REDBLACKS Cheer and Dance Week – The Captains

Every day this week Ottawa Life will be profiling the Ottawa REDBLACKS Cheer and Dance Team. Articles will feature spotlights on team vets, alumni and rookies but today we take a look at the captains.

Over the past few days we have introduced you to some of the rookies and vets that make up the Ottawa REDBLACKS Cheer and Dance Team. It’s time to meet the Captains. Like any sports team the REDBLACKS Cheer and Dance Team have captains. Their responsibilities aren’t limited to but include, helping prepare their teammates for what sidelines, or routine needs to be performed at a given time. They also take on a lot of responsibility through the season. As individuals who have gone through the process they are very knowledgeable about expectations and ensuring they are met. We recently spoke with two of the four captains on the team. Tiana from the dance team and Brittany from the cheer team.

What is your occupation?

Tiana: Administrative Clerk with the City of Ottawa in Social Services

Brittany: I’m a Project Coordinator in sustainable real estate development. I’m currently working towards my professional engineering accreditation.

Photo credit: Gord Webber

Brittany, you have graduated from engineering; you work in the field and still make time for this team, why?

Brittany: I am a huge advocate for living a balanced lifestyle! Making time for my career, family, friends, health etc. has always been of the utmost importance to me, so being able to continue my passion for cheerleading beyond university has been such a blessing. Being an athlete on this team keeps me in shape, allows me to give back to our community, and has provided me with some of the most important friendships in my life. I am also very lucky that I work for an amazing company who supports my professional cheerleading career.

Tiana, what got you involved with dance?

Tiana: When I was younger, like most little girls, I had a little tutu and would dance around the living room to music from the Nutcracker. When I was old enough though, my mom put me in everything possible. I started off with recreational piano, gymnastics, jazz, art, even jiu jitsu which was not something 5 year old me wanted to do. Eventually I would start dropping different classes and take up more dance classes. By the time I was 9 I had decided that I just wanted to dance. It was great because I wasn't forced into doing it. I got to choose what I wanted to do.

Brittany, what go you into cheerleading?

Brittany: I grew up as an elite gymnast and when it was time to retire, I decided to give cheerleading a try as the transition is quite natural because the fundamentals of both sports are the same core strength, flexibility, balance, etc. Becoming a cheerleader introduced me to team sports for the first time and I was immediately hooked. I went on to cheer competitively for the University of Guelph, University of Ottawa, and the Cheer Sport Sharks with whom I went to the Cheerleading World Championships. Now, to be completely honest, I never aspired to become a professional cheerleader simply because I was under the impression these teams were dancers only. When I saw that the Ottawa REDBLACKS were hosting cheerleading auditions for their inaugural season and they were looking to make both a dance and stunt team I knew this was something I would love! I am now into my fourth season and I can say with confidence it has truly been a life changing experience.

It’s 2017 and people still have misconceptions about cheerleading, what would you like to say to those people?

Brittany: I would invite those people to come watch a game, or even go watch a competitive cheerleading competition. It would be impossible not to acknowledge how talented and hard working all these athletes are. It is always unfortunate when someone forms an opinion without educating themselves first, however, I think overall we are moving in the right direction. I have seen first hand how our fans have supported and defended us when any misconceptions arise, and I am so proud of how our team tirelessly works towards breaking down stereotypes.

Photo credit: Gord Webber

Tiana: I would have to say that they should actually get to know us on the team. Come talk to us on the field after a game, at events and get to know us a little. Even reading our bios you can see that we have very intelligent and driven men and women on the team. Also, if you think the stuff we do is "no big deal," try it out for yourself! There are plenty of open times at cheer gyms, and drop in dance classes around the city. Bring a friend and try out something new! You might find that it's not as easy as it looks!

There are a lot of women of all ages that look up to you. How do you handle that?

Tiana: I always try to be positive about everything. It's one of those things where you have to leave your problems at home. If you're at event or a game, I always make sure I'm present in the moment. If I've been having a bad day, I always make sure to not let anyone know. I treat this as a job and I don't want to disappoint the fans!

Brittany: That is always humbling to hear. I, along with my teammates, strive to be the best role models we can. So to all the girls and women out there that support us, I hope we always exceed your expectations.

You ladies have been here since year one. What are some of the biggest changes from then until now?

Brittany: The biggest change from first year to now is that now we have three years of experience to rely on. In our first season everybody was a rookie, and nobody had any professional cheerleading experience. We always put our best foot forward, but it is safe to say we learned by trial and error. Now, as one of the captains of the team, I am able to draw on these past experiences to help lead my fellow athletes.

Tiana: I wouldn't say there are many changes but the quality of performances we are putting out now is amazing. We have a great coaching staff that are super knowledgeable and love this team, as well as some very strong and passionate best that allow us to up the anti a little more than we have in the past. Our routines are a lot more dynamic and very entertaining which the fans love. I also, personally, appreciate being pushed to my limits in terms of choreography as a dancer which is being fulfilled to no end this season!

What is something that would surprise most people about your experience on the team or cheerleading in general?

Brittany: People are always surprised to hear that all members on this team are actually volunteers. I think this fact just proves how passionate every single person on the team is about cheerleading. We are here because we love it, period.

Tiana: Cheerleading isn't just about looking the part. That's only looking at the surface. You have be dedicated, disciplined, energetic, outgoing, happy, enthusiastic and much more when your a cheerleader. We are ambassadors for the team. What we say and do out in the community has a huge impact on the way people view this team. There is a lot of training and hard work that goes into what everyone sees, and that's not only in practice or at events. It's in our day to day lives. We have to keep all of this in mind when we are no longer  in uniform. Taking off the uniform at the end of the day, you are still a REDBLACKS cheerleader and have to behave as though you wear the uniform 24/7. It's a lot of dedication to be a part of this team, but it's an opportunity that you will cherish for the rest of your life.

And of course, your favourite movie?

Brittany: My favourite movie growing up was A Knight's Tale. It was something my whole family loved, and it stars Heath Ledger, so enough said.

Tiana: The Lion King. I mean, any Disney movie will do but that one is my favourite.

Thank you both so much for your time and your contributions to the team and the city.

Tiana: Thanks Keith

Brittany: Thank you