Leeds Met has a huge and diverse range of sports societies, and now is the perfect time to get involved.
To cheer on all our basketballers, rugby players and footballers is Leeds Met’s very own cheerleading team: the Carnegie Aviators. However, that is not all they do.
There is frequent prejudice against cheeleading as a sport. It is often thought to just be girls in short skirts waving pom-poms. But in the case of the Carnegie Aviators, that couldn’t be further from the truth.
Our team does it properly, combining gymnastics, dance and stunting to create fantastic routines – complete with some very tricky lifts. They have even made it to the finals of some of the most prestigious cheerleading competitions.
I spoke to the captain of the Aviators, Heather Nelson, a third year Sociology student, about what it’s like being on the team and why anyone can get involved.
How many people are on the squad?
Thirty altogether. There are about fourteen girls still here from last year but everyone has to try out again.
How long have you been captain/on the squad?
This is my first year as captain, but my third year on Carnegie Aviators.
The Carnegie Aviators have entered a number of competitions, how did the team do?
Last year we entered three competitions and came third in one, second in another, then the final competition – nationals – we came second again. We were also one of only three UK teams to get an invite to Uni Worlds – sort of the cheerleading equivalent of the World Cup!.
Tell us a bit about cheerleading… What roles are there in the team?
Cheerleading involves a mix of gymnastics, stunting, jumps and dance. Its for all body types too, I think most people associate cheerleaders as being small and bendy but it takes all sorts. You need to be short to be a flyer, strong to be a base and tall to be a back, so everyone can be involved.
How often do you train?
Twice a week, on Tuesdays and Thursdays at a cheer gym in Kirkstall.
Is the team diverse? Is it all female sports students like people might expect?
Our team is really diverse, last year we had five guys on the team and both our coaches were male, which I don’t think people expect in this sport. In the previous two years I’ve been on the team I met students from Germany, America and Bahrain. It’s a mix of people studying any subject Leeds Met could offer.
Why is cheerleading a great sport to try?
I think cheerleading is such a great sport to try as it involves so many different elements. Someone may try out and be an amazing gymnast but need to work on their dancing and someone else may join who can stunt but whose jumps need to be improved. Everyone brings strengths to the team and helps everyone else improve on the weaknesses.
It’s also such a team sport. To let three girls throw you in the air you’ve got to have absolute trust and confidence that they’re going to be there to catch you! And you have to feel safe to be stood underneath someone.
Do you need to have experience?
You definitely don’t need experience, obviously it would help, but there are girls that made the team last year that had never tried it before. The coaches are looking for potential, people they think that with the right training and attitude will improve throughout the year and therefore will be an asset to the team, this could be anyone!
Best thing about being on the team?
I’d say the best thing about being on the team is meeting new people. Obviously you get the chance to learn new skills and compete at a national level, but knowing what it feels like to be a fresher moving to Leeds knowing nobody, the socials and training sessions allow you to meet people that you plan to be friends with for life.
What advice would you give to someone trying out?
I’d just say don’t be nervous, get stuck in and enjoy yourself, it’s not the most common sport so if you’re worried about being the only person never to have tried it before, don’t. You’ll be fine and really enjoy yourself!
So, if that has dispelled the stereotype for you, why not try cheerleading for yourself?
The taster session is on Tuesday 18th September at Headingley Campus in Gym 2, 8pm – 10pm. Try outs are Thursday 20th September at the Aviator Allstars cheer gym from 7pm – 8:30pm.
Follow @CarnegieAviator or go to the Facebook page ‘Carnegie Aviators Freshers Info 2012-2013′ for more information.