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Ascension Eagles Cheerleaders celebrates 20th anniversary

PUBLISHED: 12:00 27 February 2016

Ascension Eagles Cheerleaders at the Spring Open Championships.

Ascension Eagles Cheerleaders at the Spring Open Championships.

Archant

Beckton’s Ascension Eagles Cheerleaders (AEC) has provided fitness and social meet-ups for thousands of young people since its launch in 1996.

Ascension Eagles Cheerleaders as staple performers during the London 2012 Olympic Games.Ascension Eagles Cheerleaders as staple performers during the London 2012 Olympic Games.

Today, more than 150 children are involved in the programme, while the club works with about 800 Newham young people a week in conjunction with school teams and Beckton gym, Talent Central.

AEC director, and former student, Angela Green says the sport is more popular than ever.

“It is fun, it is a little bit different and it is team orientated,” she said.

Angela, who joined the AEC at age 14 and has coached there for the last 19 years, says cheerleading provides young people

with essential life skills including perserverance, training, time keeping and time managing.

She said: “The transformation that we see in young people’s lives is quite incredible.”

The club, which is open to girls and boys from the ages of 5-25, has achieved huge success under the prolific coach’s tutorage over the past 10 years.

This includes winning several age categories at the 2013 Spring Open Championships and being chosen to coordinate and perform cheerleading routines at the London 2012 Olympics, an experience which Angela descibes as “amazing”.

She said: “People think it’s all about waving pom poms and the exploitation of women.”

“When I was 14 I did not have much of an idea of where it would take me – I have been to Japan, Slovenia, Malaysia and Singapore.”

The coach, who led AEC as the first team to represent England at Cheerleading World Championships in 2006, says the sport instills “confidence” in its participants and that its benefits are many.

“The friendships you get to make when you are younger – they stick with you through the years. We make memories with people.”

Close bonds are often made between participants as a result of not only the highs but shared adversity through the lows of injuries and lost competitions.

Angela said: “People still speak so fondly of the team. They say it’s the best part of their lives.”

AEC was founded by American Shara Brice MBE in November 1996 who at the time was a wife of a vicar at the Ascension Church Centre in the Royal Docks.

She decided to form AEC as an church outreach programme to keep young people off the streets and engaged in an activity promoting fitness and social interaction.

She has since moved back to the States but remains a patron and still speaks to the club regularly.

Cheerleading routines typically last two-and-a-half minutes and involves stunting – lifts and pyramid building – and tumbling, incorporating moves like the backhand springs commonly associated with gymnastics.

AEC will perform at the Spring Open Championships on May 28.

For more information about the club visit click here

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