Cheerleading is a more recent addition to New Zealand’s sporting and recreational life. It is derived from United States models in both the display and competitive forms in which it has flourished since the mid-1990s. There is some confusion between the two quite separate forms of cheerleading.
Female cheerleaders, typically wearing revealing costumes and waving pom-poms while performing dance moves, have appeared at major fixtures of men’s professional sports as part of the entertainment offered to spectators. Although this type of cheerleading is popular with many, some people object to what they see as skimpy costumes and raunchy routines.
A world record
In 2009 New Zealand team the All Star Cheerleaders set a new world record for a cheerleading ‘basket toss’, throwing ‘flyer’ Kate Mann 5.1 metres from ground level. This bettered the previous record by nearly 2 metres, and Mann, at the age of 12, became one of the youngest people to hold a world record. The triumph was brief – the record was broken the following year by an Australian team.
In competitive or sport cheerleading cheerleaders of both sexes perform a set of highly skilled gymnastic routines, featuring lifts, tumbling and pyramids, in order to score points against tightly defined judging criteria. Team members include ‘flyers’, who are tossed in the air by the team and ‘bases’ who support pyramids and throw the flyers. Competition routines are performed to music.
The All Stars Cheerleaders, founded in Auckland in 1999 by Kimberley Ramsay, dominate the sport in New Zealand. The sport operates on a commercial basis.
Teams of up to 24 have performed nationally since 2003, and with considerable success internationally. The first international cheerleading competition held in New Zealand was the All Stars Cheerleading Internationals, held in Auckland in October 2006.
In 2012 there was no national governing body, and not all teams participated in national championships. However, estimates suggested that 1,500–2,000 people were involved in competitive cheerleading in New Zealand. The majority were girls and young women, but boys and young men also participated.
Cheerleading in schools
Some primary and intermediate schools offer dance-style cheerleading as one of their activities for girls – despite the opposition of some parents. All Stars Cheerleading also run school programmes, and their first junior cheerleading team was formed at Whenuapai School, Auckland, in 2000.