Cheers to our champion cheerleaders
REAL SPORTS SCENE - Anthony Suntay (The Philippine Star) - May 20, 2014 - 12:00am

Team Pilipinas recently bagged third place in the Worlds, the World Championship for Cheer, thus putting the country on the international map of the sport!

Team Pilipinas is organized and supported by the National Cheerleading Championship (NCC), the country’s biggest cheer and dance competition, and one of Asia’s biggest cheerleading organizations.

The NCC is also the founder of the Philippine Cheerleading Alliance (PCA), the de facto governing body of the sport of cheerleading, as recognized by International Cheer Union, the world’s governing body for the sport.

With the unprecedented growth of international competitive cheerleading, the NCC decided to organize a cheer squad for international competitions.

Previously, international cheerleading competitions had been attended by different schools and universities and in various forms as “representatives” from the Philippines, yet there was no one, true Philippine cheerleading team.

“We wanted a true Philippine team,” says NCC head Carlos Valdes. “That meant holding tryouts and getting the best of the best — not just representatives but a real competitive team organized from the ground up. We wanted to do it the right way.”

The first Team Pilipinas squad was organized in 2010 via open tryouts, attracting over 200 girls from high school and college levels. Since then, open tryouts have been conducted every year, drawing the best athletes from the different cheerleading programs around the country.

Team Pilipinas also chose the coaches carefully, selecting those who had consistently proven themselves in the various divisions in the nationals.

“At the start, we were unsure about each other, since our methods and styles were different,” says head coach Randell San Gregorio. “But we came together and our different styles became complimentary.”

The Team Pilipinas squad had been very successful in all international competitions it joined.

The all girls’ team won gold from 2011 to 2013 in the Southeast Asian Open held in Singapore every year.

In 2013, the NCC/PCA also sent the first Team Pilipinas coed squad, which also earned a gold medal in the same competition.

And now came the gold in the Worlds.

All this success has the local officials excited about the sport’s prospects for the future. Should the ICU be successful in its campaign to declare Cheer an Olympic sport, the Philippines will be in a great position to capture more Olympic medals for the country, especially our first ever gold.

“The ICU is enjoying the confidence of SportAccord,which is a stepping stone to Olympic sports status. Hopefully, the IOC sees the benefit of having Cheer included in the games soon. Our athletes are ready to compete,” said Valdes.

Although the team had been successful, team officials decided it was time to test just how strong our athletes were compared to the best in the world.

“It was time to swim with the big fish,” said Valdes. “We wanted to see just how far our athletes would be able to go so we consulted all our stakeholders (parents, kids, NCC directors) and decided to go for it.”

A decision was made to hold try-outs in January, way before the nationals in March, attracting over 200 hopefuls vying for the “magic 24.”

“You have to understand that these girls compete against each other in the nationals.” said Phl team manager Eduardo David. “So, to hold tryouts before the biggest cheerleading competition in the country was unprecedented. But this was for the Worlds, so, of course, everyone was excited.”

Team captain Myca Maala, who also cheers for the Ateneo Blue Babble squad, expressed quiet confidence. “We couldn’t say we were going into the Worlds to win, but definitely we were ready to compete and surprise some teams.”

Head coach Randell San Gregorio seconded the thought. “We were confident that if we hit our stunts, we could finish pretty well. We weren’t coming to the Worlds just to enjoy. This was a talented group of athletes.”

“Modesty aside, what we’ve achieved is unprecedented in Phl sports history,” says David. “To take cheerleading and treat it as a sport, standardize it, bring it nationwide, and build a Philippine team from scratch, win golds in the region three years in a row, and now to finish third in the world, all without any institutional support — that’s not simple to do.”

NCC National Director Paula Nunag concurs. “The NCC has taken Cheer from a school and university-based activity to being one of the most prestigious cheerleading organizations in Asia. Now, with the success of Team Pilipinas, we’re getting attention from the world. It’s exciting to have been involved with this achievement!”

With the continued success of the Team Pilipinas Cheer program, the sky is definitely the limit!

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