Cheerleaders have become associated with North American sporting culture. Their styles vary, but one of their main responsibilities is to engage the fans and make the game experience a more memorable one. From the over-sexed routines performed by the NBA or NFL cheerleaders to the eye-popping gymnastic routines that are seen in competitive cheerleading, spectators always abound.
Unlike many Canadian university teams that have a dedicated varsity cheer team, the University of Calgary Cheer Team is independent from the Dinos’s athletic team.
“Lots of the universities have varsity cheerleading teams and that is just not something that the Dinos are interested in having here,” said U of C cheer coach Jodie Larson. “The only way to do it is the club route which, to get a club up and running, takes initiative. You have to really want to do it. It is just a matter of people signing up and taking it upon themselves to join.”
Being that this is only the team’s second year in existence, they are still in the process of firmly establishing themselves in the university community. The dedicated student leadership demonstrated by the club’s founders and members has gotten the club up and running.
“It’s a time commitment,” said club president Brittany Maddox. “You have to put in the time to keep the club going. It’s also about student leadership. As opposed to other teams that have faculty involvement, we are entirely student run.”
The team is separated into three different tiers to offer its members varying levels of involvement that they can choose, according to their desired level of commitment. The most demanding tier is the performance team, which practices a few hours every week and must master the choreography to produce a polished performance. These members can be seen performing during Dinos basketball games, along with volunteering in the community and participating in fundraising events.
The Red Shirt squad is the second-most-demanding tier. These members practice with the team to fully learn the choreography so that they can fill in for performers who are unable to perform on game day due to injury or illness. This tier is for those who want to be part of the performance team, but who are unable to fulful the time commitments. Red Shirt members are also involved in all the community events that are sanctioned by the Cheer Club.
The last tier of the team are the Cheer Zone members. These members do not actually dance with the performers, but they do play an integral role in pumping up the fans by cheering on the crowd whilst wearing U of C cheer T-shirts. Cheer Zone members also attend volunteer and team building events.
Tryouts for the team were held on Sept. 25. Potential cheerleaders come from a wide variety of dance backgrounds that range from raw beginners to having competitive cheerleadering experience.
Maddox stressed a number of traits she was looking for in any potential new members.
“The ability to pick up choreography, and the ability to have fun with it and not get too stressed out about the choreography,” said Maddox. “Also being easy to work with and outgoing. You can’t be a flat person sitting there watching the games. We go to a game to entertain the crowd and get them excited.”
Currently, there are no men on the team but the club does welcome them to join. The team wants to work stunting and tumbling into their routines this year, which often requires male participants.
“If we get up to a higher stunting level, we feel that that would attract more guys to join,” said Larson.
With the team’s recent success at Dinos basketball games, the cheerleaders have developed higher ambitions. They are looking to be a part of football and volleyball games in the future.
“We are really excited about this year,” said Maddox. “It’s very exciting because we started from such a low point and we are growing. Seeing the team go to where we would like it to be is very inspiring.”