By Ellie Griffiths
Are Australian cheerleaders defying the typical cheerleader stereotype, as they defy gravity in their routines?
Training year-round for the competition season, a growing army of athletes is turning cheerleading into Australia’s fastest growing sport.
Perfecting their tumbling and stunts, these athletes are fighting the cheerleader stereotype many people still believe.
Associating cheerleaders as being ditsy and focused on their looks, typically seen with pom-poms and groupies of sports teams, TNT All Stars cheerleader, Kirstie O’Connor, has never met anyone who represents this stereotype.
“Everyone is really smart and educated, wanting to go to university, wanting to get good marks in school,” said Kirstie.
“I’ve never met someone that’s like bitchy or anything. They are all really kind, and encourage each other, and no one puts looks first, they always look for if they have skills, rather than what they look like.”
Being in the cheerleading world for more than 10 years, Canadian born Stephanie Pyke, owner of TNT All Stars, has seen the cheerleading world evolve.
“Australia is about 10 years behind Canada, but they are slowly catching up,” said Stephanie.
“So, it’s just a matter of introducing the sport and getting people over the stereotypes in Australia.”
Cheerleading is a sport for both genders of all shapes, sizes, height and strength, as well as competitive level.
TNT All Stars coach Ellie Spowart, also coaches the Murdoch University cheerleading team, Murdoch Vikings.
Many athletes on the Vikings team are not gymnasts or elite athletes, and are on the team for fun.
Being a school-based team, Murdoch University is raising awareness of cheerleading but some participants want recognition beyond the stereotype.
“They still expect us to go to these events, wave pom-poms and support teams,” said Ellie.
“Which is great, but at the end of the day, we are our own sport and we want the recognition that we believe the sport deserves.”