To be ready for a highly demanding and physical competition, you need to prepare both as a team and individually.
Some of the squad heading to the border might have only picked up a frisbee this year, but the development of skills by new team members over the past couple of months has given the more experienced players and player-coaches reason to be positive.
Mark Milne is one of the 18 players headed to northern Victoria, and has had plenty of experience when it comes to University Games tournaments, including leading a squad of many new players in 2013.
“The experience taught me (as a coach), how to coach new players, and introduce them to a tournament type of competition. We took 18 players (to SUG last year), the maximum we could take, it developed them and set the club for the future.”
The Albert Park Monday Night League is another platform where players new and old are incorporating skills learned at training on the field, says Milne.
“This year especially, a lot of the new players are really taking things they’ve learnt at training and bringing it on to the league field. We’ve seen it with a couple of close matches…they’re getting to know other players in the (frisbee) community too.”
When it comes to the size of a university, it is somewhat hard to compare one student cohort to another. For Sage, there is also little difference between the atmosphere and welcoming attitude of the players.
“Both the teams are quite similar, everyone’s really easy going, a little bit crazy, and always up for a good time. The teams are different in the sense of different amounts of training and different days of training…but in the end, it’s all about playing frisbee.”
Looking at the sport from a university games perspective, cheerleading is relatively new. However, there is no question that all the competing teams are fired up for the all day competition.
Chasing overall first place after just being squeezed out by RMIT University last year, La Trobe University continues to train hard with only a couple of weeks to go before heading up to Wodonga.
What makes cheerleading so highly anticipated is the size of the competition in 2014, outnumbering any other sport being held over the four tournament days. Team manager of the level one and two squads, Alex Smith, is excited to experience uni games for the first time, and be leading such a large squad.
“We’ve usually taken only one cheer team and maybe one dance team, but this year we’re in every single section – doubles, dances, stunts.
“This is my first year as team manager…the most exciting thing at unigames that people don’t really see is the mascot competition; mascots from universities that you won’t see at All Star competitions, so that’s pretty fun.”
The Winterfest cheer competition, held at the State Basketball Centre (Victoria), represents a great opportunity to see how teams are shaping up, Alex says.
“Winterfest is one week before uni games this year…you like to see where you’re standing. You get to see the competition for the first time in the year, and get to see what you need to improve in the short lead up to uni games.”
Level three and four coach Stephanie Dawn says she demands the best performances from her athletes.
“It’s really awesome to be given the opportunity to coach one of the highest levels in cheerleading. From my athletes, I do expect 100% attendance rate, so that we can progress. Even if one person is away, it causes the stunt group and routine not to go, and it compromises training quite a bit.”
Stephanie is anticipating – with plenty of confidence – the contest that will be on show at University Games.
“I’m really excited, I have a pretty good track record at university games, and I hope to continue the tradition. There’s a really strong group of 16 athletes, who had to try out to be part of the squad. There’s a combination of stunting, gymnastics, and pyramids, and it’s all down to a two and a half minute routine on the mat.”
The all day competition happens on Wednesday, July 9, at the Cube in Wodonga.
Davis Harrigan is a La Trobe University Sports Journalism student working with Australian University Sport at Southern University Games. Follow him on Twitter: @Davis_Harr