On the 9th August 2014 we ran what we believe is the first ever of its kind workshop for Paracheer, that is, cheerleading for both physically disabled and non-disabled individuals. We had a small but enthusiastic group of people from all around the UK, the furthest travelling from Leeds to London for the session! We had 10 participants plus 3 coaches, having been joined by Joey Gamper from Inspire Allstars to assist with leading the session, and of the participants 8 classified themselves as disabled.
Everyone seemed a little apprehensive to begin, especially as many of the disabled people had never experienced cheerleading before, but everyone soon relaxed and got into the swing of things. We started by showing a few videos to show what we would be working towards and then the session began with a seated warm up, mobilising the joints and getting the blood pumping, and some tightness drills and conditioning exercises so they could learn the required body positions for cheerleading skills. We then taught the group a short dance and motion sequence, using the song "Salute" by Little Mix. This was new for many participants who had never done choreographed dance before so moving to counts was challenging!
To conclude the dance part of the session, we got people to run through their tumbling skills for those who had tumbled before and for those who hadn't we taught them forward rolls, and these were then added to the short dance piece, so we had a dance and tumble sequence. Not bad for first timers in only about an hour!
After a short break we began learning stunts. We worked progressively through the foundation level 1 cheerleading stunts such as thigh stands, gut stands, prep and flat back cradles. All the while through the stunting we were working on adaptations for those that required them - maybe changing technique slightly, pairing people together whose disabilities complemented each other or using additional people where required. We were really impressed by the willingness of the participants to give things a go and how well everyone worked together. We finished the session by combining a few of the stunts they had learned and created a pyramid, which was awesome!
Everyone had a really fun time (you can read some of their feedback comments here) and we definitely saw potential for Paracheer to develop further. We were really inspired by the way the participants faced the challenges of adaptation and how much joy they got out of overcoming those challenges. Paracheer has been a dream for us for several years and this workshop was like solidifying that dream into reality and we are so excited for what the future holds! Our challenge now is to find more venues and enough participants around the country to build momentum and get more people on board with the dream, so that we can get to a point where there are regular sessions running and we can select enough experienced athletes to form a team to take to the Worlds competition in Florida, USA.
Huge thanks to Talent Central Cheer Gym for hosting the session free of charge (especially to Paula Brown for giving up her time!) and to all of the participants who took a chance on something new. If you are interested in hosting a Paracheer session in your gym or locality or just want to know more, please get in touch! See our Gallery page for more pictures from the day!