Squad looks for more funding in second season
If you’ve been to any Stingers football or basketball games in the past two seasons, you might have noticed a Concordia cheerleading team. They get the crowd pumped, keep fans entertained and support their fellow athletes.
“I love going to sports games and watching sports so I have a great time with the fans, even when I’m cheering on the field,” said Arianne Bellerive, a captain of the cheerleading team. “The fans are so receptive to us, even some of the older fans and kids will ask to take pictures with us.”
The Concordia cheerleading team was started by Lea Pandelidis and Paola Escudero prior to the 2017-18 athletics season, being the first cheer squad at Concordia. But this team is different from most other athletics teams at the university: they are just considered a club.
When the squad started a year ago, they didn’t participate in any competitions. Bellerive was on the team last year and joined their administration this year, helping supervise an overhaul to have a competitive team.
“We had proper tryouts to make sure girls have the proper skillset,” Bellerive said. “We want girls committed and we have standards.”
“We’re trying to show [the athletics department] what we can do and the talent we have,” she added. “We are serious, so hopefully we can transition into an athletics team.”
Like the Stingers baseball team, they are moving towards varsity status. Without it, the cheer team doesn’t get the same benefits and funding as the other Stingers varsity teams. Part of the reason for their efforts to develop a more competitive team is to prove they are worthy of varsity status.
However, without proper funding, the Concordia cheerleading team is left short-handed for practice time and facilities. Ellie Paxton, also in her second season with the team, said they have to find their own practice space, and its cost comes out of the team’s budget. Until now, they’ve been practicing outdoors, but had to cancel two practices because of rain ahead of the home football game on Sept. 29.
“It’s frustrating because we want to perform,” Paxton said. “But if we don’t have enough time with the girls, you can’t expect us to perform.” She said she wants to find an indoor facility in the coming weeks, but some gyms are too expensive.
Bellerive, who handles the team’s social media, and Paxton, who is the VP of Events, work together to organize fundraisers for the team. “[Arianne] will help me organize events, and I’ll help her with the social media and getting the word out to people,” Paxton said.
Bellerive said fundraisers include bake sales and clubbing events. On Sept. 22, after the homecoming football game, the Concordia cheerleading team hosted an event at Jet Nightclub, selling tickets for $5 and keeping the profit. She said more money helps buy extra equipment, like bows, which the budget doesn’t cover.
“No matter what we do, it gives us recognition,” Paxton said. “Whether it’s at a party, we show our faces at a game, or do a fundraiser, it gets the word out that there’s a cheerleading team.”
The Concordia cheerleading team is also working closely with the Concordia Swarm to create a fun fan environment at games. Bellerive is also an executive with the Swarm, so she acts as a liaison between both organizations to improve the atmosphere at games. “We’re always side-by-side, helping each other out,” Bellerive said. “Wherever the Swarm is, the cheerleaders will also be there to help out.”
Even when the Stingers are losing, like in the football team’s recent 74-3 loss against the Université de Montréal Carabins, the cheerleading team and the Swarm try to keep the fans engaged.
“With the help of the Swarm, they bring out the drums to boost the student morale,” Bellerive said. “Obviously it’s hard, we wanted our team to win, but I still had a great time at the game, and the fans still had something to talk about Monday morning.”
The team hasn’t been to any competitions , and since they can’t represent the school at any, they plan to take part in a friendly one in March 2019. Paxton hopes once the team achieves varsity status and can compete at a higher level, they can also get a coach.
“Right now we have coaches, but they’re still in university,” Paxton said. “If we were able to have coaches that weren’t part of the student body, but [are] just able to dedicate their time to make everyone better, that would make us stronger in competitions.”
Bellerive said there’s some roadblocks before becoming varsity, but she hopes it can happen as soon as next semester.
“Some people [high up in the school] really want us to get varsity, but others really aren’t making a lot of effort,” Paxton added. “There’s not much we can do apart from showing them we’re serious about it. It’s a long process.”
Main photo by Mackenzie Lad.