By Matt Ouellet
Ryerson’s competitive cheerleading team held its first tryout of the 2015-16 season on Sept. 16 in Kerr Hall upper gym. Fifty-two cheerleaders jumped, lifted and handsprung in hopes of filling one of the 36 team slots.
Back for his second year as head coach is Travis Stirrat, who led the team to a third place finish at the Cheer Evolution Nationals in Niagara Falls this past April. With only 12 returning members from last year’s team, Stirrat expects this season to be a rebuilding year.
For a team that has only existed for eight years, it has managed to turn some heads.
“Since I joined the team in my first year of university, the team has made a pretty big name for itself,” said assistant coach Maureen Cardenas. “In terms of cheerleading in Canada, it’s pretty hard to get yourself out there when the cheerleading community itself is smaller than other areas.”
To those who participate, cheerleading is very much a sport — despite the notion some people have that it isn’t. Combining cardio, strength training and flexibility, the dedication needed to succeed at a high level rivals that of many other sports. Second-year member Michelle Dumont says the opinion that cheerleading isn’t a sport is often held by people who haven’t seen enough of what they’re criticizing. Upon watching video clips or attending a live event, opinions are often changed.
“I challenge [people] to come watch us, or watch YouTube videos, because, in my opinion, it’s the most complex sport you can take part in,” Dumont said.
For Latisha Latouche, cheerleading provides some great motivation for continuing to stay in shape.
“It’s so much easier when you’re surrounded by other girls who just love cheerleading, you don’t even realize you’re getting a workout. I mean, you literally have someone else’s life in your hands, if you drop them, it’s game over, right?”
Back in 2012, the Rams beat out McGill University, claiming the sixth out of seven spots for the Power Cheerleading Association. The following season the Rams improved, placing fifth at the National championships, besting their previous outing the year before.
While Cardenas says she hopes the team will have success, her biggest hope is that it can be as fun and fulfilling for other members as it has been for her over the past three years.
“If I can do that for other people as well, that will be great,” Cardenas said. “The cheerleading mentality is very positive, which makes for an inclusive environment for newcomers.”
Though the agenda has not been finalized by Stirrat, the team’s first competition is tentatively scheduled for early February, with a complete schedule to come later in the year.