Barnet Borough Council has signed up to the Give it a Go scheme to encourage more people to take up sport. Reporters Megan Jula, Anna Slater and Natalie O’Neill traveled to East Barnet School in Chestnut Grove to join in with a Lemon Jelly Arts cheerleading class. Here’s how it went...
We weren’t allowed to have pom-poms until our routine was perfect.
At least, that’s what Lemon Jelly Arts director Hayley Reynolds told our cheerleading class of six to fourteen-year-old girls at East Barnet School.
My fellow reporters Natalie and Anna picked up the dance routine naturally. I was still spinning when we were supposed to be skipping by the time we were awarded the coveted red and blue pom-poms.
As the American intern for the Times Series, I was expected to have some sort of innate ability to cheerlead. Unfortunately, I didn’t meet those expectations.
Truth be told, the majority of my cheerleading knowledge comes from Fired Up! a satirical American movie making fun of the stereotypes associated with cheerleading.
But with the way everyone I’ve met in London says “cheers” I think the British might be more familiar with the basic concept than I am.
Regardless, the three of us attended the class to show how easy it is to try a new sport and how essential physical activity is for children.
As the others danced along to the dulcet tones of Robbie Williams, Hayley told me: “It is so important they get out and get active, not be on the computer or watching TV all of the time.
“With girls sometimes they don’t like contact sports. This way they are getting exercise without even realising it.”
We started with stretches to warm up. Then the girls taught us the routine they have been working on, filled with twists and waving arms. My heart was beating quickly as we wrapped up the fast-paced dance.
During the routine, little Ellie Michael, eight, explained why she loves to cheerlead: “It’s fun to do and I like picking people up. It’s fun using pom-poms.”
In America, the “typical cheerleader” is a perky blonde, her blue eyes sparkling as she does the splits.
Let’s just say my ponytail was saggy and my face sweaty as were taught a T-jump, which is just a little hop with your arms straight out.
But the point of the class is that anyone can cheerlead.
Back in the States, cheerleaders support American football and basketball teams. But here in Britain, without those sports, cheerleading becomes solely about the cheerleader.
It’s a way for girls to get fit when they think they are just having fun.
During a water break, the girls crowded around me eager to be interviewed.
Georgia Christodoulou, ten, also realised the benefits of the activity: “You get to be with other people. We’ve learned loads of exercise skills and it’s just very healthy to get fit.”
Hannah Nixon, 14, added: “I think lots of sports are just male-dominated. It’s a good way for girls to get active. I love cheerleading and the other dance classes.”
The sport comes with its fair share of difficulty, too. When Natalie and I lifted one of the tiniest girls, each holding one of her feet in our palms, I gained a new respect for cheerleaders.
Shoot, don’t drop her, I thought.
We didn’t drop her. In fact, we held her high as she shook her pompoms in victory.
We’ll be doing back flips in no time.