Dallas, Texas – Steeped in American tradition that dates back to the late 1800’s, cheerleading is rapidly maturing as countries around the world embrace the sport in the competitive arena.In an effort to usher in that growing trend and legitimize cheerleading on the world stage, Dallas-based National Cheerleaders Association [NCA], a division of National Spirit Group [NSG], is augmenting its international momentum with the first ever World Cheerleading Championship this May 14 and 15 at Dusselldorf, Germany.
“We’ve enjoyed huge successes at our European Championship, and decided it was time to launch a global invitation so that American and Latin-American teams could compete there as well,” according to NSG’s Vice President of Marketing Andy McNeill. “This event is a huge move for us, and the response has been tremendous – a true measure that the sport of cheerleading is as popular and growing as we think it is. Why not initiate cross-cultural competition!”
NCA credits the presence of the American cheerleader abroad at military bases for igniting that interest and growth, especially in Germany, as well as the exposure to the sport that foreigners get when visiting the U.S. “Regardless of nationality, cheerleading, with its gymnastic flair, appeals to kids,” says McNeill. Once they’re familiar with it, they pick up videos. In fact, many countries have actually started from scratch with videos,” says McNeill.
Showcasing their talents as they vie for the world’s first top cheerleading honors in six divisions are the United States, Germany, Chile, Great Britain, Austria, Slovenia, Italy, Spain, Finland, Switzerland, Sweden and Denmark. Meanwhile, parties back home are eyeing up the chance to place bets on who will win using sites like FanDuel, to get an extra payoff if their team of choice wins the event.
Representing the United States in this World Championship, Club Cheer, a Dallas/Ft. Worth-based All-Star team. Coached by Brandi Noble, the 26-member team comes from a cheer gym that holds eight National Titles. “Bringing home the first World Title is a BIG deal to us,” says Noble. “But even more rewarding is to be able to be part of a new beginning and to share our talents with the other countries to help set the standard while accelerating their development.”
Club Cheer’s presence is expected to make a big impact at the competition as their style and talents truly represent the elite NCA influenced American cheerleader, says McNeill.
“NCA sets the standard norm by keeping the talent level high in America,” says Cologne, Germany-based Director of NSG Europe Barbra Weinreich. “Every time you take a step forward in the States, it allows us to push our kids in Europe to the next level.” That, as McNeill agrees, will really be the catalyst to improving the quality around the world.
Next to the United States, Germany is considered to rank second in the sport having had organized cheerleading since the early 80’s. “Cheerleading is getting bigger and bigger in Germany and all over Europe. The breakthrough for the sport is in process as cheerleading gets more and more popular for sports like soccer, ice hockey and basketball,” says Weinreich.
Not far behind Germany with regards to talent, are Chile and Sweden, two countries that are even newer to the sport having only 10 or 15 years behind them.
Further driving the worldwide growth of cheerleading and their mounting talents are NCA’s annual summer camps and private instruction. From Puerto Rico and Columbia to Japan, Germany and England, cheerleaders are getting new ideas and learning popular styles, in addition to receiving some very strong technical training.
Yet, there is still some catching up to do, explains Weinreich, as many foreign teams are competing at a disadvantage. “Most girls who get involved start at an older age, this really inhibits the learning process,” says Weinreich of European teams. “As a result, they lack gymnastics skills.”
That should change, however, according to Coach Noble. Given the overall athletic aptitude already displayed in these countries, particularly in gymnastics at the Olympic level, she fully expects to see some superior talent surface over the coming years.
Looking ahead, McNeill believes this World Championship is the beginning of something much bigger. “We’re potentially paving the way to an Olympic sport,” he says. “Some countries are already looking at that. Well, we [NCA] want to be a part of that, we want to be a leader in that process.”