Cheerleading team will perform at Stingers home games donning new uniforms
Before Monica Knaapen and Arianne Bellerive ushered Concordia’s cheerleading team through their first halftime show in over a year on Oct. 23, the pair took a moment before showtime to reel in their excitement and reflect on how far the club has come.
“When I started, the cheerleading program wasn’t very stable,” said Knaapen, who currently studies political science at Concordia with a minor in human rights. “Once I started getting more involved with the team, my aspirations started to grow and over the years, [and] so did the club.”
When the co-captains of the club for the second year in a row first set foot on campus back in 2017, they were coming from competitive cheerleading backgrounds at Dawson and Vanier. As first-year students, they welcomed the notion of participating in Concordia’s cheerleading club despite the university’s lack of enthusiasm for the sport.
“Other universities have bigger cheerleading programs that are backed by their schools,” said Bellerive, who graduated from Concordia with a degree in sociology in 2021. “But it didn’t bother me because I was competing for so many years, I figured I could use a break.”
At the time, the team coordinated outfits but did not have a uniform they could call theirs. The girls would make appearances at sporting events but wouldn’t perform. The club merely existed, but didn’t push the envelope and left a lot to be desired by Knaapen, Bellerive, and some of the other passionate veterans that are still involved with the team today.
This year, cheerleading tryouts were held in September and saw over 70 students try out for the team, the biggest turnout in the last four years. According to Knaapen, of the 26 girls that made the final team, eight are returning veterans who will steer the team’s fresh talent in the right direction.
“The fitness coordinator, social media and events coordinator, team manager, and treasurer are all positions on the team that are delegated to our returning team members. It’s a lot of work but thankfully we’re up to the task,” Bellerive said.
As co-captain, Bellerive said that her responsibilities go above and beyond allocating the team’s budget and coordinating with Concordia athletics.
“There’s a lot of stuff that Monica and I are constantly dealing with behind the scenes,” Bellerive said. “But I think most importantly, we try to be there for the girls if ever they need emotional support.”
In the last four years, the co-captains have faithfully worked towards putting Concordia on the cheerleading map. When they performed their first halftime show in early 2020, Knaapen said the amount of attention the club received immediately afterwards was unlike anything she’d ever seen.
“People were hyped up, to the point where we were getting students from other schools asking about our team and how they could get involved. The cheerleaders are there to show their support to the sports teams first and foremost, but it felt like people took real notice after that performance,” Knaapen said.
When the pandemic struck, a lot of the cheerleading team’s traction stagnated as the club couldn’t meet in person to practice and interact as a group. However, instead of drifting apart, Bellerive and Knaapen continued to put in the work to keep their tight-knit community alive.
“One of the things we could control was our activity and presence on social media. So, we made a TikTok account, just to keep the team’s spirits up and continue to engage with potential recruits from afar. Once it became clear that the pandemic wasn’t going anywhere, the easy solution would have been to shut things down and wait it out. But we tried to take matters into our own hands as best we could, and I’m proud of that.” Knaapen said.
The cheerleading club has come a long way with their flashy new team uniforms, team sweaters, and eccentric halftime shows to come, but Bellerive’s end-goal hasn’t yet been reached.
“Ultimately, we want to be competitive as a school,” Bellerive said. “I don’t think we’ll get to that point this year, but that’s certainly on our radar.”
When everything is said and done, Knaapen knows she likely won’t be around to experience the better days ahead firsthand. But she finds comfort in knowing that she helped lay the foundation for Concordia’s cheerleading future.
“When Arianne and I are gone, our hope is that the team continues to grow and gain popularity at Concordia. It’s not about us, we’ve already had our time. We want to instill the passion in our new recruits so they can carry the cheerleading torch.”
The last year and a half has been difficult for the team, with the nature of the pandemic threatening the very essence of the club. The road to a fresh start began with their captivating halftime show on Saturday, with Knaapen and Bellerive in the driver’s seat from the very beginning.
Photographs by Catherine Reynolds