Photographer:Fotograaf: Loraine Bodewes
They are the reigning champions of Euromasters, the largest university sports tournament in Europe. And just two weeks ago they secured a place in the finals at the Dutch Nationals in June. Cheerleading might not be a well-known sport in the Netherlands, but the UM Cheerleading team is quickly gaining a reputation for being a talented group with big ambitions. Observant spoke to team captains Kimberly Dinnissen and Tobias Müller during their preparations for the Royals Cup, which will take place from 14 to 16 April at Maastricht University.
“We’ve been training hard for the tournament, spending many off days perfecting our performance”, says Tobias Müller, student at the School of Business and Economics. “We’ll be present on and off the pitch to support the UM teams and to compete ourselves.” The Royals Cup (see box) is an important event for the cheerleaders, not least because it is a ‘home’ event. “We’ve been doing many things to raise our profile”, says Kimberly Dinnissen, student at Zuyd University of Applied Sciences. “We organise parties at Café Cliniq and cheer for high schools. We also performed in a Rabobank commercial and during BreakFest at the MECC.”
The group started out as an all-SBE team in 2012. Since then other students have joined and ‘UM’ has been added to their name. Today they have a total of 36 members in two teams: the ‘women’s team’ and the ‘co-ed team’ (men and women). “The German-SBE-student stereotype is still true to a certain degree for UM cheerleaders, but that doesn’t mean we don’t welcome others”, says Müller. “We don’t care what’s on your ID; as long as you’re passionate about cheerleading, you’re welcome.”
It’s not just prejudices about being German or SBE students Müller has to deal with. Being a male cheerleader also raises eyebrows from time to time. “There are certain stigmas about male cheerleaders, but I can tell you they’re completely false. Male cheerleading requires lots of strength and training, and is one of the most fun roles in the sport. It would be impossible to do certain moves without male cheerleaders.”
Although for now the focus is on the Royals Cup and the Dutch Nationals, the team is also already training for Euromasters in November, where they will defend their title – something they hadn’t expected to win when they entered the tournament in November last year. “The level had really gone up since the year before, when we also won, so that made it more challenging”, says Müller. “Also, we had to deal with a lot of injuries.”
“And we didn’t have access to all the facilities our opponents had”, adds Dinnissen. “For instance, we train ourselves instead of having a professional coach. I had some years’ experience in cheerleading back in Germany, but most members had none. We even had to resort to YouTube at times while teaching ourselves. We compensated by training even harder. We trained twice a week for the past year and another twelve hours on weekends nearing the tournaments. But I think the outcome was worth the difficulties – we really pushed forward as a team, both physically and mentally.” Müller agrees. “That we won the title was due to how much our team stuck together, no matter how painful or demanding it was.”
The Royals Cup
The second Royals Cup will take place from 14 to 16 April 2016 at Maastricht University. Business schools from all over Europe will compete in seven different sports: football, hockey, volleyball, handball, running, basketball and cheerleading. The social programme includes plenty of time for mingling and parties on the Friday and Saturday nights.
More information, the programme and tickets are available at www.royals-cup.com.