No longer is cheer, or cheerleading, relegated to the sidelines of football games, or between breaks in the action at sporting events.
Itâ€™s a sport unto itself, and one of the fastest growing in Canada, to boot.
Langley Cheer & Athletics, which operates out of a 4,000 sq. foot facility on the Langley/Cloverdale border, is dedicated to the unique sport.
Office manager Leanna Fisher, who co-owns Langley Cheer along with head coach Nikole Davie, said cheer opened up a new world to her oldest daughter Cassandra, and helped her break out of her shell.
â€œIt took my shy, little timid girl who wouldnâ€™t do anything and made her confident,â€ said Fisher, a mom of four. â€œThe trust and the friendship and the bonding that these kids did, boys and girls, it just brought this whole new kid out. She went from being shy to belonging to something.â€
Langley Cheers celebrates its first anniversary on May 14 and since the facility opened its doors, the response has been â€œoverwhelming,â€ Fisher said.
â€œWe started with seven kids and within the first month we had quite a handful, and now weâ€™re at almost 200,â€ Fisher said.
Davie said cheerâ€™s popularity stems from the fact itâ€™s an all-encompassing sport.
â€œItâ€™s a mixture of gymnastics, dance, and stunting and itâ€™s the ultimate team sport where you rely on each other,â€ she said. â€œSo thereâ€™s a huge friendship bond, there.â€
Coach and athlete Kassidy Glutyk, 16, is one of the athletes being tossed in the air during a routine so sheâ€™s very familiar with the trust factor.
â€œWhen you hit the floor, youâ€™re up there, and you come straight down, and it does hurt,â€ she shared. â€œThereâ€™s a lot of trust.â€
Glutyk has been involved in dance, gymnastics, and soccer, but now her sole focus is on cheer because, she said, â€œitâ€™s more mentally challenging and physically challenging.
Itâ€™s more of a challenge to take on but once you get it, it feels like you have a new family. Your team is like your family.â€
Davie said the odd mishap is â€œpart and parcelâ€ to cheer, comparing it to figure skating where a skater is bound to stumble while learning a new manoeuvre.
â€œThe kids are going to fall; it happens,â€ she said. â€œSo we teach them the proper techniques on how to catch each other properly, how to help each other down safely.â€
During a competition, teams are divided by age group and within those age groups, they are also divided by skill level.
â€œSo somebody who canâ€™t do all the flips and tricky things, can still compete against kids of her own ability, whereas girls who can do flips and tucks and tumbles will compete against people who have similar skills,â€ Davie said, adding that the gymnastics element consists of â€œabout 30 to 40 per cent of the scoresheet, so itâ€™s a good chunk.â€
Even with its growing popularity, the pre-conceived stereotype still exists, in Davieâ€™s opinion, who feels the more exposure the sport receives, the better.
â€œItâ€™s not really out in the public; you donâ€™t see it much,â€ she said. â€œWeâ€™re all kind of in our own little all-star cheerleading community. If people could see what these kids can do, and how much work is involved, theyâ€™d see that itâ€™s not pom-poms and cheering anymore, it is truly an athletic sport.â€
Also offering cheer programs in Langley is Flip City Gymnastics in Walnut Grove and Xtreme Cheer and Dance.
â€œEach of us offer different things,â€ Davie said. â€œIf we didnâ€™t have teams to compete against, we wouldnâ€™t have a sport. It exposes more people to it, it gets people to know what itâ€™s all about.â€
Langley Cheer is coming off a successful first season.
Teams results this year include:
â€¢ Open Level 4 (17-plus) â€“ won a national championship, two second places and one third place result.
â€¢ Youth Team (ages eight to 11) â€“ brought home a first place win, a second place result, and a third place finish.
â€¢ Senior team (ages 12 to 17) â€“ consistently stayed at the top of as well, with a pair of first place wins and a third place finish.
Jordan Fisher competed as an individual and brought home a first, second, and third place result.
Langley Cheer has also introduced Parkour, defined as â€œthe activity or sport of moving rapidly through an area, typically in an urban environment, negotiating obstacles by running, jumping, and climbing.â€
â€œWe started the Parkour back in October and it filled up right away and since then have built a custom area for the program as well as they use the rest of our facility,â€ Fisher said.
Langley Cheer at #306 19292 60th Ave., is open to male and female athletes. Visit langleycheer.com, and email email@example.com.