Expanding cheerleading on P.E.I. is a goal for the UPEI head cheerleading coach.
There are currently nine cheerleading teams on the Island for ages five through to university.
Adora Bustard, head coach of the UPEI Panthers cheerleading team, said she and other Island coaches would like the sport to grow.
“I’m making it my own personal mission to grow cheerleading in P.E.I. so eventually I would like to work up to hosting an actual competition here,” said Bustard, head coach of the UPEI Panthers Cheerleading team and organizer of the second P.E.I. Cheerleaders Show Off Showcase held at the UPEI Sports Centre on March 10.
“But for now, it’s nice to just have something to get all the teams together for something casual with no stress.”
This is the second time a cheerleading showcase was held at UPEI. Rage Athletics hosted the first showcase and UPEI hosted this year. All nine Island teams, from beginner level to elite university level, took part, helping to give some exposure to the sport.
This year’s event, which took place in half of the gymnasium, was held in front of a capacity crowd.
Bustard said she hopes to expand to the full gymnasium next year and get an even larger crowd.
“I’d like to do it every year now and just keep growing it,” she said. “We have more and more people interested every year… If we could open up the other side of the bleachers next year it would be awesome.”
The showcase also prepares the athletes for their national competitions while demonstrating their talent in front of friends and family.
“It’s like a little bit of practice before you have a panel of judges watching you,” said Bustard.
Since Island teams don’t get a chance to compete before nationals, which are in Halifax on March 30, the cheerleading showcase gives the athletes a chance to get their nerves out.
“Performing in front of a crowd is nervous at first until you get onto the floor,” said Kathleen Nicholle of the UPEI team.
“But as soon as your routine starts, the crowd is cheering for you, cheering with you, just the feeling from the crowd, you’re feeding off all that.”
The showcase also allows parents to see how their children have progressed in the sport.
“It’s good because there are no competitions in P.E.I., so a lot of the parents that pay to have their kids in cheerleading never get to see anything come of it, so it’s great for them,” said Bustard.
Bustard said cheerleading is for everyone.
“A lot of people think that to be a cheerleader you have to be able to do the splits or be able to do a backflip but that’s not what it is,” she said. “At the end of the day it’s a big family.”