March 17, 2004  
Volume 97, Issue 87  

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SPORTS

From Western to Argonauts

By Mike Burton
Gazette Staff

Dave Picard/Gazette
“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 year.

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 season.

“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.

 

 

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