From Western to Argonauts
By Mike Burton
“LOOK OUT GOD, HERE I COME!” Alison
Weaver, a member of Western’s cheerleading squad, flies
high during one of the team’s many performances this
Many Western graduates have become successful in sports, business
or the community, but few have been successful in all three.
Ashley Barnes, a Western psychology graduate, has been an active
member of the Toronto Argonauts cheerleading squad since she was
18. She has since managed her own dance studio and become an assistant
coach for the Argonauts’ cheerleaders.
Barnes is entering her 10th season as an Argos cheerleader, and
is looking forward to some new initiatives for the Toronto organization
“This year, we not only have a dance team, but a promotional
team that will be in the stands to get the crowd going, talking
to the fans and handing things out,” Barnes notes.
Like the dance team, the promotional squad will have 24 members
and is expected to help the crowd become more involved in the game
via fan interaction.
The range for the Argonauts’s cheerleaders spans from 19
to 32 years of age and like Barnes, many of the women have to balance
cheerleading with school or work.
“A lot of people think that it’s a full-time job,
but it’s amazing that the girls on the team just do this
on the side,” Barnes says.
Like many of the cheerleaders for the Argonauts, Barnes commuted
from school to all the practices, games and community initiatives
throughout her entire university career. Although Barnes is a Western
alumna, she was never a cheerleader at Western.
In fact, despite having the top cheerleading program in Canada,
very few Mustang cheerleaders end up in the Canadian Football League.
Cheerleading coach David-Lee Tracy says there are few similarities
between the two groups of cheerleaders, aside from the common title.
“They have a different purpose,” Tracy says of the
Argonauts cheerleaders. “They’re there as entertainment — they
dance more and they have their pre-choreographed moments. Ours
is a lot more free-form. We react more to what’s happening
in the game.”
Tracy also feels that unlike other collegiate sports, moving into
professional venues is not a natural progression for varsity cheerleaders.
“It’s not an extension and it’s not a step upwards,” he
says. “If anything, it’s a step downwards. [The CFL]
does absolutely zero recruiting because it is not a linear progression.”
Tracy has been approached by CFL teams in the past to develop
professional cheer programs, but has declined the offers because
of the differences that exist between the collegiate and professional
versions of cheerleading.
Perhaps the biggest difference is the nature of the skills the
cheerleaders perform. The Argonauts’ style of cheerleading
is geared towards women with dance backgrounds, and the on-field
routines appear as choreographed acts performed to music.
On the other hand, Mustangs’ cheerleading consists of both
men and women and involves more gymnastics skill. Mustangs’ cheerleaders
are also more autonomous and often at the forefront of competition.
Though there are several differences, one major similarity between
both cheerleading squads is their dedication to the community.
The Argonauts’ cheerleaders are required to attend at least
five charity events per season, but most of the women far exceed
that benchmark. Similarly, the Mustangs’ cheerleaders are
involved with many philanthropic ventures such as the United Way
and the Heart and Stroke Foundation.
Both the Argonauts and the Mustangs are holding tryouts for the
upcoming season. For the Argos, tryouts are being held Sunday,
Mar. 21. More details can be found at www.argonauts.on.ca. Spring
tryouts for the Mustangs will be held Thursday, Apr. 8 for both
men and women.