It’s been 21 months between cheer competitions, but earlier this month, local cheerleaders got the chance again to showcase their talent in front of live spectators.
The Cheer Force Jets in Cold Lake and their teams in Lloydminster came up to the Energy Centre the December 4th weekend in their season 5 showcase, allowing parents and family members the first chance in a long time to watch a cheer performance live.
Viola Holden, owner and coach of the Cheer Force Jets, explained that last year’s restrictions did not allow for live performances.
“Typically every year at the start of our competition season, we do what we call a showcase. So all of our teams perform their routines, and it’s kind of like a dress rehearsal for them before their first time competing. And all their parents and family and friends are able to come watch,” said Holden.
“We weren’t able to do that last year, we were under heavy restrictions and that sort of thing. And then the season before was the last time we competed…It was so good. They were really, really nervous. I’ve never seen the kids so nervous to perform,” she said.
“But it was a really good opportunity for them to get back out there before they do compete in January.”
The showcase was the first time both Cheer Force locations could come together at the same time since their Lloyd site opened in September 2020.
Despite slowing down due to ongoing public health restrictions, the cheer teams have expanded. Since their last showcase two years ago to now, they’ve grown to 13 teams from four as well as four individual performances, split between the two locations.
“Our youngest team is aged three and four. Then our oldest team right now is in the U17 category. And prior to COVID, we had an adult team, and we’re looking at adding that back in now. We’ve just implemented the RDP program in Cold Lake. We’re looking at opening that back up again, for a 17 and up team,” said Holden.
“We have three different streams of teams. So we have novice, which is like an introductory program, so our novice teams are only competing once this year and that will be at our cold lake competition in April. Then we have prep teams, so they’re kind of in the middle, and they go to three competitions. Then we have our elite teams and they do five competitions.”
The competition season begins in January and carries into the spring for the young cheer performers.
Since implementing the Restrictions Exemption Program, they’ve been able to re-open their parent viewing areas at practices.
“We have had people asking quite a bit like what our restrictions are like, and that sort of thing and what the kids do. So once the kids are in the gym, they don’t have to wear their masks. Coaches are wearing masks. Our parent area is now opened for parents that are vaccinated. And we do take athletes all season long. So if anyone is interested in joining or feeling more comfortable now with the COVID situation and would like to get their kids back into sports — we are taking athletes all season long,” said Holden.
That includes boys as well.
“Right now we have four boys in our competitive program, and we’re always looking to grow that. The boys that we have love it a lot. It’s definitely a co-ed sport. It’s usually the older teams that have guys, more so than the younger teams, but we’re looking to kind of get boys into it younger, so that they have more longevity in the sport.”