In the most impressive display of skill and athleticism I watched with sheer exhilaration the smiles and energy emanating from the floor before me. Just 24 hours before, from behind a camera lense I caught at least 3 serious injuries, the whiff of nerves and a few tears brought on by it all. Over 6,351 km from home, and with the added challenge or enduring a 9 hour flight to the soundtrack of one very upset child with fierce set of lungs, and having to adjust to a foreign concept of sunshine in January with over 20 degree heat, the Irish Team Tribes did the whole country, although most still don’t know it, proud. With all the flourish and confidence of a championship team they won the first ever gold medals for representing Ireland in Cheerleading after having already brought home the first ever silver medals in 2018. A far cry from dawning a skimpy uniform and jumping up and down with a set of pom poms as some tv influence might have you believe, the iron nerve, dedication, and utter talent and strength present in the Tribes Ireland Cheerleading Team makes you want to scream out loud to tell the world about their amazing achievement.
In Cheerleading terms Tribes Galway is a small co-ed elite team, from the little city of Galway Ireland. Made up of both GMIT and NUIG students, they trained and they fundraised and they flew over to Orlando Florida to compete in the 2019 UCA University World Cup Championships where they cleanly and impressively won the Gold Medal in their division despite opposing teams having a more complicated routine and quite possibly a much larger investment. Cheerleading is only up and coming in Irish sports and suffers significantly less time and monetary investment compared to that of other international and American cheerleading teams. Despite this, Tribes Galway demonstrated immense skill and team spirit in the competition to walk away as champions! The members of this team under the coaching of Fiona Collumb of Ace Gymnastics and Ace High Cheerleading did exceedingly well with no deductions in their first performance and only 2 marks on the big day! Such a huge win should be attracting all sorts of attention and interest in the Irish sports world, but unlike many other football, basketball or GAA sports, the team are the ones trying to drum up interest. This is such a shame that is down to a general lack of knowledge and understanding of the upcoming sport.
Despite being around since the 1880’s cheerleading is only now beginning to get the recognition that it deserves. Having recently been recognised by the internal Olympic committee as an official sport. There are different categories for cheerleading. Sideline cheer is what most of us would see on TV. Cheerleaders in uniform supporting their school team. This category is known as ‘Game Day’ in competition and consists of chants and cheers as well as a dance/gymnastic performance when prompted by the commentator ‘offense’ ‘defense’ and such is the American football way. A delightful atmospheric section to be witness to.
All-girl is another division, despite cheerleading starting out as an all men sport right up until 1920’s. The difference in all-girl and co-ed is the stunts. All girl teams have more marks given to their incorporation of dance moves. Tumbling and acrobatics, gymnastic skills, flashcards and the use of other props where only introduced during the 20’s and have become staples in cheer routines that involve a complex mix of athletic ability and energetic use of props to engage the crowd. Co-ed teams feature more partner stunts which includes a singular male base and a female flyer. For those unfamiliar to the sport the flyer is the person who is raised into the air to complete various different gymnastic stunts.
Despite some stereotypes zero marks are awarded for appearances and it really does come down to ability and dedication to the sport. Of which I backtrack to my original point, that Tribes Galway had this in abundance.
I seriously hope that after Olympic recognition cheerleading will begin to have a greater uptake as well as respect among other sports popular in Ireland today.
As well as this, I’d like to give praise to Tribes Galway, who have progressed into this highly competitive team sport despite a general lack of understanding. Imagine winning ANYTHING at an international level and receiving zero recognition? Now imagine training for months on end, fundraising, and winning GOLD at international level? Now that is something that deserves to be made a big deal of!
So will 2019 be the year of Cheer? I sure hope so! We may not see cheerleading at the upcoming Tokyo Olympics in 2020 just yet, but I do so hope to see a larger uptake from young people. It’s a fantastic sport, to help keep fit as well as developing some new skills and bonding with new people, there’s just a fantastic team ethic, it’s simply the spirit of the sport. If you or someone you know around Galway is considering taking up cheerleading please see Ace High Cheerleading, Stuntworx Doughiska as well as GMIT and NUIG individual Cheerleading Clubs.
In summary, a fantastic well done Tribes! L-E-T-S G-O T-R-I-B-E-S !
~Written by SU Welfare Emma Duffy