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Think of cheerleading and what springs to mind? Usually it’s girls jumping up and down wearing tiny skirts, shaking pom-poms with perfect smiles on their faces – reminiscent of the film Bring It On.

Originally an American pastime for women during their college years, cheerleading has now grown into a worldwide phenomenon with the UK and Australia joining in on the sideline fun.

To understand what it takes to be a cheerleader, I’m training with the London Bronco’s Cowgirls at Christ’s School in
North Sheen near Richmond. And as I’ll be performing at the rugby league team’s next game, the pressure is on.

Even though I’ve been dancing for years, at my first session with the Cowgirls, I’m nervous about what I’m about to be put through for the next 90 minutes. 

When I was younger, I was a majorette and now I train weekly in a Lindy Hop troupe, but I’m well aware that cheerleading will take me out of my comfort zone.

I’m met by Amy Howard, dance officer for the London Broncos Rugby League Foundation, who reassures me the routine
I will be learning is one of their easier ones. 

And when I walk into the training room, my preconceptions about cheerleaders are blown out of the window. The Cowgirls are a mixture of student and professional dancers, volunteering their time to support the London Broncos and build up their performing experience. 

Jodie Munday, 21, from Kingston, tells me that cheerleading gives her another avenue to express herself physically, one where she can relax a little. 

“Training is really laidback as we meet once a week and do a new routine every two weeks,” she explains.

And I’m extraordinarily thankful to choreographer Ellen Curtis, 22, who shows a lot of patience as she walks me through the routine, danced to LMFAO’s Sorry For Party Rocking

The style of dancing is a combination of hip hop and traditional cheerleader moves, such as the toe-touch jump that I am still to master without falling to the floor in a tangled heap. By the end of the session I’m exhausted and aching, but also pretty satified with my efforts. 

Another Cowgirl, Kelsey Lashmar, 20, from Kingston, tells me to focus on how toned I’ll be getting. “Cheerleading is a really good exercise as you don’t realise you are working out,” she says. “It’s better than going to the gym.” Too true!

Even though I dance regularly, I have never had to learn a whole routine in one go before – and I’m nervous about my performance at the game on Saturday.

The prospect of getting a move wrong or turning the wrong way gives me the shivers, so I’m practising hard at home (much to my boyfriend’s amusement).

By my second training session, I manage to get most of the routine sussed – then Amy brings out the pompoms and I turn
into a kid. It was one my dream to be a cheerleader, and here I am keeping up (almost) with the Cowgirls. 

I’m also quite relieved when I receive my costume. Here I was thinking it would be teeny-tiny but thankfully it’s a black pair of leggings and a blue checked shirt, topped off with a black cowboy hat. Yeehaw! 

I’m all set and ready to go. In the immortal words of Kirsten Dunst: “bring it on!”.

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TNT goes cheerleading with the London Broncos' Cowgirls
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