Translated by Greg
Meet A Cheerleading Otaku! Another Perspective On Watching Sports
Written by Miho Moriya
If you've ever watched a sporting event in Japan, you may have noticed the cheerleaders' effortless acrobatic performances. What is the cheerleaders' role in Japan and how is it like to be one? We interviewed a cheerleading expert who gave us a brand new perspective upon enjoying sporting events.
A New Way to Watch and Enjoy Sports
From baseball and soccer to basketball, many people go on trips in order to watch sporting events.
Naturally, you'd be looking forward to the game. Since you've ventured to an auditorium or stadium, why not enjoy a cheerleading performance that can't be seen anywhere else?
In this article, we'll meet a cheerleader researcher by the name of Machan. She attends over one hundred sporting events annually and taught us a new way to watch sports by paying attention to the cheer squad!
A former cheerleader for ten years, Machan fell in love with the cheerleading performance because it filled her with happiness and positivity.
After finishing her stint as a cheerleader, she attended graduate school and researched this high-intense activity from a sports management perspective. A self-professed cheerleader maniac, she has attended various sporting events to observe the vibrant cheerleaders closely.
B-ROSE: Yokohama's Graceful Cheerleading Team
"The main characteristic of Japanese cheerleading teams is their variety. Cheerleaders at baseball games are pretty and resemble Japanese pop idols. Then there are the cheerleading squads for American football and soccer games. The cheerleaders at basketball games stand out because they're so classy and cool," told us Machan.
For this article, we watched B-ROSE, the official cheerleaders for Yokohama B-Corsairs, the professional men's basketball team of Yokohama. Machan said that their sophisticated beauty is one of the reasons why they are so appealing.
"For their team image, they've adopted the moniker 'Noble Beauty.' The dance routines have a focal point, their standing poses are flawless, and the way they interact with the boosters (*1) is also classy," Machan explained.
*1 Booster: a generic word for a sports fan, but can also refer to someone who is an enthusiastic supporter of a team and its organization. This person engages in activities such as fund raising, event planning, and so on.
Watching a basketball game in Japan is exciting because fans can sit close to the court. Of course, this means you can see the cheerleaders up close as well.
Next, let's uncover the highlights of cheerleading with Machan's expertise!
1. Observe the Details in Their Dance Moves
Their opening act comes before the game begins. With a small flag in hand, all of the cheerleaders performed their routine in perfect harmony.
When I saw them perform for the first time, I was in awe of how beautiful everyone looked. But Machan noticed something different.
According to Machan, "All of the elements in their routine are tied together. From standing in the correct position on the floor, the angle of their hands, the number of steps taken when moving to a different spot, to even the way they toss their hair. The team is very well-organized, but at the same time, the beauty of each cheerleader also shines through."
I didn't consider how the hair toss was an essential point in their performance. This detail is apparently a vital element in their routine. Come to think of it, all of the cheerleaders have long hair, and no one had their hair tied up.
Something else worth noticing is how the small flags are at the same height and their legs are bent at the same angle. This pose creates a very unified look.
2. A Performance that Energizes the Crowd
Once the match starts, everyone's eyes are glued to the game and the players' intense look of concentration.
But Machan was looking at...
...the cheerleaders shouting words of encouragement!
The cheerleading team doesn't just make an appearance between each quarter and during half-time. Even when not performing on the court, they position themselves near the hoop area and continually cheer on the home team.
During the game, Machan wanted me to notice which direction the cheerleaders were facing when they were shouting and cheering. She pointed out, "Some of them are encouraging the players, while others are facing the crowd."
By the way, the paper fans held by the cheerleaders were handed out by the boosters. By sharing the same item, fans and cheerleaders alike can enthusiastically cheer on the home team together.
"An important role of the cheerleaders is to ensure that the fans' cheers reach the players. So the squad tries to create an atmosphere that makes it easy for spectators to uplift the players," explained Machan.
Cheerleaders are constantly on the move, urging fans to root for the home team. So if you come and watch a game, let's cheer them on together!
3. The Order of Routines during the Game
Machan also explained that the order of the routines is used to captivate the fans.
For example, cheerleaders perform a routine after the first quarter to introduce the squad members. "It feels like they intentionally introduce the members after the first quarter when it's least expected," according to Machan.
"After sparking the spectators' interest with an opening routine, they get fans wondering, 'Who's that cheerleader that just did that amazing performance?'"
Once each member is introduced, they kick off a performance that starts with a colorful line dance, proceeds to straddle and splits, and ends with everyone jumping and landing in unison. This performance is a B-ROSE specialty.
