We got to catch up with Stefani Brause, coach of Nordish DanceProject, the very first ParaCheer Pom team in Germany. She tells us about what inspired her to start her team, her journey to ICU Worlds in 2018 and what she hopes to see for this division in the future.
What inspired you to start/coach a ParaCheer team (Adaptive Abilities)?
I work at a sports club where I am a coach for several adult and senior fitness courses, rehabilitation sport, Pilates and floor exercise (tumbling). I am also head coach of an allstar cheerleading team and two pom teams so I have been working inclusively for many years, now. My Cheerleading and Performance Cheer teams have always had disabled athletes with (not visible) impairments. These athletes were “hidden” in the team but 2017 changed everything! I followed ICU worlds and saw Team England and Team Wales doing absolutely incredible, amazing inclusive routines in the ParaCheer Advanced and ParaCheer Pom divisions. Wow! They did what I have been thinking about for such a long time!
Then another thing happened in 2017 - one of my young athletes got a stroke in her back. It was so natural for me to encourage her to come back to the team, no matter if she needs to use a wheelchair now. Even if her legs are paralysed, there is so much more she can use and give.
So at this point, we started to be an official inclusive team, inspired by Team England and Team Wales at ICU worlds and the newly created platform “ParaCheer International CIO” with the most motivating role models Chantal and Rick.
How long have you been participating in inclusive cheerleading?
I have coached inclusive Cheerleading/Performance Cheer for nearly 12 years now. But I have only taken part in the adaptive abilities/ParaCheer divisions as an official inclusive team since 2018, where I had the incredible chance to be coach of the German national team for Senior ParaCheer Unified Pom at ICU worlds. Since then we decided to be an official inclusive performance cheer team at home, too.
What do you like best about coaching inclusively?
Each human is worthy and has something to give, no matter if there are things that don’t work in the body or mind.
An inclusive team gives strength, respect and self-confidence to each athlete, which you can feel and see while coaching. Inclusive cheerleading is naturally safe because practice time needs to be sustainable due to the athletes needs so I feel the danger of overtaxing the athletes is very small. The focus is always adaptation, safe and clean work.
What are your aspirations for the growth of the sport?
To let this sport grow, it has to be seen by as many people as possible, by people with and without disabilities or impairments. I feel this will encourage a lot more people to work inclusively too.
Another point is communication. Talk about it, whenever someone has questions. And integrate the topic in the official coaches education.
Are there any athletes or coaches that inspire you? If so, why?
The inclusive cheer and performance cheer world is very small and I feel everybody who works inclusively has inspiring actions.
The main athletes which made me come out with my team were Team England and Wales ParaCheer Unified Pom and of course Team England ParaCheer Unified Advanced in 2017. The teams let everybody see how easy the integration of several impairments can be. Their routines are clean and safe – it’s great!
Finally, on top of all them all are Rick Rodgers and Chantal Epp. These two incredible human beings give their lives for Adaptive Abilities cheer. They are my heroes and true ambassadors for this sport. Never give up, you two!
What has been your favourite moment on this journey so far?
There are three favourite moments on my inclusive journey so far:
Bringing Team Germany ParaCheer Unified Pom on the ICU worlds stage 2018 to show everyone that inclusive work is possible in Germany too.
The ParaCheer Workshop run by ParaCheer International with the amazing Rick and Chantal in fall 2018. They broke down lots of barriers for us.
The German Nationals in June 2019, where lots of people gave us support when “Nordish DanceProject” finished the routine. The winner of the Senior Pom category “Silver Stars” also gave their gold medals to our team in honour to our performance!
Check out their routine from 2018-19 here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aT1NjkeU-BU