Daniel Holmes reflects on his experiences as UEL Sirens Cheerleading President and how diversity has led to the success of the club at the national level competition.  The team consists of 12 passionate members, the smallest squad since the beginning of the Sirens, but by far one of the most passionate set of individuals and successful team to date.

The diversity of the team has always been something we pride ourselves on, always having several members of the team identifying as LGBTQ+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer +), and we have always been very open and accepting of the individuals that become part of the team. Being one of the only co-ed sports that the cheerleading-1-e1495814007346.jpguniversity offers we find that people feel more safe and supported as they don’t necessary feel they have to fit into stereotypes and ‘lad culture’ that a single gendered sport may present. As a team were involved in the planning of LGBTQ+ ‘Have a bit of Pride’ Campaign, and spreading the word and attending workshops that were put on. We always try and highlight out individuals for struggles they may have had to overcome in our outside the time making them feel supported throughout but the whole team.

Cheerleading is constantly breaking barriers, being a considerably niche sport that is often misinterpreted, with a lot of individuals taking part for the first time when coming to university. Being a very physical sport it involves a lot of trust between team mates, and understanding the others you’re working with to give the best overall performance.

As a sport the routine consists 4 very different aspects; Stunting – involving physical strength lifting and throwing people in the air, Jumps – flexibility, timing and control, Tumbling – gymnastics and flexibility and technique, Dance – rhythm and performance.

I think people should join because it’s a very different sport that most people have never tried before, let alone even know completely what it is. As a team we’ve always been completely supportive of everyone that comes through the door to give it ago. Individually working with others to help them progress and learn new skills so that can walk out the gym knowing that they’ve learnt something new and felt safe and comfortable doing it. We generally have a lot of big personalities on the team and people from a variety of different backgrounds and lifestyles so there’s support for everyone. And we’re always up for a social event, whether it be a night at the bar or a chilled night at bingo.

My top tips to support LGBTQ+ individuals in sport is be understanding and sometimes it’s better to ask if you don’t understand. Educating yourself about LGBTQ+ is extremely helpful, it allows you an insight to understand what they identify as and the majority of the time they are happy to talk about it so you can better support them and make them feel comfortable.

If people are interested in joining the team next year or just generally want to give it a go there will be taster sessions in the first couple of weeks of the next academic year drop me an email dholmes@uel.ac.uk and I can answer any questions you may have and give you more information about the team.

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