In between her busy schedule preparing for the biggest tournament of the year, the Euromasters 2015, the UM Cheerleading Team Captain Julia Kotamäki met with Maastricht Students. She maybe be the smallest in the team but she is one of the strongest. Read on to know more about the team and Julia herself!
Interview and text: Karissa Atienza
Photography: Brian Megens
Name: Julia Kotamäki
Study: European Law, 3rd year
Position (UM Cheerleading Team): Captain
How did the UM Cheerleading Team start?
We started as a group of SBE students. Janneke Geven, last year’s captain, changed the composition of the team so now we have students from all faculties of the University and two from the Hogeschool. I was actually one of the first to join who was not an SBE student! It started as a group of friends who wanted to set up a team to go to this university competition. They needed a cheerleading team that competes in all sports. Before it was mostly dancing, but now we’ve progressed to more advanced cheerleading routines like throwing girls in the air (stunting) and flips (tumbling).
There’s no traditional cheerleading culture in the Netherlands, do you feel that this is changing?
It’s definitely contributing to it. Cheerleading is predominantly American but it’s becoming more and more popular in Germany and Finland. Now, it’s slowly coming to the Netherlands. There’s actually a Dutch cheerleading association. There are two competitive cheerleading teams in the Netherlands, and we’re hoping to become another one.
Why did you want to become a cheerleader?
One of the girls in my high school wanted to start a team. We were still a very beginner team but we still competed and it was a really good experience. When I moved here, I wanted to join a sports team but I’m not talented in other sports! I’ve always been interested in dancing and cheer has a lot of dance to it.
Entertainment or sport?
It depends on who you ask, I’d like to think it’s a sport. For girls who are bases (those who lift other girls), like myself, it does take a lot of muscle power. Cheerleading routines are also really fast so you have to have a lot of endurance otherwise you die!
What’s the weekly schedule of a cheerleader?
It depends if you’re a girl or a boy, girls train more than the boys. We have 1 choreography practice a week at the MAC gym and 1 jump training. Cheer jumps are quite specific and you really need to learn the technique for them to look good. There’s also a stunt practice (a group lifting a girl) once a week. Some girls are also involved in partner stunts (a boy lifting a girl). It’s an additional practice so it also depends on what you do in the team. Two weekends before a competition, we practice from 10am to 5pm.
What do you aim to achieve this year?
We’ve come a long way skill-wise and motivation-wise. We’re coming to the end of the season this weekend where we’re competing for the Euromasters (6-7 November). It’s our biggest competition and we’ve been going there for the longest. We won it last year. It’s a big deal because we train for it for a whole year. That’s why our season ends in November, and starts at the end of November/early December so we recruit then in order to train the members for next year’s competition. We used to be a team that focused on our dancing but we’ve really developed our stunting skills. Now we’re one of the best teams in the competition.
The biggest goal that I have this year is to increase recognition in Maastricht. I think we’ve done pretty well on that. Our next goal is to become a Dutch competitive team. To become one, we need to compete at Dutch competitions. We’re not quite there yet because we still haven’t officially become a UM Sports team, but we will be in January.
How hard is it to recruit guys to join the team?
In the beginning before we became skilled in stunting, it was really hard. The way the team started was by recruiting friends. Their job was just to lift a girl, so they didn’t have to dance at all. Now that we’ve become much better at stunting, there are some boys who are eager to join because they see other guys lifting a girl with just one hand. To some boys, it is an appealing image to be able to do that.
What surprised you in your position?
How hard it is to keep the attention and instruct 30 people at once, the amount of authority you need to have to be an effective captain. I developed my yelling skills!
What is your personal highlight in your position?
I love the whole thing. The team is my baby!
People don’t expect us….
From the movies, there’s a stereotype that cheerleaders are not that bright. Half of the team studies accounting while I’m a law student! There are people on the team who are really good at their studies. They’re really motivated, dedicated people who want to get involved in something that lets them experience the satisfaction you get when you improve and achieve something.
Why should prospective students in Maastricht join the UM Cheerleading Team?
It’s a great way to make friends, because you spend so much time with the team. Everyone is really motivated and friendly. You work together to build performances and routine that brings you huge joy when you win.
Did Julia convince you to join the Cheerleading team? Click here to know more about joining the team!