Cheerleading is a growing sport in Europe. It’s is a versatile form of physical activity combining stunts, tumbling and pyramids formations. It develops person’s coordination skills, muscular strength and stamina. Above all, cheerleading is all about team spirit, positive energy and sense of community. There are two main subtypes under the sport of cheerleading: cheerleading and cheerdance (performance cheer).
ParaCheer teams within the sport are unified teams (disabled and non-disabled together), and thus it supports an ethos of fully inclusive activity.
Inclusive cheerleading is a project that aims to promote understanding of accessibility and training people with disabilities in cheerleading. The goal is to help and educate coaches on how to train with people with disabilities and spread awareness of inclusive cheerleading.
The project outcome will be evaluated with a questionnaire sent to the member countries of European Cheer Union with following topics:
- Evaluate the increase in awareness regarding to inclusive cheerleading
- Review of how many new teams has started
- Review of how the information provided (workshops for coaches and best practices guide) has helped member countries
The participant organisations will also share their knowledge of what they have learned in the final project meeting at the end of the year 2021. Feedback from the coaches will be gathered throughout the project.
In the transnational meetings, semi-structured interviews will be conducted. Participants of the interview are different dependant on the country. In the countries where inclusive cheerleading teams exist already, the interview group is composed of an athlete/hobbyist participating inclusive cheerleading group, a parent of the participant, a coach coaching the inclusive cheerleading team and a board member of the club. The results of conducted interviews will be used to direct the topics in the coach’s workshops. Project’s progression is presented to the project’s steering group regularly.
Each participating country will conduct a short policy review of National equality policy, related to sport, and activity in general. The policy reviews can be provided to local government and other disability sport organisations to assist in further development of inclusive cheerleading.
At the end of the project, Best Practices Guide will be freely available for all through the ParaCheer website. This way the result can help other European countries to use the information to assist them in also creating and supporting inclusive teams.
Inclusive Cheerleading project has three main objectives.
- Identify barriers and best practices to current inclusion of disabled people within current cheerleading provision in partner nations.
- Disseminate best practice information through workshops for coaches and activity providers in partner nations
- Produce a best practice guide for overcoming barriers to participation identified in research.
Cheerleading is a growing sport all over Europe and International Cheer Union has provided first paracheer divisionin World Championship competition in 2017, yet there have been very little participants in the competition. In order to get more participants in paracheer divisions, it is important to spread awareness and start the work from a grassroot level.
The current level of awareness and qualification of instructors is inadequate to address the needs of the people with disabilities. This creates a barrier for starting inclusive cheerleading. European Disability Strategy 2010-2020 emphasises equal accessibility, participation and health for people with disability, there is a need to have more awareness and qualified instructors over the issue of inclusive cheerleading. Participation in cheerleading activities involve the participants in local society and enable them to participate in integrated team activities; it helps develop a healthy self-concept, builds confidence, & improves the overall quality of life. Social change as integration between disabled and non-disabled participants helps remove barriers of otherness.
The project intends to assist coaches and trainers to feel confident including people with impairments into their activities. Promoting an understanding of accessibility and building capacities based on the needs of people with disabilities are the first steps towards inclusive sports activities for all people, although this project focuses on cheerleading recreational and competitive activities. Therefore, much of the findings can be used to assist the development of other inclusive sporting activities.
The findings of this project will be presented in 2021 at the annual general assembly of European Cheer Union, and the good practices and barriers discovered within the projects will be spread around Europe. By doing this we will spread awareness and make it easier for coaches to help train those with disabilities.
Finnish Cheerleading Federation (FCF)
Finnish Cheerleading Federation (FCF) is a national cheerleading federation in Finland, gathering together 53 cheerleading clubs all over Finland with 14 000 hobbyist aged from 3 years old to 60 years old. From the hobbyist 98 % are girls/women and 2 % are boys/men. FCF organises education for coaches and voluntary workers in the clubs, cheerleading competition activities in Finland, works as a public trustee for cheerleading sport in Finland and provides other support services for the member clubs. There are 5 full-time employees and 2 part-time project employees in the organisation. FCF is managed by a board composed of 6 members.
