the BCA and gained their NCSSE (National Council for Spirit Safety and Education) coaching qualification at various levels depending on the squad they are coaching. This year we are also getting an outside professional coach to help all three squads.

What sort of students are you looking to attract this year?

We encourage anyone and everyone to come and have a go at our try-outs, no experience is necessary to join the squad. For anyone who is from a dancing or gymnastics background but fancies something different, cheerleading may be the sport for them. We are also looking to build on the triumph of our co-ed squad and to do this we need more male members. Cheerleading isn’t all girls and pom-poms! Co-ed squads across the country have at least 5 or more male members who help the squads perform bigger and more complex stunts – excellent upper body strength is most definitely required.

What can people expect from try outs? What would you say to those who are nervous?

There is absolutely no need to be nervous. Try outs mainly consist of doing some basic stunts and cheers that are taught in the taster sessions. They are mainly in place to allow the coaches to place you on the right squad for you. You will be asked if you have any gymnastic experience but please don’t worry if you don’t; I can proudly say as captain of the Lancaster Roses my gymnastic ability just about stretches to a forward roll!

With a home Roses this year, can we expect to see more performances from the squads? When else do you expect to perform?

Every year we undertake at least 2 performances at the university. We perform at the Charity Ball in Lent term alongside other societies, such as the ballroom society, and also at a university favourite, the Carlton Nightclub. With Roses being at home this year we will also be at the Roses Rally. We will be performing the half time event at the Lancaster Bombers game and hopefully any other opportunities that may arise.

What would you say to those who say that “Cheerleading isn’t a sport”?

I would invite anyone who has this view to come down to our taster trials, especially men. Many males don’t want to be known as cheerleaders exactly because of this viewpoint. Cheerleading requires great upper body and core strength plus balance and coordination to carry out the stunts, which we are continuously looking to build on. Every year at competition we watch other co-ed squads perform some amazing routines with several male members to each stunt. This year’s highlight was watching a partner stunt performance with one male lifting another cheerleader entirely on his own above his head – we would love to have some members of our squad rival this ability. Every practice we partake in a group warm up and cool down as in any other sport due to the physical requirements of the activities we undertake and every year we bring back trophies for the university. But if none of this can convince you that cheerleading is a sport, I challenge you to come down to our taster sessions and try it out for yourselves!

It is fair to say that there are numerous preconceptions about cheerleading – it is catty, girly and cliquey – how will you and your exec work to overcome such prejudices?

When I was a fresher, I too was worried about such preconceptions. However, I aim with my exec to be as welcoming to newcomers as the previous exec was to me. The great thing about our society, like all those at Lancaster, is that we encourage anyone to join and so you get a great mix of people that perhaps on a normal day to day basis would not meet one another. In a cheerleading environment, where you stunt at every practice, it also creates a lot of trust between partners- you are literally supporting each other. The exec this year is made up of members from every squad so all squads are represented by the exec and their views can be heard.

Why should the Lancaster Roses Cheerleading Squad be the students’ choice at Freshers’ Fair?

Cheerleading is definitely something different from other societies as we are a sport that combines gymnastics, dance and lifting. We represent the university proudly with our Lancaster kit and we are known across campus for our spirit.

The Roses have a close relationship with the American Football team, what are you looking to do in order to maintain this strong relationship?

We definitely have a strong relationship with the American Football Team, The Lancaster Bombers, which we aim to strengthen even further this year. We aim to increase the number of cheerleaders at events and to be there for the team at both home and away games. We also aim to support other university societies at their game as we are a university squad and as such should represent and support the whole university.

Is it all work and no play?

No of course not! Every week we have a social in which everyone from all squads is invited to go out and have fun. Our socials are usually themed as determined by the two socials secretaries on our exec. We have joint socials with other societies like the Lancaster bombers. Every year we also go on a squad holiday.

How has funding improved this year? How are you looking to invest it?

This year we have had access to more funding than ever from LUSU. This has enabled us to look towards getting ourselves a professional coach and also helped with the cost of entering more competitions and transport to them.

To find out more about the Lancaster Roses Cheerleading Squad visit them at Freshers’ Fair next Thursday, they will also be performing at the LUSU Activities Showcase on Wednesday.

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