In our new series, ‘Showcase your Sport’, in association with the Irish Federation of Sport, we will be giving you a thorough insight into some of the most fascinating sports we have in Ireland.
This week, our focus is on Irish Cheer Sport and to tell us all about cheerleading in the country is Team Ireland’s Conor Spain.
Another fascinating edition to look forward to this week in our #ShowcaseYourSport series, in association with the Federation of Irish Sport.
— Pundit Arena (@PunditArena) July 6, 2020
When did you first get involved in cheer sport and how did it come about?
I first got involved in 2016 when I was hired by a gymnastics club as a tumbling coach for their display and cheer programs. I had previously coached Trampolining and Tumbling, and a little bit of Artistic gymnastics before joining them, but had never experienced cheerleading until then.
After maybe a year and a half of coaching with them, a back spot on their senior 3 team got injured before a competition and I ended up being convinced to fill in for them, and I loved it.
I haven’t looked back since.
Can you explain the basic rules of competition?
There are many different levels, and many different categories within levels depending on how many members are on the team, whether it’s an all-girls team or a coed/mixed team with both boys and girls, and the ages of the members. The great thing about that is that there is always going to be at least one team within a subcategory that will perfectly suit any age and ability.
Routines are generally two minutes and 30 seconds long. They must include a variety of stunts, basket tosses, pyramids, running tumbling, standing tumbling, jumps, and dance. That’s a lot to fit in a two minute 30-second routine so it’s always action-packed with something going on at all times. Each of those categories gets scored depending on difficulty, execution, and creativity.
Do Irish people compete internationally?
Yes they do, Irish teams can go to international competitions representing their club. Also every year there is a team made as Team Ireland consisting of either the top team in the country or a mix of athletes from different clubs around Ireland. I got through trials last year to make it on to Team Ireland for 2020 however due to Covid-19 we were not able to travel to Florida in April to compete on the international stage. However, the team is staying together to go on to compete in 2021.
What does a normal training week look like for you?
In my own club, Dublin Thunders, the senior team trains once a week on Sundays for three hours. At the moment it is a level 4.2 team, which means level 4 stunts and level 2 tumbling, so most of the practices are very stunt orientated which I love. Outside of that, I try to make it to the gym 2-3 times during the week before work. One bonus of being a gymnastics coach is I get to stretch daily when coaching classes so that really helps keep my flexibility up.
Finally, I usually do the adult open gym classes where I work in Phoenix Gymnastics Club to work on my tumbling. Sundays can be quite a busy day, even though it’s the only day of the week where I am not in work. I guess you could say I like to be busy!
What is your favourite memory from the sport?
My favourite memory so far would be one of the weekends down in Galway where we were learning the choreography for our world’s routine with Team Ireland. We had training most of Saturday and most of Sunday but it was great fun watching the routine come together and finally seeing the end product by the end of our training on Sunday.
What is the best thing about cheerleading in Ireland?
It is still such a young sport in Ireland so it is great to be able to see it develop and grow.
Even though I have only been involved with it for a few years there has been such a change and a huge increase in not only numbers involved in the sport but also in the difficulty of routines getting higher and higher each year. It’s fantastic to see the bar constantly being raised and the sport getting more recognition around the country.
What would you like to achieve in the sport?
I would like cheerleading to be recognised as an Olympic Sport and one day represent my country at the Olympics. Until that happens, I can thankfully settle for the next best thing of representing my country at World’s next April in Florida.
Why should people try out cheerleading?
Cheerleading is a tough sport, but a rewarding one. It will challenge you mentally and physically but in the best way possible. Who doesn’t want to say that they lift and toss people in the air, or that they get lifted or tossed in the air on a weekly basis?
It is such a fun sport to be involved in, it’s fantastic being on a team and working together with others to create the routines. It’s also a very inclusive sport as every single person on the team is involved, and no matter what size or shape you are, there is always a position for you to excel in.