Three Cheers for the Team Behind the Team

Photos by Keith Whittier, Gord Weber and Marc Bourget

"How did you like the game?" I asked.

"It was ok," she replied.

"Just ok?"

"Well, I really liked the cheerleaders," she specified. "They were pretty amazing."

This is part of a recent conversation I had with a non-football fan who was attending her first REDBLACKS home game and she was amazed at the athleticism, precision and enthusiasm with which the Cheer and Dance team entertains the fans.  They are front and centre for every home game, cheering their lungs out and supporting the team.

The members of this group, approximately 50, are uniquely different but also very similar. Different in their backgrounds, interests and career paths but very similar in their qualities. They are intelligent, passionate, creative and ridiculously talented. I have had the opportunity of getting to know many of the members of the team through a variety of events and these are people who impress and fascinate me for things that have nothing to do with what they do on the field. While you may have seen Brittany on the field, or more specifically in the air (as she is tossed skyward on a regular basis as one of the flyers of the team), you may be surprised to know she’s an engineering grad. 

In addition to their performances on the field at every home game these ladies and gents — yes there are men on the team — practice weekly, and participate in community events all across the region.

The REDBLACKS contract cheer team services from Spring CDT, which is owned by Lisa Aucoin and her husband Kenny.  Spring CDT is an international cheerleading company that provides skills camps and choreography in over 36 countries. As Aucoin puts it:

"I am so proud of the program we have built over the last four years. Our cheerleading and dance teams are among the best in the CFL. They are active and engaged in the community while our members prioritize careers, school, family life and more."

Team members volunteer their time, which includes weekly practices, game day, community and charity events. Each year they produce an annual calendar, which raises funds for their Grey Cup trip. With the Grey Cup happening right here at home this season the team has produced an Ottawa themed calendar with photos taking place across the city!

If there is one thing that stands out to me – beyond their intelligence, dedication, ability to time manage, talented performances, hours of practice and wonderful attitudes — it is their engagement with fans. When the score is not in the REDBLACKS favour you can always count on them doing their best to keep the crowd engaged.

The most touching moment I observed with the team was a few years ago at one of their auditions. Amanda, a member of the dance team, was in her street clothes but holding her poms as she was going to change. She was nervous, as they all are during auditions. A little girl who couldn’t have been more than six came up to her wanting to hold her poms and instinctively Amanda crouched down and started playing with the girl. The little girl was in heaven. You can’t teach that, as that is something that you have within you and trust me, they all do.

"So are the cheerleaders doing that at every game?" my friend asked. "They were the best part for me!"

I smiled and replied, "Yeah, it’s what they do!"