The College congratulates current student Olivia Coombs (Modern Languages, 2020) who is the current President of the Oxford University Cheerleading Squad, Oxford Sirens, a Half-Blue sport. In Hilary Term, her squad won their Varsity competition. We asked Livvy to tell us more about the sport.

Congratulations on the recent win!  Please can you tell us a bit about the training that has led to this success?

Our first and second teams started training in early Michaelmas term. Our first team has two regular training sessions a week at Iffley Sports Centre, and the Tumblers have an extra session a week with the Gymnastics club to use their sprung floor.

Midway through Michaelmas, one of the halls in Iffley suffered severe damage and every club had to change their training schedules. Our training time was cut in half. We recuperated lost time by spending many mornings practising our stunts and learning the routine huddled up in a squash court. In Hilary term, we were fortunate enough to have two training sessions at Coventry Dynamite – one of the country’s best cheerleading gyms – to practise our routine on a full-sized sprung floor. 

Our coaches choreographed two brilliant routines which we performed at ICC Westerns in Week 4, and at FC Nationals in Week 5. This year, we held our Varsity competition at FC. Both Oxford and Cambridge competed in the Level 3 Coed division, and we received the higher score and took home the trophy!

How do you balance being on the squad (and being President!) with your degree work?

It can be difficult to find a healthy balance between the two, but cheer is my downtime. I see it as an opportunity to completely take my mind off my degree. It is a high-risk sport by nature, so you have to be completely engaged and focused on your technique in order to keep your flyer safe. There’s no chance for me to think about deadlines when I’m at training! Not only that, but our training times are either at 6:30 am or in the evening, so they never clash with my contact (teaching) hours.

Being President has been a lot of work, but definitely manageable. I actually started my presidency in Trinity term 2023, when I was still on my year abroad, so I had plenty of time to sort through the biggest admin and logistical tasks and make the rest of the year as smooth-sailing as possible. 

How did you start out cheerleading?

I joined my school cheerleading team when I was 12 and started competing nationally, then joined an All-Star team in Sixth Form. I started with the Sirens in my first year at Oxford in 2020, but due to Covid, we couldn’t actually train until Trinity Term.

What advice do you have for anyone thinking about taking on a Blues commitment?

Go for it! It has not been easy, and I certainly would have had more free time this year if I hadn’t been President, but without a doubt, it has been worth it. It is incredibly rewarding to help make a lasting impact on a club with a long history behind it and a bright future ahead of it. 

What do you enjoy about Queen’s?

Queen’s is a stunning place to work. I don’t think any college is as beautiful as Front Quad is when lit up by the sun against a blue sky.

Can you recommend a book? 

I’m writing my dissertation on Space Invaders (2013) and La dimensión desconocida (2016) by Chilean writer Nona Fernández and I couldn’t recommend them enough. Using dreams, memories, and familiar popular culture references, she depicts the harrowing experience of growing up during Augusto Pinochet’s dictatorship with a remarkable level of readability.