Cheerleading is a tough sport. Historically, there are few activities as underappreciated and as over-stereotyped as the art of the cheerleader, despite the excruciating physical demands and intense training it requires. Contrary to popular belief, the ability to clap like a seal and date members of the football team do not a cheerleader make; just ask Coach Brooke Ostendorf and her team, the UFV Cascade Elite.
For those of you who don’t know, the UFV website lists the University as having official teams in six sports: basketball, soccer, volleyball, golf, rowing and cheerleading. While some more conservative types might question UFV’s definition of sport, I can assure you that cheerleading deserves its place on that list. What our cheerleaders also deserve is a little more respect for their dedication, their skill, and their exuberance for life in general.
That said, cheerleading is a relatively new addition to the UFV repertoire. The team was organized last year, but was only officially recognized as a varsity organization at the beginning of the 2010 fall semester. The Cascade Elite generally perform at UFV basketball games, but Coach Ostendorf is also pushing her team towards a prestigious future as one of BC’s competitive cheer teams. This would put UFV in direct competition with teams from the likes of UBC and SFU, and give the girls a chance to perform at events other than varsity sports.
The Elites are participating in two competitions this year. The first is “Cheer Fest,” on February 5 at the Abbotsford Sports & Entertainment Centre; and the second is the Sea-to-Sky Cheerleading Competition in Vancouver in April. The next UFV event the team will cheer at will be the Jan 29 basketball games against the visiting Regina Cougars.
Q&A with Assistant Coach Alyssa Braak:
Q: How did this team start? Who put it together and made it competitive?
A. That would be thanks to Brooke and Kaitlyn [a former coach]. We wanted to be competitive; we didn’t want to just be frilly little girls at the games (laughs). Brooke took it over from Kaitlin.
Q: I heard you guys want uniforms pretty badly.
A. Extremely badly actually, because we don’t really want to wear those little shorts anymore. I mean we want to look more professional, we get points for looking good at the competitions. It’s kind of necessary [to have uniforms].
Q: What’s your favourite memory or event from cheerleading?
A: Honestly, I love practice! It’s so much fun. We can try new things and we don’t have to worry about impressing people. We can up the difficulty a lot.
Q: How often do you guys practice?
A: Twice a week, Wednesday and Sunday for two hours each.
Q: People often have this stereotype about cheerleaders, that they love to party and they’re all blonde and crazy. Is that true on your team?
A. No, that’s why I died my hair brown actually (laughs). I’m just kidding. Sometimes we like to go out dancing and have a good time, but we’re not big into drinking or anything.
Q: I mean, do you have a philosophy major on your team or are you guys all kinesiology or…?
A: Well we have an English major and I’m a sociology major and we have…sciences. A lot of the girls are actually involved in sciences. There’s some pretty bright girls. I think all of them are above 3.0.
Q: So you’re breaking stereotypes then.
A: For sure! (laughs)
Q: More sentimentally, why are you a cheerleader, what attracts you to this sport?
A: I love the team bonding. It’s fun to try and pull new stunts, and I’ve gotten so much stronger.
Q: Emotionally? Physically? Mentally?
A: Pretty much everything. It’s a good workout too, something you can stay involved in through university.
Q: How hard would it be for an outsider to kind of come in and start, someone without a lot of cheer experience?
A: Um, it would be difficult, but it would be possible. If you’re willing to work hard and you love being athletic than it would be possible I’d say.
Q: Say I was to walk in and be like “I want to be a cheerleader”?
A: Yeah, we could work on you, for sure.
Q: So I’m not a lost cause?
A: No, how about we can start working, like, right now. (laughs)
The UFV cheerleading team would like to officially thank Coach Brooke Ostendorf for volunteering her time and energy to the cause, and for her leadership and coaching ability.