NCC head Valdes hopeful of PH cheerleading growth
MANILA, Philippines – Two divisions with 5 teams each just for cheering. This was how the National Cheerleading Championship (NCC) started 12 years ago.
Now on its 13th edition, the annual tournament has blossomed to include over 350 teams in 45 divisions from all over the country.
The head of NCC Itos Valdes brought up the NCC from scratch himself, fueled by his passion for developing a sport that was practically not even considered as one in 2006.
"I said that it will be nationwide and this is a very popular activity for the youth," recalled Valdes.
From initially fielding in teams from Metro Manila only, the NCC expanded to the different regions of the Philippines on its 3rd year.
"We found out in our 3rd year that our teams were from the provinces. It takes so much money for them to come," said Valdes.
Each season of the NCC now starts in August, where 6 regional qualifiers are to be held. This lessens the burden of teams that previously traveled all the way to Manila without properly scaling their chances of placing in the NCC.
With this development, teams from Palawan, the Ilocos provinces, and General Santos are able to compete with Metro Manila-based schools.
NCC is currently not accredited as a National Sports Association (NSA) by the Philippine Olympic Committee (POC).
However, the NCC is the Philippines' official representative organization in the Internation Cheer Union (ICU). Since its membership in the ICU, the Philippines has been sending Team Pilipinas – an all-star team formed through the NCC.
Team Pilipinas has made the country one of the top contenders for medals. In 2015, the Philippines achieved its largest medal haul in the ICU World Championships of one silver and two bronze medals.
The all-girls team claimed the silver in the All-Girls Elite division, then-reigning UAAP Cheer Dance Competition (CDC) champions National University Pep Squad earned the bronze in the Coed Elite division, while Miriam College’s Sayawatha dance troupe nabbed a bronze medal in the Team Cheer Hip Hop division.
"If it [were] an Olympic Sport then noong (in) 2014, we would have silver and bronze already. I don't mince words. Team Pilipinas is one of the top cheerleading teams in the world," boasts Valdes.
A year later, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) declared cheerleading an Olympic Sport that is estimated to see action in the 2024 Paris Summer Olympics. This development sparked investments in the sport by other countries thus, raising the level of the international scene.
Valdes is hopeful that newly-elected POC president Ricky Vargas, whose advocacy is to unite the NSAs, will consider making the NCC the official NSA for cheerleading in the Philippines.
"It’s a good development now that the Philippine Olympic Committee and PSC are finally reuniting and it seems to be on the right track now with the new president, Ricky Vargas, and the new PSC chair, Butch Ramirez. They seem to be of one mind to ‘let’s develop sports together,'" said Valdes.
With Philippine cheerleading being a medal sport, Valdes also hopes that it will be part of the 2019 Southeast Asian Games, which will help lift the Philippines from its worst SEA Games finish since 1999.
"There’s a new dawn for Philippine sports now and we’re expected to join that and try to see if we can participate, for example, in the 2019 SEA Games," said Valdes.
"If cheerleading is a sport, I’m willing to help the POC and PSC organize it and we can get the Southeast Asian countries here so we can participate in Southeast Asian Games," he added.
The 13th season of the NCC opened its doors to Chinese teams ShenZhen HuaCheng Primary School and Jilin Insitute of Physical Education who were brought to Manila by the China Cheerleading Association. (READ: China Cheerleading Association joins 13th NCC season)
By fostering relations with other countries such as South Korea, Japan, and Australia, the NCC hopes to establish a Philippine Open for cheer in 2019 that will welcome international teams.
Valdes has set plans of action to improve national cheer program in the Philippines, hopefully with the help of the POC, in order to find and nurture the best national athletes.
"The Philippines is not just a participating team, we are one of the best in the world. So we want to continue that program. I think we have a good program and that we want to continue the grassroots development with the NCC nationwide," said Valdes.
Like Vargas, the NCC shares the goal to discover the best athletes in the Philippines and train them to bring home medals in world championships and even the Olympics. (READ: Vargas goal: 'Go beyond disputes and look for the best athletes')
"Finding athletes, developing athletes. Honestly, we can bring home medals in the Olympics. Every 4 years, we can bring home a medal in the World Championships as long as we have the support," said Valdes. – Rappler.com