Sunday, September 12, 2010

Cheer: a fair competition?

I've been watching the annual inter-school cheerleading competition held in Malaysia since 2007, the competition is a melting pot, you can be in it no matter your age or role. From a humble competition involving only secondary school students, Cheer evolved into a gathering where everybody is on media display.

Cheerleading is an expensive and emotionally charged sport. To win a competition, the schools invested vast resources for a 5 minute performance, it's a win it or lose it thing. Considering the enormous amount of time and effort needed to prepare for a major competition, winning or losing feels big in the hearts.

The annual Cheer competition, being a premier event that draws so much attention, it's of course worthy to take a look at its design. To make things fairer for participants, and to provide enhanced spectator experience, it's always good to ask some questions.

Before going further into discussion, let me describe the [current] design of Cheer. Cheer is divided into three regions: North, Central and South. North comprises the northern states of Peninsular Malaysia; Central for Klang Valley, Pahang and Negeri Sembilan; South for Malacca and Johore. To date, no team from East Malaysia has taken part in the national final of Cheer. Before the national final at Bukit Jalil, regional finals are held for Northern and Southern divisions; Central teams do not undergo elimination. The top three teams from North and South, respectively, compete with Central teams in the national final. The national final lasts for two days, the champion is determined by summing the scores.

The most questioned aspect of Cheer is of course, no elimination for Central teams. So, the national final is over represented by the Central teams. Let's see what people have to say.

"It's unfair for Northern and Southern division," says Wiwen, a supporter of Ave Maria Convent, Ipoh. "Some [North and South teams] who did not make it into the final may be better than some Central teams," citing her reason.

Crystal, a cheerleader of Cyrens of SM Sri KL, said that the lack of elimination for Central teams do not affect her very much, but she thinks the design is unfair for schools belonging to Northern and Southern regions.

It's also a fact that the organiser is known to change performance order at the last minute. For Cheer 2010, it was initially decided that teams perform in reverse order on day 2, then changed to: teams perform according to the score of day 1, in ascending order. By doing so, the organiser indirectly signaled performance level, I wasn't surprised to read remarks saying "the first few teams that perform [on day 2] were bad."

"Sudden change of performance order don't affect our performance very much. The main point is to get into top 15 on day 1, otherwise give a better shot on the second attempt," answered Crystal (Cyrens).

Are you curious to hear what the judges have to say? This post will not be complete without them! Mind you, the answer is shocking.

Beverly Hon, head judge of Cheer 2010, when asked about the lack of elimination of Central region, replied that fear of failure kept the [Northern and Southern] teams from stepping into the national final. "The teams are unsporting," she lamented. "The Northern and Southern regional finals are held for these teams to keep a title [of regional champion], in the case they didn't win any title in the national final."

Beverly added that there wasn't Northern final before the national final in year 2010. Titans, Titans Junior and Vivacious came at their own will to the national final in Stadium Putra, the Northern champion titles were only crowned during the finale itself.

Cheer 2010 finished with a new benchmark set by Cyrens. Changing the competition rules will change the economics of the game, are you willing to watch better performances?

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