Aussie Cheer Channel had the opportunity to talk with Tom Wohling from ZSA (Zoo Southern All Stars). Tom tells us about his trip at Worlds with his team the Southern Tigers and his experience as a Coach.
Name: Tom Wohling
Age: 21 Team: Southern Tigers
Years Cheerleading: 6
|Favourite Jump:||Toe Touch|
|Favourite Stunt:||1/4 Ball Up Stretch|
|Favourite Tumble Pass:||Front Lay Full|
|Favourite American Team:||Stingrays Steel and Electric and ECE C5|
|Favourite Australian Team:||ZSA Southern Tigers|
|Favourite International Team:||Cheer Sport Great Whites|
How did you get involved with cheerleading and what do you enjoy the most?
I was originally a gymnast for 12 years. My last competition I competed was in level 8 (out of 10) in 2008. From there one of my best friends through gymnastics Stacey was apart of the brand new cheer team at Splitz and she kind of forced me to try it out after coaching and I kind of haven’t stop since. My passion for the sport continued to grow and grow. I enjoy every aspect of cheerleading but for me I really enjoy stunting and trying so hard to get a new skills and when you get them that is the best feeling.
What do you love most about the sport and how has it influenced your life?
One of the best things about cheer is the family aspect. The fact that you get so close with your team mates and work so hard on your routine all season to hit that floor and put out the best for yourself, team and club is incredible. Cheer is pretty much everything to me I evolve my whole life around to cheer. If two friends were to ask me to do something on a Friday night and one said let’s go out and the other said let’s got stunt at open gym, I would be at open gym stunting.
What is something most people don’t know about you?
Something most people won’t know about me that’s a tough one… I’m a massive super hero fan. Anything DC I will love especially if it’s Superman or Green Arrow. I’ve worked on the TV show the Voice and met Kyle Minogue, Ricky Martin, Joel Madden and Will.I.Am that was pretty cool. I also collect cheer music I have nearly every big name gym’s and some smaller gyms level 5 music especially Stingrays from about 2013 through to now and I listen to it all the time especially when I’m trying to come up with a new stunt sequence or work on routines I choreograph.
Do you coach? Tell us about.
Yes I coach. I’ve been coaching gymnastics since 2009 and still coach it now. I started cheer coaching in 2011 as an assistant same again in 2012 and then in 2013 co-coached a junior 1 team at Splitz. After about 6 months of moving to ZSA in 2014 I took on a senior level 3 team that was actually my first ever team I coached by myself. This season I have two cheer squads; junior and senior level 3 at ZSA. Enjoy coaching these kids so much and my passion for coaching and wanting to give my kids the best that I can is something I really strive for. One day I would really like to coach a team to a National title and in many years to come coach a team to Worlds.
What have you learnt about yourself as a coach?
Recently I’ve learnt how to be a smart coach and make the right decisions to make the kids look their best on the floor and it’s not always about winning or scoring high. For me it’s never about winning and I never make that my key focal point. It’s something that’s a bonus. If my athletes go out on that floor and look clean, sharp and look like they are enjoying themselves and they come off happy and excited, that’s enough for me. If they then happen to win awesome if not that’s okay because they looked great on the day.
You competed at worlds this year, what was some of the most memorable moments for you?
For me worlds was something that I thought would never ever happen to me. As a kid I grew up saying one day I will compete for Australia. At the time I thought for gymnastics but now that I know I did if for cheer it’s way better! The whole trip I will never forget. For many years prior I watched worlds or saw on Instagram and Facebook teams performing or even getting pictures or practicing on the football field and things like that. Seeing that in person and being one of those teams training and getting pictures was pretty awesome. Getting to meet my biggest inspirations within cheer Stingray Allstars and meeting some of their athletes and seeing them live was so surreal. Another memory I will never forget was during warm up I did really bad jumps to tuck and I had to do it again and I was the only person on the warm up floor at the time. I had not only Tigers but all of California Allstars Black Ops cheering for me and yelling out hit, hit, hit, hit, pull that was honestly so inspiring and awesome that they did that. But for me 2 of the best memories were one was walking out on to that famous floor and arena with the other 20 Tiger brother and sisters and doing what we all love and hitting our routine. It was the most amazing feeling and hitting that end pose is a moment I will never forget knowing that we hit and knowing I finally achieved my biggest dream in my life. Secondly sitting with my team hearing all the other teams get announced their placings and expecting it to be us every time was so nerve racking and then to hear our name being called as 4th in the World was honestly the best feeling in the whole world, its so hard to describe but if you have seen the video floating around on Facebook you’ll see what I mean and you can see how much it meant to all of us.
Southern Tigers placed 4th in the IOC5 division and 2nd in the nations cup. How does it feel to be one of the two teams to ever have accomplished that for Australia?
