LAST week I got the opportunity to fulfil a lifetime ambition. I got the chance to be a cheerleader for the evening – pom poms and everything.
It may sound like a strange ambition, but let me put it into context.
I grew up in the 1990s, when the TV was full of sitcoms and films set in American high schools, where cheerleaders were not only the most popular girls, but they also got to wear brilliant outfits and dance around with pom poms. I doubt I was the only teenager who harboured a secret desire to don the dress and take on the role.
As I arrived at Boston Grammar School on Wednesday evening, I discovered it was not quite what I had expected – but, apparently, that is what most people think when they roll up for their first session.
“A lot of people don’t know much about cheerleading and what we do here,” said coach Nicola Drummond. “Most people think it’s about teenagers and mini skirts and it’s not about that. It’s about getting together, having fun and keeping fit. We have a lot of banter and a lot of fun,” she added.
I went along to join the adult group for the evening, but United Cheer Team also runs groups for people ranging from the age of four to 17. The groups are all named after bees, after the black and amber colours of Boston United, and called Buzzy Bees, Little Bees, Bumble Bees and Queen Bees. The adults are called Bee Amazed.
They cover a range of cheering, including stunting, cheer dancing, and a mix between stunts and gymnastics. Each has strict rules about what can be included in routines. The adults were pom dancing, a variety which involves dancing with poms and also some cheering.
Sessions start with an aerobic warm-up, similar to other exercise classes, but including pom poms. I thought it made it look much more fun and polished.
They moved on to practising an Olympic-themed routine, which is being prepared for performance with the other groups. It was at this point I was thrown some pom poms and told to get involved.
I’ll be honest, I spent my brief period of cheerleading marching on the spot and moving my arms, rather than jumping in the air and doing backflips, like in the films, but it was brilliant.
I didn’t take my eyes of Nicola and fellow coach Teresa Newbery as they did wide Vs, crossed arms and the mysteriously named UCT arms. I smugly thought I had managed to pick up the routine – until the music began and the routine sped up. Take a look at the video online to see how well I kept up with the other, more experienced cheerleaders.
However, successful or not, I enjoyed my stint brandishing the pom poms, especially as I then got to see the group’s routine from their successful trip to a recent competition in Manchester, when all groups came within the top ten.
But success at performances is not the reason most of the people go along to the groups.
Alison Burton, 41, said: “I enjoy it. It’s fun and it’s exercise. It’s a good group of girls. We just have a laugh.”
She spoke for much of the group.
Anyone who fancies heading to the sessions would be made very welcome, Nicola said. Sessions for the younger age groups run on Monday evenings and specialist activities and adult practices run on Wednesday nights. Sessions cost from £3.
For more information about any of the groups call 01205 364406.