If you’re a football player in Europe people ask your if your a striker or a defense player. If your’e a cheerleader people ask you ‘are you making that up?’.
The girls representing Ireland in the Cheerleading and Dance world championship have fought hard for their recognition. Still they are relatively unknown to most people in Ireland.
“When I tell people Im a cheerleader people dont believe me. I have to show them YouTube videos to make them understand that theres more to it then what they see in american high school movies,” says Shannon O’Reilly. She spends most of her spare time with the Finglas based Cheerleading program Strike Force Euphoria, and is the choreographer and participant for Team Ireland.
“Even though it’s just cheerleading, I don’t want the girls to think ‘it’s just cheerleading’,” says coach Hayden McGurk. He makes the girls prepare to the competition like every other athlete representing Ireland. They need to practice hard, and make sacrifices, to be the best they can be for the worlds championship in Orlando this week.
The girls let the camera follow them behind the scenes in their gym in Finglas at the start of their journey towards worlds:
Even though the girls are competing in the freestyle pom dance division, their primary skills are in cheerleading. Due to a low budget the Irish Cheersport Association chose to send a dance team with nine girls instead of a full cheerteam with up to 25 athletes. The girls have to spend €1500 on travel and accommodation. In addition the team have raised money for uniforms, pom poms, makeup etc.
Coach Hayden reveals that Team Ireland have worked hard for contributions. He believes that the global economic situation, and the missing recognition of cheerleading makes businesses hesitate to donate.
One big achievement for the team was when they received a letter of recognition from the President of Ireland, Michael Higgins.
The girls from Team Ireland are not the only cheerleaders exited for worlds, on social media #Worlds makes you able to follow cheerleaders from all over the world preparing for the event of the year.