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Divas by name, not by nature

Cheerleading can be stereotypically considered a cliquey sport. For some, it’s not even a sport (in spite of having dance, gymnastics, acrobatics and lifting people in the air). As part of Durham Divas, and someone who’s been involved in cheerleading since the beginning of university, I can confirm it is the most inclusive, welcoming and motivating squad (that’s what we’re called) that one can be a part of.

My journey with cheerleading started in GCC (Grey College Cheerleading) back in my first year. In my second year, I took up the role of choreographer for the team and we were thrilled to take home both the All-Girl and the Grand Champions prizes. This year, having come back from a year abroad, it was time for me to take on new challenges, so I decided to go to the Divas try-outs.

For those of you who remain unaware: Durham Divas are the DU cheerleading squad. They’re National Champions, highly professional and overall a bunch of joy. As a fresher, I was undoubtedly intimidated by their uniforms and their trophies; now that I am one of them, I understand the prejudice, ignorance and stereotypes they have to put up with in order to maintain their name; in spite of their impeccable reputation and history. The uniforms, the bows and the pom-poms (which we only use in the dance squad) are only but a minuscule fraction of all the effort, consistency and teamwork that goes into making an award-winning cheerleading squad; it is time the Divas’ work was recognised.

When I first joined cheerleading I had only done dance before. It didn’t take long for me to realise the reason why cheerleading teams appear so tight-knit, it is because of the amount of dependence we all have on one another in the sport. We must work like one unit, and always be on the look-out for everyone else. This makes training incredibly challenging and engaging. When stunting, someone’s mood, motivation or lack of sleep can make a huge difference in the productivity of the session; nevertheless, these issues are inevitable. This is when the team becomes a second family, they’re there for you in your best and worst days. So many things can go wrong: injuries are common, fear of a particular tumble is unavoidable and remembering the dance can be hard. At the end of the day, it is your team that will be there to pick you up.

The Divas Dance squad this year has just but reinforced my thoughts about the cheerleading teams. We are all experienced dancers but have incredibly different skills, strengths and weaknesses. We all have that one step we just can’t wrap our heads around. Nonetheless, when it comes to learning, we do so from each other, and we will go over turns and jumps fifty times if necessary. Teamwork is what makes cheerleading such a demanding but welcoming sport. Outside the training hours, I know I can rely on any of the dancers if I’m having a bad day; I know I can message any, and not a single one of my teammates will ignore my concerns.

On another note, whilst we are defying stereotypes, cheerleading requires a lot of discipline and a lot of work. In spite, most of us have grown up watching American chick-flicks that portrayed cheerleaders as self-centred, over-glorified bullies that wore their uniforms to school (why? No one knows…), the sport is nothing like this. Like many sports, there are different levels and divisions to cheerleading. The Durham Divas have several squads: an all-girl level 3, co-ed level 2, co-ed level 4, performance squad and two dance squads (pom and lyrical). Each squad comes with its challenges, and most compete nationally. From doing perfect toe-touches to back-flips, coordinating a canon between 12 dancers, throwing someone in the air in the perfect instance, or catching someone foot when they’re above your head; cheerleading is nothing short of an incredibly tough sport. Actually, it has been granted provisional Olympic sport status, meaning it could have its first appearance in Paris 2024 or Los Angeles 2028!

As you can tell, I could go on for 500 more words on The Durham Divas, and go into detail about our training and different teams. For now though, I want to keep this as an introduction. All I can say is: if you’ve danced, done gymnastics, tumbled before ( to any degree), are passionate about teamwork and want to try a new, rewarding sport that encompasses many skills, don’t hesitate to try-out for the Divas! I guarantee you will not regret it. Alternatively, if you’d rather not do a sport to University level yet, the different college squads welcome people of all levels and also compete between them. They provide an amazing space in which to build a close-knit community and develop your cheerleading knowledge!

Don’t hesitate to drop me a message with any questions, and do follow Durham Divas on Instagram to see our progress and meet the teams!

Marina Mestres-Segarra

Heya! I’m Marina, a Combined Honours 4th year from Grey College. I’m from Barcelona but have a lot of experience living abroad and travelling to random places (which means I know plenty of useless facts). I breathe and bleed coffee, so you’re most likely to find me in town, having some liquid goodness, dancing around or fundraising for charities. If not, check the airport, it’s always a good bet too. Follow me on Instagram @wheretofindmarina
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