Hanna Burley

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Cheerleading is a sport that Taree local, Hannah Burley, has been involved in for over 12 years. This year marks her first year as Taree Cheerleading Coach, and she has just completed CheerCon in Newcastle with the Gymaroo Allstars. We found out a bit more from Hannah recently about this unique sport, that’s alive and well in our local area!

Hi Hannah. Can you tell our readers a bit about yourself and your background here in the Manning-Great Lakes? 

I grew up in Cundletown, surrounded by friends and family. I attended Cundletown Public School, like my father and his father before him, then headed to St Clare’s high school. I went to university in Wollongong for a year but didn’t like being away from my family and the area, so I decided to move back to the area and start a career in real estate. 

So, how did you first get involved in cheerleading? What inspired you to get started?

I’ve been dancing since I was three, but I eventually stopped loving it as much as I used to. I attended one of the cheerleading tryouts at the PCYC with my friend, not knowing what to expect, and have never turned back. 

What’s your role with Taree Cheerleading, and how did that come about?

When I started cheerleading, it was very overwhelming. I was only seven and the smallest girl in the team and couldn’t do a forward roll! When I was old enough, I started to help out the other coaches teach their classes, until I was old enough to have a class of my own teaching juniors. 

Ten years later, I left for university in Wollongong, where I started my own cheerleading team from scratch … and it is still going strong today!

 When I moved back to the area, it was pure luck that the PCYC was looking for a coach to take over the team, and I didn’t hesitate to put my hand up for the role. This is now my 12th year doing cheerleading and my first year coaching the team I was once an athlete of.

Tell us about the competitions that the Taree Cheerleading team have been involved in, or plan to be involved in?

This year the Gymaroo Allstars have already competed at CheerCon: The Experience in Newcastle, where they faced off against seven teams. For all but two in the team, this was the first time they had stepped on the competition floor. 

They didn’t place; however, watching them brought tears to my eyes, and I am so proud with how well they performed the routine, given how quickly they went from knowing nothing about cheerleading to heading to the Newcastle Entertainment Centre on competition day. 

Competing that day lit a fire under my girls, and they are so excited to do even better at the September State Championships (being held as we go to print) at the Sydney Olympic Park. 

What is it about cheerleading that you love? Are there any great moments or highlights you could share?

As an athlete, there is nothing better than stepping on to that floor at a competition, thousands watching, waiting for the music to start, so you can make all the sweat and hard work totally worth it. To me, it’s not just a sport – it’s a family … such a good way to make friends. 

It is such a different experience being the coach; I am way more nervous having to sit on the sideline than I ever was competing myself – not to mention the constant need to restrain myself from jumping up on stage and do it with them! 

There are some common misconceptions about cheerleading, aren’t there? Tell me about those, and what your response to these misconceptions are.

I am trying to break down the barriers, especially in young girls who think, “I’m too fat or too ugly to do that” or, “I can’t do a cartwheel or splits, so I can’t be involved in cheerleading”. What I love about cheerleading is that it definitely caters for all body shapes, sizes and abilities … in fact, there is a place for everyone. 

Another misconception is around what cheerleading is. A lot of people are caught up in the Americanised style that is portrayed in TV shows such as Glee and Bring it On. We don’t use pom-poms and jump up and down on the sideline of a football game shouting, “Go team go”. The reality is that we use a combination of dance, gymnastics and acrobatics to create a two minute and thirty second routine full of stunting, jumps and tumbling. 

What’s involved, and how do people in the area find out more about joining Taree Cheerleading?

To find out more information about joining the team, they can email taree.cheerleading@gmail.com or talk to the PCYC about becoming a member. Term 4 will be our “come and try” lessons, to allow people to see if cheerleading is for them before our tryouts at the end of the year. 

Thanks, Hannah.

Interview: Ingrid Bayer.

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