Tameside cheerleader looks to make a mark Stateside with funding help

A CHEERLEADER from Dukinfield is preparing for a trip of a lifetime as she looks to impress on American soil.

Emily Bonney, who represents the Sheffield-based Team Intensity, is hoping to fulfil a lifelong ambition of competing at the Cheerleading World Championships in Orlando, Florida in April.

However, the 25-year-old’s dream will only be made possible with financial support from generous benefactors, as travel costs, accommodations fees and kit prices soar through the roof.

And that Is not to mention the £500 for entry fee alone.

Emily Bonney

But despite the financial obstacles, Emily, who has competed in the sport since the age of nine, remains confident of reaching the target and putting on a showstopping performance in what she describes as ‘the peak of her career.’

Speaking to The Correspondent ahead of the event – which is taking place at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex – Emily said: “The athletes are both nervous and excited as we know what an amazing opportunity it is.

“As we edge closer to the competition the nerves will increase, but we’re confident of impressing and we’re not travelling all that way to make up the numbers.

“Of course we’re competing against the best in the world, so it will be difficult and, realistically, the chance of winning is slim, but we have the ability to impress and that’s what our main objective will be.”

The entourage will be made up of 29 athletes, three coaches and a handful of parents, while those who can’t make the trip can watch the action via a livestream.

Emily is confident that, for those in attendance and watching from home, the routine and performance will do the club proud.

But, even more importantly, she hopes the event will further highlight the growing interest and rising numbers associated with the sport.

She added: “I think there’s a misconception of cheerleading from an outsider’s point of view.

“Lots of people see pom poms and the glitz and glamour associated with the sport, but there’s much more to it as it’s very physically demanding with lots of lifting and cardio-related movements.

“Male participation rates are growing, especially in America, as boys start from a young age and continue into adulthood. It’s a trend we’re beginning to see develop in the UK.

“We have a few young boys at our club, some of which are in primary school, and it can only be a positive as more lads take up the sport, enhance its visibility and increase participation numbers in the coming years.”

As for the routine itself, Emily says the athletes are more than prepared for the showcase finale in 12 weeks’ time.

But that’s not to say there’s no room for improvement – quite the opposite, in fact.

She explained: “We had a choreographer come to training in November who gave us a new routine.

“We’ve been working on that since then, competed once already this season, and we’ve got another event lined up next month which should serve us well ahead of the World Championships.

“We have one routine for the whole year, but depending on how we do at competitions we will alter it and upgrade in certain areas, improving skills and altering small details to make it the best it can be.

“Training takes place every Thursday evening over a three-hour period, and we also host additional training sessions throughout the month to ensure we’re getting the right amount of practice.”

Much like karate, as The Correspondent reported on recently, cheerleading is a self-funded sport which heavily relies on external support.

This, in itself, can prevent newcomers from joining. So, what is the solution to the issue?

Emily said: “It’s very much a self-funded sport and teams have to find sponsorship just to survive.

“Hopefully, as it grows in popularity, funding will be made available, but at this moment in time there’s a lot of pressure to find sponsorships and generate money to compete at events.

“Introducing the sport into the school curriculum would give it the exposure it deserves.

“I put on training sessions after school and there’s a big uptake in numbers and interest. The club itself has a few links with Manchester-based schools and Sheffield-based schools, so hopefully that continues to grow and funding for the sport will be made available.”

In a bid to generate the funds for her trip, Emily has launched a crowdfunder page, with current donations totalling £130 towards a £300 target.

If you would like to donate, head to the following link: www.gofundme.com/f/get-us-to-the-cheerleading-world-championships.

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