TRURO - These aren't your stereotypical cheerleaders.
There are no pompoms or 'Gimme an A!' chants here. Only a bunch of finely tuned athletes ready to show their community what they're all about. Now, as the Truro All-Star Cheerleading Company gets set to host the Cheer Nova Scotia Championships Saturday and Sunday at the RECC, Jessie Patriquin can't wait to set the record straight.
"Every time someone asks me what sport I play and I say cheerleading, they always get the same awkward look on their face," Patriquin, a 17-year-old base with Truro's senior 4.2 and senior 2 teams, said. "I don't blame them though, it's not a huge sport here and all they can go by is what they see on TV."
The event kicks off Saturday at 9:30 a.m. and runs until 4:30 p.m. The schedule is the same Sunday, wrapping up with an awards ceremony. Admission is $20 per person for the weekend or $12 per day.
The culmination of the four-month provincial competition season will see 14 clubs from across Nova Scotia battle it out for titles from mini (athletes as young as four years old) to international open divisions.
The Truro athletes are looking forward to hosting their first competition in four years and giving their families, friends and the rest of the community the chance to see them perform without having to travel. The last competition the club hosted was also the provincial championships at Colchester Legion Stadium.
"So many of us have family and friends that don't know what the sport really is," Patriquin, an Onslow Mountain resident who has been cheerleading for 10 years, said. "Now we have the convenience of not having to ask them to travel.
"I know from experience as soon as people see what we really do, their whole image of cheerleading changes."
Television shows and movies never touch on the dedication it takes to be involved in the sport. Athletes work on their skills 12 months of the year in order to maintain the pace it takes to perform their two-and-a-half-minute routines, which include flips, jumps, lifts and dance routines set to music.
"They're very committed," Mary Gonzales, the club's owner and head coach, said. "They're in the gym two to three times per week, two hours or more at a time all year long. It's a huge commitment and you need to be there 100 per cent."
Because in spite of the physical demand it takes to perform, the athletes can't show it. They must always maintain a smile throughout their routines as it's a crucial element every judge looks for and something that can't happen without being in the proper physical condition.
"You have to look completely relaxed while you do all of that," Patriquin said. "It's definitely a very physically demanding sport."
So not only do the athletes attend team practices each week to perfect their routines, but they also attend an additional weekly tumbling session where they work on fine tuning their individual skills and physical fitness. Many also train on their own outside of the club.
Patriquin said she loves laying down newly refined skills on the competition floor.
"After all the time it takes to learn the skills we do, to perfect them and make them consistent, there's no better feeling than going to compete and hitting them."
Although attendance is crucial in any sport in order for an athlete to improve, it's even more so in cheerleading. Each cheerleader has her/his own unique routine and missing practice means those elements of the performance can't be worked on. Also, missing a competition means those elements can't be performed, docking the squad valuable points.
"Most sports have spares so if one person can't make it, it's OK because there are other people on the team who do the exact same thing," Patriquin said. "In cheerleading we don't have that. You have a different routine than everyone else and nobody knows exactly what you do because they do something completely different. We count on each other so much and it makes us closer as a team."
The intensity of the atmosphere on the competition floor is only heightened by the lights, cameras and supporters of each team, who vocally show their excitement each time their squad executes a stunt.
"Performing at competitions gives me such an adrenaline boost," Lauren Bentley, a 17-year-old base and back with both senior squads, said. "It's an amazing feeling to have so many people cheering us on and when we are on the floor we really feed off of each other's energy and it really bonds us as a team."
That's the payoff for all of the work the athletes put in and what they love most about their sport.
"It's the people," Bentley, a Hilden resident, said. "I'm part of an amazing group of people and it's like my home away from home."
Following are the clubs which will be attending the Cheer Nova Scotia Championships the weekend at RECC:
- Truro All-Star Cheerleading Company (Truro)
- Cheer Extreme (Dartmouth)
- Cheer Fusion (Port Hawkesbury)
- Cape Power Cheer (Sydney)
- Titans Cheerleading (Dartmouth)
- Integrity Cheer Elite All-Stars (West Hants)
- Kippers Cheerleading (Bridgewater)
- Scotia Cheer All-Stars (Dartmouth)
- Halifax Cheer Elite (Halifax)
- Richmond Cheer Athletics (Port Hawkesbury)
- Premier Cheer All-Stars
- West Halifax Cheer (Halifax)
- Annapolis Valley Cheer Club (Annapolis Valley)
- Liverpool Priva-Cheer Club (Liverpool)