It honesty feels incredible. Like we all discussed placing and that before we left and we said to each other if we finish top 15 we all would be so happy. Like Corey (coach/team mate) posted on our group page saying that last year a New Zealand team took home 4th place and said to us if we work hard enough we have the ability to do the same. It actually feels really weird to say that my team and I are number 4 in the world and have made Australia the 2nd best country in the cheerleading world, its just insane hahahha but love that that’s the case.
So tell us about what it feels like to perform at Worlds. What goes through you head and how did you deal with nerves?
Worlds is like no other competition. The atmosphere of the comp, seeing so many familiar cheer faces from other teams and clubs from the entire globe is crazy. One of the coolest things about worlds was staying at Disney World and when you walked to the cafeteria to get food or a drink you would walk past someone from Canada or go past Cheer Extreme people or even bumping into someone like Xavier from Smoed 2014. Things like that were pretty cool. But the comp itself was run just like a competition here in Australia. You meet up with your team warm up outside do some mark throughs and then go check in wait a bit then you get 12 minutes on a full sprung floor to warm up everything. Once those 12 minutes are up you pretty much dropped you bag at the holding area and went to the marshalling hallway behind the comp floor and within 10 minutes of finishing your warm up you were on that floor. Something I will never forget is being out back lining up and being in between to of the 2014 reigning world champion squads; Twist and Shout Obessions and Cheer Athletics Wildcats. It was so cool to talk to and encourage them and also be encouraged by people who have not only competed at worlds but also won. It was also so cool to see that even the best of the best get nervous and can freak out too. I was definitely nervous but I was the worst in Daytona before we competed there. I was still nervous at worlds but more so excited. The funny thing with Tigers was we all knew we were ready, like before walking out for the final time being in the hallway out back, yes we were slightly nervous as you would be but no one was freaking out or saying I can’t do this what if this happens blah blah. We all were so so positive and knew we had it and that feeling of knowing the confidence within each other was so good.
Do you have any pre-competition rituals or superstitions?
Yes I do, if you ever see me outback before either my teams I coach or when I compete I go super super quite and don’t talk to anyone and I bite my nails a lot! Something I always do before every comp will put my headphones in and listen to cheer music especially stingrays as they inspire me so much and then I listen to my teams music over and over again and go over the routine and visualise what I need to do. I pretty much know Tigers music off by heart I feel that way if something were to go wrong out on the floor I know exactly what’s coming in the music and know what to do more so sub-consciously than having to think about it.
What are some of the challenges your team faced, how did you and your team overcome them?
About 2 or 3 weeks before leaving for America my other base Stevie was admitted to hospital with a bacterial infection in his skin and he was out for about 10 days, which meant I couldn’t do my dual base those last few weeks leading up to worlds. Unfortunately it then spread throughout our team and a number of us got it but luckily really early and treated it quickly before it get really bad. That was probably the biggest challenge. As always your team doesn’t always get along and that definitely happened within Tigers before and while we were in America. We were able to pull through and be one and smash our routine. One of the biggest things I personally had to deal with was on the Tuesday before worlds whilst at training at Top Gun, I was getting this real sharp pain under bicep and my hand was shaking like I was nervous but I wasn’t. It got really bad during that training session to the point I couldn’t control the shaking and my whole arm was having a fit this went on for about 3 hours before it calmed down. Our team physio Nicky looked after me and relaxed my muscles turns out I had nerve-ending damage in my arm. Crazy to think of all places an injury started just as I was about to compete at the biggest competition in the World. I rested over the next few days and got myself in the right headspace to compete. With extra trainings I was feeling good and didn’t let it affect me at all yes it was still happening but had to forget about I was at worlds.
What’s the best advice you were given that you have past on to other athletes?
I know it sounds really cliché but if you have a dream follow it no matter what anybody else thinks or says. If you are truly passionate and believe in yourself, you can make any of your dreams turn into reality. During the 2014 season with Tigers I hurt my knee and had knee surgery I was told after the operation by the doctor I wouldn’t be ready or probably wouldn’t compete at nationals as well as Worlds. Hearing that at the time made me pretty upset. But I knew I needed to achieve this goal of mine to compete Level 5 Nationals and make it to Worlds. So I got myself into the gym worked on strength worked getting better at stunting. Did whatever I could to get my knee as strong as possible. I then competed with Tigers at nationals but then went on and competed at Worlds. So just because someone tells you no you won’t or you can’t doesn’t always mean you have to believe them. If you really really want to achieve something do whatever it takes to get it done. It is honestly the best feeling achieving something you have dreamt about for many many years.
The ACC team would like to thank Tom for taking the time to interview with us, we’d like to wish him and ZSA all the best this season.