ParaCheer International CIO, UK
ParaCheer international CIO are the founders of the ParaCheer divisions (also known as Adaptive Abilities) and guiding body behind the new global drive to encourage more inclusion of athletes with physical and sensory disabilities in the sport of cheerleading, and also in side-line and other cheerleading pursuits. Integrating disabled and non-disabled athletes onto teams together to get the best from everyone.
ParaCheer International CIO runs workshops for coaches to help them learn to adapt techniques and be more disability confident, skill workshops for athletes so that they can get the best from the sport, supports national and international federations in their guidelines for best practice, and support athletes themselves in finding local teams. ParaCheer International CIO is governed by a board of four people with a few part-time voluntary staff members and one full-time. ParaCheer International CIO created the first National ParaCheer teams and have since helped build teams in over 6 countries.
Cheerleading Zveza Slovenije (Slovenian Cheerleading Association – CZS)
Slovenia – CZS is the governing body in Slovenian cheerleading. Established in 2005, it provides a reliable framework for coaches, athletes, and judges in cheerleading by providing education courses, organizing competing season and presenting the sport of cheer to the wider public.
From five initial members, it grew to a strong organization of over 20 clubs with over 2,000 club members, which is an impressive turnout for a nation of 2 million. 2/3 of the club members are representing cheerdance (performance cheer) and 1/3 of the club members are representing cheerleading.
Funky Team, Finland
Finnish Helsinki-based organization founded in 1995. As of 2019 there are more than 850 members in 28 teams, varying from beginner teams to teams competing on international levels. Funky Team has two mottos; “Big Blue Family”, highlighting the sense of togetherness and sense of community and “having fun”, emphasising the fact that physical activity should be fun.
Funky Team’s inclusive cheerleading team is called Special Monkeys. The team has functioned since the fall 2015. The team is for girls and boys in all ages who need special support in learning due to some disability. The team has training currently once a week. The team is supported by Finnish Sports Association of Persons with Disabilities. Funky Team has started their inclusive cheerleading group with a very little help from Finnish Cheerleading Federation. They have established best practices by themselves and therefore the club is in unique position to disseminate the information that they have learned by doing.
Cheer Sport Ireland (Formally known as Irish Cheer Sport Assoc, CSI)
The governing body in the Republic of Ireland for cheerleading. Established in 2010, the Association provides a progressive ongoing format for coaches, athletes, and judges to build safely their own knowledge and understanding. CSI promotes education courses, organizing and advising on competitions and growth within the cheer industry. With a small country, the organization has produced world class teams since 2011, competing at the International Cheerleading Championship - indeed some years with two teams.
Golden Spirit, Finland
Golden Spirit, also known as GS, was founded in 1997 and it specialises in competitive cheerleading. The organisation has almost 1000 members in 32 different teams. . In the Spring of 2017 the organisation received Finnish Olympic committees quality club recognition for their quality work as an organisation. GS , along with Funky Team, have the most experience with paracheer in Finland. They’ve had a paracheer team since 2017 called Cupids. They practice once a week focusing on the basic skills and of course having fun.
One member from GS will attend each of the transnational meetings alongside the Finnish Cheerleading Federation, providing professional knowledge in paracheering and coaching in a team that has special needs.
Due to COVID-19 pandemic the transnational meetings must be postponed, information about the new meetings will be published as soon as the new dates are decided.
Inclusive Cheerleading is a two-year project that will be held during 2020-2021. Transnational meetings will be held in each partner country. In the meetings partners will present their policy reviews and ParaCheer International will organise workshops for coaches to help them train people with disabilities. There will be five transnational meetings in total.
- Italy, European Championships 2021
Each partner country will make a policy review, which will provide information about the laws and regulations about parasports and accessibility in that country. They will present the policy reviews to other partners during transnational meetings.
Partners will also contact other organisations who have sport activities with disabled people in their country, that could help with or benefit from the project. This will spread awareness of the project and parasports in general, to lower the barriers for people with disabilities to participate in sport activities.
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