Toronto Zoo

The Cheerleading Book: The Young Athletes Guide

By: Marylene Vestergom

Consider two and a half minutes jammed packed with stunts with athletes flying through the air, including intricate pyramids resembling a carefully designed game of Jenga.  While you’re at it, throw in a few jumps and tumbling moves tightly choreographed in a fast-paced, seamless routine.

Are you out of breath just visualizing those moves? Welcome to the sport of competitive all-star cheerleading. And yes, it’s a sport.

“People don’t realize how difficult and intricate our sport is, and that it is a sport,” says world champion coach Ali Moffatt, who, along with Alana Potter, are the founders, owners and head coaches of Cheer Sport Sharks. “I’m thankful that stereotype of just being on the sidelines, cheering on a team, waving pom-poms has changed,” says Moffatt.

Raising the profile of competitive cheer has always been at the forefront for both Moffatt and Potter of Cambridge, Ontario. They have been running gyms for 18 years, with seven locations across the province. As of today, their teams have won four world championships, as well as many top-10 finishes.  With the success of their clubs and being the subject of the 2016 Netflix reality show Cheer Squad, it was time they penned The Cheerleading Book: The Young Athletes Guide. They wanted to help drive home their sport’s athleticism and provide a detailed resource for coaches and athletes alike when they’re not in the gym.

The Cheerleading Book is a great combination of verbal descriptions as well as pictures.  Our sport is quite detailed, and we wanted to make sure — whether you’re just starting in cheer, or an elite competitor or coach – that we captured the essence of each move. The athletes featured are world champions, so showcasing their excellent technique speaks to the book’s credibility and accuracy.” They were also lucky to collaborate with Corey Rickett, a gymnast with over 20 years of experience who has trained under Olympian Nadia Comaneci and Bart Conner, and is a stunt and tumbling expert and a world champion cheer coach.

Along with the illustrations and the step-by-step guides, Moffatt and Potter wanted to create a teaching aid that also detailed the importance of physical training, mental exercises and teambuilding strategies that lead to success. These are essential building blocks to anyone interested in getting involved in the competitive world of all-star cheerleading.

For 16-year-old Amelia Bush, of Cambridge, Ontario, and a member of the Cheer Sport Sharks All-Star Cheerleading Gym, being involved in this sport is about being part of a unique team experience.  “If everyone doesn’t do their part, the team won’t succeed. The dedication, perseverance, hard work, etc., needed for this sport are skills that can be applied to all aspects of life, and I would encourage any young girl or boy to give it a try.”

Moffatt couldn’t agree more and has seen first-hand what the sport offers these young girls and boys.

The Cheerleading Book provides a window into what it takes to be a part of this unique form of athleticism with tips for any budding cheer athlete. Cheer has come a long way, and as Moffatt stresses, it’s an inclusive sport. “There is no Michael Jordan on cheer teams – and since teams are dependent on various skills, teams are stronger when everyone’s included and plays a role.  To help with the lifts, you need a strong base. We also need flyers that are flexible and fearless soaring through the air, and we need back spots that are reliable and are made up of some of our taller athletes so they can reach as high as possible on the stunts and be the supportive anchor. So, as you can see, I just listed all different body types, different abilities and strengths that come together to allow our sport to happen. Our book is their how-to guide to excellence. Oh, and did I mention – how much fun they will have?”