Showcasing their stunning and synchronized figures, the cheerleaders treated onlookers to a truly harmonious performance. This could only be possible with an extraordinary amount of practice! Their routine also demonstrates how hard they've had to work to get to this point.
B-ROSE's highlight routine is saved for the latter part of the half-time show. This production features various genres of dance including jazz funk and hip-hop. The fans also get pumped up for the last half of the game!
4. Cheerleaders Work Incredibly Hard behind the Scenes
During half-time and in between quarters, there are entertainment shows where special guests are invited.
Of course, the cheerleaders also participate. But as Machan points out, "They pour their heart and energy behind the scenes, looking for ways to ensure that the entertainment goes smoothly and according to plan."
Machan went on to say, "Standing beside the special guests, the cheerleaders encourage them to move during the show without any hesitation. In addition to quietly calling out and guiding them, another responsibility is to put the special guest in the limelight."
Of course, cheerleaders are one of the leading entertainment features. They often act as a bridge between the cheering fans and the players, showing their dazzling support for the home team.
During the course of a single game, they impressively take on a number of different roles.
5. The Home Team is Losing... Now What?
When we turned our attention back to the game, there were only five minutes left in the fourth and final quarter. The Yokohama B-Corsairs were down by six points. The atmosphere was nerve-racking and tense. Nevertheless, fans were shouting and screaming words of encouragement throughout the auditorium.
This was a closely contested match. When the opposing team scored a basket, the B-Corsairs took many timeouts, hoping to gain some composure and break the other team's momentum. As soon as the coach called another timeout, the cheerleaders went to the center court and performed.
Machan exclaimed, "This is B-ROSE's classic dance. They try to encourage the fans to dance and sing along with them! It's as if the fans become one cohesive team".
There were two timeouts during the last three minutes. This was a nail-biter of a game in which nobody knew who would win until the very last moment.
But the cheerleaders—without the slightest hesitation—decide when it's their call to action and move around the court, shouting out and urging on the crowd.
Impressed by what she saw, Machan commented, "Their teamwork is amazing. Each member has a different role. For example, one cheerleader watches the game as she shouts out her cheers, another keeps an eye on the time, and one monitors the member who's anchoring the team's diagonal line formation during the routine. They always call out to each other and are focused on the task at hand."
Watching a Game in Person Offers Extra Entertainment
When you want to watch a game, you can probably enjoy it on TV or video.
But as Machan pointed out, "By providing entertainment in addition to the game itself, fans have a compelling reason to see it live."
"Fans can enjoy many pre-game activities in the auditorium. There's a basketball shooting area, a free pelvis correction massage by a team sponsor, snacks, and a shop selling team merchandise. Above all else, the highlight is cheering on the home team as you admire the cheerleaders' impressive routines. This is the real reason why watching sports is so entertaining," she added.
In the case of basketball cheerleaders, the majority have a side job or school responsibilities. On weekdays, they practice after work. On game days, which include pre-game rehearsals, they are at the auditorium for the entire day.
The pre-game rehearsal and other preparations can last for eight hours! They put on colorful and entertaining performances to get fans out of their seats and spur on the players. But behind the scenes, cheerleaders are faced with a daily regimen of steady and persistent hard work.
The Best Seat in the House for Watching Cheerleaders
For those who'd like to get a close-up view of the cheerleaders, the second-floor balcony seats diagonally facing the home team's bench are your best bet. Machan added, "They're the best seats for making eye contact with the cheerleaders!"
During the match, cheerleaders spend much of their time on the perimeter of the court. They'll stand near the home team's bench and also near the opposing team's basket (in a diagonal line from the home team's bench).
When they start performing on the court, you'll have a head-on view of the cheerleaders if you move slightly over to the center of the seating area.
Seating is on a first-come, first-served basis. So it's a good idea to arrive at the auditorium about two hours before the game starts.
After settling down in the stands, we recommend participating in the various pre-game activities. There's even a session where they explain how the cheerleaders go about their cheerleading duties!
Enjoy Sports and Cheerleading Performances Unique to Japan
For the upcoming 2020 Tokyo Olympics, the AKATSUKI VENUS will be the official cheerleading group for the Japanese basketball games. The cheerleaders were handpicked from specially chosen teams, including members from B-ROSE.
When attending a live sporting event in Japan, please take the expert tips from Machan and try this interactive way of watching sports!
In cooperation with Yokohama B-Corsairs