Pom is a difficult sport to define. Pom is not cheer nor is it dance. If it were, there would be no such thing as pom. Pom is a mix of both cheer and dance. Pom teams make cheer-like movements to fast paced music. While cheer does flips and stunts, pom does kicklines. In recent years, all PCEP pom teams have vastly improved their programs and PCEP pom teams have become powerhouses in the pom world. People can begin pom as young as fifthgrade and continue on through college.
There are many different types of pom, there is United Dance Association (UDA), Michigan Pom Association (MPA), Badgerette, and Mid American Pompon (MAPP). Most teams in this area do MAPP. Just this past year Salem made the move to MAPP from UDA. All PCEP teams are now affiliated with MAPP. MPA is much like MAPP but not as well known in Southeast Michigan. Mid American Pompon host camps and competitions that many teams compete at. They also have a studio in Farmington Hills Michigan to help teach and grow the sport of pom to others that have questions about pom. UDA is the most different from the other pom groups, it has more fluid motions turns and jumps then MAPP style of pom.
To win at a pom competition there are categories that teams have to excel in; appearance, skill of kickline, showmanship, skill and level of performance of pom movements, form execution and precision, team unity and team timing, use of poms, choreography, use of music, level of difficulty and overall impression. There are three judges for each routine and they look for all those things in a matter of minutes. Pom is a subjective sport, any team can win it is up to the judges. Yes, pom is based on a scoring scale and the “best” team wins, but people do not always agree with the judges on what the “best” is due to the subjective nature of the sport.
Each summer pom teams all around the state go to Davenport University to attend a summer camp. The girls become more unified during the week of camp. Pom camp is a fun learning experience where teams compete against a score sheet and try to boost the overall scores throughout the week. At camp there is a team of staff each staff member gets assigned to a pom team and helps them learn the routine and gives constructive feedback. They are very supportive and helpful throughout the week. Staff judges the teams each day and awards them on many different things such as; timing, showmanship, height of kicks, transitions and formation and overall form. The points range from ten-twenty points the higher the points the higher the placement. There are three judges to help with the placement of the routines. At camp, teams learn a new routine each day for three days they then compete each night with the routine they learn that day. If the team earns enough points they earn a “1st place” for routine that day. The girls also learn a kickline and that extends by four eight-counts each day. If the team improves each time they perform that kickline then they earn a “1st place” in kickline. Most teams can choose to bring a routine that they have made themselves and practice before camp has started. If the routine meets the criteria as mentioned before the team will earn a “1st place” in original routine. The award for getting the three “1st places” means that the team will get Grand Champs For the past four years, every single PCEP team that has gone to camp has earned a Grand Champs trophy! There are other things to do at camp. While not mandatory, many varsity teams that have many seniors do a routine called “Senior Kick” this is where the seniors on the team go out and perform a routine with synchronized kicks and movements. There is a first second and third place, this past summer Plymouth Varsity got second place and Canton Varsity got first place. At camp there is a team of staff each staff member gets assigned to a pom team and helps them learn the routine and gives constructive feedback. They are very supportive and helpful throughout the week. Staff looks at each team throughout the week to give awards that may have nothing to do with pom but with the attitudes of the people on the team, some awards are; peppy pom (team with most spirited), team unity (team that supports and cheers on each other). Mid American only has one award that is given out to one person it is called the Smile Sparkle Shine Award,throughout the week staff team and director of Mid American seeks out one person that stands out and helps people. Two summers ago Ryan Fisher, a Plymouth pom alumni, won the Smile Sparkle Shine Award.
After a summer break pom teams everywhere come back to compete in what many call “High Kick Season” during the months August through November. While preparing for high kick competition, pom teams also practice performing at football and soccer games, they use the routines that they learned from camp to perform at the half time of each home game. During this time, practices are split between making a routine for competition and routines home games. The high kick competition takes place in early November and has a specific set of criteria which includes 40 kicks done in unison by the entire team. Much of the time a theme is used for the competition routine. It is coordinated to music, costumes, props, and at times, movements; however no poms are allowed. The three judges look for timing, choreography of the routine, formations and transitions, height and timing of kicks, and showmanship. Due to the fact that many middle schools teams and the competition is a family friendly environment each member tries to keep the routines appropriate and tasteful for everyone to love. Last year Plymouth Varsity got 3rd, Canton Varsity got 2nd at High Kick.
The months of late November through the beginning of February pom teams practice for regionals and state competition. During state competition season pom teams also have the privilege of performing at both boys and girls basketball games at half time. There is a regional competition in January usually around midterms. In order for pom teams to compete at states they must earn a certain percentage of points to go to states. For the teams that make it to states they get a comment tape explaining what the team should change and what the judges like about the routine. From there, teams get a few weeks to change and perfect their competition routine. While stunts can be a part of the routine, Mid American uses caution when advising to do so, in the past when there was no rules about stunts there were very dangerous and concerns about injuries arose. For the past three years the state competition have been at Michigan State’s Breslin Center it is an all day event. The competition starts out with the middle school, junior varsity and class C,D, and B varsity levels teams all perform, after a short while the judges come out with their decision on placements. After the awards they begin the collegiate and class A varsity level. The Class A is a huge division so Mid American divides the teams up based on points scored at Regionals. When the judges come back they make the decisions for all the teams competing that afternoon. All PCEP teams that have competed at the Junior Varsity and Class A Division I and have placed exceptionally well in this competition in the past four years.
Of course, there is much more to being on a pom team than performances, competitions and camps. There is a great deal of camaraderie that coincides with being on a team that spans a whole year. There are sleepovers and a yearly initiation to new varsity members. There are team dinners and braiding get togethers in the early morning. Pom teams also participate in many events throughout the community. Teams have participated in Plymouth’s fall festival, volunteered for the Rotary Chicken Barbecue and Art in the Park, volunteered through Canton Leisure Services and donated to clothing and shoe drives.
To see pom teams go to home football or basketball games.
Competitions Dates and location
High Kick- November 6th at Saginaw Valley University
Regionals- January 22nd at Northville High School
States- February 19th at Michigan State University
For more information about pom check out:
See PCEP Pom teams in action:
-Chelsea Justice, Plymouth High School senior