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Three-Gee-Gee cheerleaders on going pro with the RedBlacks

Photo credit: Spencer Murdock

University of Ottawa cheerleaders Alex Juneau, Jenny Laviolette, and Stephanie Constantinidis have just made the jump to the pros with Ottawa’s brand new Canadian Football League (CFL) team, the Ottawa RedBlacks.

Coming from different backgrounds and levels of cheer, the ladies all eventually made the Gee-Gees cheerleading team and hoped one day to go pro. To make the RedBlacks squad, they went through rigorous tryouts where their skill and athleticism had to be on display at all times. The three ladies gave it their all, using years of intense workouts, bruises, breaks, and bloody noses as the springboard for their dreams.

Juneau, Laviolette, and Constantinidis already juggle university and cheerleading, and can now add charity events, social appearances, and games to their schedule. But they’ve managed to stay down-to-earth, level-headed, determined, and thoroughly excited for the future.

“It’s just performance,” says Juneau. “I’m really excited to get it started, and I’m going to be nervous going on to the field, but I know that the anxiousness will be transferred into energy. I think we will be able to do awesome, I’m really excited.”

The ladies are part of a team that includes nine other current and former Gee-Gees cheerleaders. U of O coach Colleen Beswick will cheer alongside them come game time.

“It’s amazing, and I am really looking forward to it,” says Laviolette. “Being 19 and on a CFL cheerleading team is the biggest thing that has ever happened in my life, hands down.”

The RedBlacks cheer team is coached by some of the best in the business, which the ladies say they are “truly blessed to have.”

Lisa Aucoin is known globally as a cheerleading performer, coach, and judge, and founded the Gloucester Cheerleading Association, a non-profit organization for competitive cheerleading, at the age of 16. She was a cheerleader at the University of Ottawa and founding director of the Ottawa 67’s Ice Girls.

Kenny Feeley was on a scholarship at the University of Louisville where he earned recognition as one for the best collegiate stunters in cheerleading. He later moved to Greenville, S.C. and worked for Spirit Sports, a varsity brand that is the world’s largest cheerleading and dance event producer.

Together they own Spring: Cheer, Dance & Tumbling, an international instructional cheerleading company. Since 2007, they have taught in more than 25 countries.

But the Gee-Gees influence on the RedBlacks squad is evident, and the ladies hope it will make people aware of the talent at the U of O.

“Maybe people don’t know now, but they are going to know,” says Constantinidis. “Not only are we dedicated, but we are diverse, and can adapt to different kinds of cheerleading. Hopefully, because so many of us are on the RedBlacks, we will be able to let people know about the Gee-Gees cheer team, and the school will see a lot more of us in the next few years.”

The three of them want to break the steretypes that cheerleaders are just there to “be pretty” and that the sport doesn’t take any “real” talent.

“I really want to change people’s minds,” says Constantinidis. “I want people to know what it is. I want them to see us do stunts and think that it is really cool, I want to surprise people.”

The inaugural RedBlacks season means a lot of firsts for everyone: the team is playing in the newly renovated TD Place Stadium at Landsdowne Park, with new players, and more than likely new fans.

“The expectations are high,” says Laviolette. “If you usually have to give 100 per cent, this year you have to give 180 per cent. We want to blow people away.”

Most teams in the NFL and CFL have dance-heavy cheerleading teams, but the RedBlacks are breaking the mould with a dance and stunt team.

“We want to show people that we aren’t just there to look pretty,” says Juneau. “We are there to show our athleticism, build an image, and set standards.”

The Redblacks’ first home game will kick off July 18 against the Toronto Argonauts, with its cheer team hoping to help Ottawa get fired up about football again.