Interview with Bob Kiralfy Chairman of the British Cheerleading Association

Have you seen the ‘Bring it On’ films or have you been watching the ‘Cheerleader Nation’ series and now want to become a cheerleader? Do you know the difference between your ‘full’ and your ‘back handspring’? Well if you are interested in learning how to become a cheerleader or improve your cheerleading then you need to read this interview with Bob Kiralfy head of the British Cheerleading Association.

What role does the British Cheerleading Association play in the development of cheerleading in the UK?

The British Cheerleading Association is a registered non-profit organisation, founded in 1984, governing body for cheerleading in Britain.  We provide the complete range of membership services from free magazine to CRB processing, child protection implementation, monthly newsletters, courses and qualifications, and a unique programme of events and competitions across the UK.  Almost every milestone of achievement for the sport has been made by BCA

As chairperson of the organisation what is your remit and role within the organisation?

We have a great dedicated team of staff.  I liaise co-ordinate and overview rules and policies, chair meetings and development projects, edit the magazine, and act as a central in point promoting the sport.

Now when we say cheerleading many people immediately think American and not something that we do over here, how hard has it been to fit against that and get the sport recognised over here?

Cheerleading as an athletic discipline is practised in at least forty five nations world-wide.  Although started in America in 1898, there is nothing wrong with being proud of who you are and the community you represent.  The sport embodies an ethos and values common to many cultures.  Respect, responsibility, family values, teamwork, plus building maturity and self confidence.

Breaking down stereotype misconceptions has taken time, but positive public awareness is increasing.  Progress is being made towards official recognition, but as always this is long processes.

What is the current state of cheerleading in the UK?

Current auditable paid BCA membership stands at 405 clubs, comprising of 15,244 participants.   93% of all known active groups are members of the BCA.   BCA events are growing by an average of 33%.   More clubs are joining every month.  From humble beginnings in 1984 when there were just six squads, British teams are earning respect for their athletic skills and major successes in America.

How accessible is cheerleading to young people in the UK?

There are over 400 clubs from Guernsey to Thurso.  No special equipment is required, other than safety mats if you are building stunts.  Almost all clubs take beginners.  An exciting high energy fitness activity that has growing appeal helped by popular movies and television.

If someone is interested in learning how to be a cheerleader or find a team where is the best place for them to start?

Contact your local club, or contact BCA to find out where your nearest club is.

What makes a good cheerleader and a good cheerleading squad?

Enthusiasm, energy, and natural bright smiles.  Cheerleading is a team sport in which precision of technique, unity of synchronisation, and creative choreography are key factors.  Success involves hard work, training and conditioning, as with other competitive athletic disciplines.

When looking for a team or a coach are there any qualifications that a cheerleading coach should have?

Approved clubs will have qualified staff, and where under 18’s are involved be CRB cleared.  Coaches should have passed NCSSE or Cheer Technique coaching qualifications.

What do you see the future for cheerleading in the UK being like?

Growth continues at more than 20% per year, especially in schools and universities.  Over the last year events have increased in size by an average of over 30%.  Cheerleading already has a larger participation base than some traditional sports, and must now be one of Britain’s largest indoor spectator sports.  It is getting harder to find suitable venues with 3,000+ seats, even for Regionals.  Trends indicate growth rates will continue as the sport gains in popularity.

And finally what advice would you give to any young person trying to become a top cheerleader?

If you are reasonably fit and have the determination to learn there is almost nothing you cannot achieve.  At our competitions we aim to make all feel like Stars in front of the most appreciative audience you could ever wish for.