Ahh…its September, besides being the month having a whole “entourage” of holidays (I smell replacement classes), it is also the host month of the annual Monash Cup! This the season where students who aren’t usually in sports start cracking their heads on which sport they should participate to represent their houses. Now, when someone asks you which sport are you contemplating about, what comes to mind? I bet it’s something like rock climbing or captain ball right? Since these are some of the sports almost everybody is talking about. But what if I told you there are some sports that are equally as fun, but just that they don’t get the same attention as the other sports.
To prove it to you, we took the trouble to interview two Monash Cup candidates who took part in two of the least known Monash Cup categories – Cheerleading and Chess! Both interviewees are second year students studying Psychology and Science respectively (we’ll keep them anonymous if you don’t mind!). The purpose is to give you all a first-person insight on how these participants truly feel being part of a sporting culture which is not deemed popular. Hear them out hear them clear.
Just as a brief introduction:
Cheerleading can range from chanting slogans to a highly physically demanding sport. Individuals who have bigger body frames and decent core strength are often put as bases to fly individuals who are lighter, known as flyers (the center of attention). For Monash Cup, if you ever participate in the category, you’ll go through a thrilling two-month long training where you’ll be prepped to perform some stunts you may or may not know you could do together with a group of people you may or may not have known before.
Chess, often dubbed the “quiet” sport, is indeed officially a sport recognized by the International Olympic Committee themselves! Chess players are pulled into a two-player strategy-based board game and the objective is to checkmate the opponent’s King. It requires deliberate planning of strategies, often requiring you to think multiple steps ahead of your opponent. (P/s: I heard good chess playing is often associated with high IQ, wanna give it a try?)
I’ve always had a curiosity vis-á-vis cheerleading culture. Whenever you mention cheerleading, the first thing to come to mind would be a group of girls, holding “pom-poms”, standing beside the on-going game, proudly cheering for their home team. Just how much of this was true? Was cheerleading really that simple? Why would there even be a category in Monash Cup specially dedicated to cheerleading? These were a mere list of questions that kept popping up in my head.
I eventually took up the courage to step out of my comfort zone and signed up as a participant for my house’s cheerleading team. Little did I know that I was in for a lifetime of shock.
I remembered the moment I stepped on the stunting mats (often referred as “blue mats”), I almost choked on the bread I was nibbling on. Flyers were literally “flying” everywhere. I saw a pair of boy bases taking turns balancing a girl flyer on one hand (Cupie), on another side, a group of people were busy catapulting this other flyer high up in the air (Basket-Toss). I was baffled, I didn’t know whether I was to be amazed, or frightened. I’m afraid of heights, yeek! What happened to chanting slogans?
I eventually settled with all the adrenaline and made sense of the bizarre occurences happening around me. I was a rather petite, light weighted girl and obviously I was brought to be trained as a flyer. I would consider myself as athletic, being previously involved in swimming and sprints, but cheerleading was nothing like other sports, and I loved it. Cheerleading required you to utilize every ounce of muscle you knew, and you wouldn’t believe the amount of core strength I had to muster just to stay balanced, standing on a set of hands. I dare not wonder how my bases kept me aloft when I just had 2 bowls of rice for lunch.
But what really caught my attention was the team spirit keeping everyone all “pumped up” and united. Whenever a stunt failed or was in the midst of failing, you would always see fellow cheerleaders cheering on one another, lifting each other up. The entire training was spent in a flood of joy and laughter. Stress was unavoidable due to the competition drawing near, but the bond that we formed amongst one another was so strong we felt like we could overcome it all.
But there’s a sad part to this story, hardly anyone acknowledges cheerleading as a sport. Cheerleading is so heavily stereotyped with being a girl’s activity, guys are rather reluctant to participate in this category. Not many people know what cheerleaders go through to perform those applaudable stunts, and I can’t blame them, cheerleading isn’t usually talked about among the masses. I truly wish cheerleading gets the recognition it deserves for the coming Monash Cups. I am proudly a cheerleader, and this is my story, this is my voice.
It was competition day. As I was mentally preparing myself against my opponent, I took a quick glance across the competition venue and the one thing that caught my attention – lack of chess clocks. I let out a deep sigh as I murmured to myself “When are they going to take chess seriously?”
As I faced off against my opponent, I was constantly distracted by the little whispers and chattering coming from the background (chess competitions are commonly observed in silence), which brings us back to the question – When are they going to take chess seriously?
Being in the chess arena since a young age, I am well accustomed to its conventional, “uncorrupted” culture. I have represented the state to face off against Malaysia’s top chess players and in my honest, most humble opinion, I dare consider myself a chess veteran. To be able to obtain such a remarkable achievement in the sport, one must be able to respect the sport, but then, how many people actually consider chess a sport? I’ve heard numerous people mock chess, discriminating it from other Monash Cup categories just because it lacks the “sweat” element. But the truth is, chess contributes the same amount of points as other sports such as futsal and dodgeball!
The most infuriating issue was that some of the Monash Cup organizers themselves, who were keeping track over the scores were unclear over certain chess rules. “We’re not that deeply sure of the rules, but we know the basics, Aiya chess quite easy one la”. Chess is all about the minor details and if those are neglected, it just means the sport is not respected. If the chess category has truly went this off course, then I am in deep remorse.
I’m not here to criticize, but then again who am I worthy to judge? To many, I may very well just be any Tom, Dick and Harry, but I truly wish that the chess culture within Monash be given the right amount of attention. Chess may not be as exciting to everyone in comparison to the other sport categories, but it deserves to be given its credits for the ones who truly appreciate it, and for this I am confident I speak on behalf of not just all the houses, but for the chess players worldwide. I am a chess player, and this is my story, this is my voice.
Article by Lee Kah Hoe (Charles)
Photos by Ivan Liew, Ryan Wee and Marium Imran