One of the ways in which we do this is through the group development fund process. This is where groups are able to apply for items such as equipment to support their progress, whether that be for stronger and newer mats for Cheer, or coaching courses for Football and Rugby.
Sometimes we find that groups are not aware of this fantastic opportunity, and we want to change that by shouting about it! In the most recent round of funding, Cheer received help to invest in new mats, and they have written a blog to talk about the difference it has made to their team. If you and your group are interested in applying for the group development fund then send myself, Holly, Megan or Beth an email before the deadline, Friday 22 February.
In November 2018 Cheerleading and Dance were granted £468 from the development fund to put towards purchasing new roll out mats for the club. Each roll out mat costs £468 to purchase and we bought four mats in total, one of which was paid for by the development fund and the additional £1,404 was contributed by the club.
The existing mats were unsuitable for purpose and took up valuable time at the start and end of every training session to set up and pack away. By purchasing these roll out mats we are now able to roll them out and put them away in less than a minute. The mats also have a carpeted surface similar to what we perform on at competitions, therefore allowing us to better prepare for competing on such a surface. A carpeted surface also means we are less likely to slip as would often happen on the previous smooth surfaced mats.
Another advantage of the roll out mats is that they are a lot more shock absorbent. When jumping on the old mats we would often land hard and it would be difficult to continue our jump sequence, however the new mats have a more supportive surface and absorb the impact better. Many of our athletes have commented on how much gentler the mats are to train on and athletes performing tumbles in particular have noticed the benefit. In the past our athletes felt uncomfortable performing any level 2 appropriate tumbles, such as backward and forward handsprings, on the mats (which is the level our first team competes at). This was due to the mats being firm and rigid and not absorbing any of the bounce, consequently being bad for our athletes' joints. The new mats however respond so much better to athletes tumbling on them, adequately absorbing bounce and responding to aid their tumble sequence.
Strode’s College have kindly agreed to store our roll out mats in their open store as our second team trains there for two hours weekly. We are hoping to have more of our teams move to train there to be able to use the mats and book one off sessions should we need extra training. As it is now competition season it is not uncommon for individual stunt groups to use other teams training sessions to practice anything that needs extra work, meaning that whilst one team of 20 people are guaranteed to use those mats every week, it’s likely that an additional five athletes will also attend. I am currently in discussion with captains and committee about transferring our first team to train there once a week too which would mean an additional 23 members of the club using the mats. We aim to bring the mats up to the sports hall in March to be used for our annual showcase in which all 120 members of our club would benefit from using them.
We have also struck up a new relationship with Strode’s College with our coaches volunteering to run a weekly cheerleading club for their students to attend, with the hope of putting together a short routine for them to perform at our showcase. Last week we ran the first session and they were able to use our new mats for this, something which definitely impressed the students. Being able to coach these students on suitable matting may encourage them to attend Royal Holloway after finishing their A levels as they will be aware of the facilities available to them should they choose to continue cheerleading at university.
In order to purchase the additional three mats, we fundraised as a club in multiple ways over the past few years. We added a small amount of around £1 or £2 to each of the merchandise items and uniforms that we sold over the past two years which helped raise some of the money. We also charged £3 entry to our showcase last year, and introduced our winter ‘Snowcase’ (pictured below) this year as a further fundraiser. At our Snowcase we showcased our routine progress so far whilst spectators paid £1 entry. We also sold cakes and refreshments alongside a tombola.
This year we introduced 'Bring a Friend to Cheer' in which members of each team could bring a friend to a training session provided they paid £2 to participate, all of which went towards our mat fund. Our aim is to eventually be able to have a total of nine roll out mats to be like the nine panel mats that we compete on, and I aim to set the club up to continue to fundraise in future years and purchase an additional one or two mats each year.
In summary, the purchasing of these mats has greatly impacted a huge number of both our current and future members. We believe this is just the start of a journey towards owning a full set of roll out mats equivalent to the mats we compete on. I believe having appropriate equipment such as this may entice future students to attend this university over others without them. For this reason, we are very grateful to have been awarded this sum from the development fund, allowing us to finally purchase the mats we have needed for years.
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