Concordia Cheerleading: Lifted to New Heights

Cheer is About More Than Appearances

Photo Valentine Alibert

From inexperienced to poised for competition, the Concordia cheerleading team has evolved tremendously in recent years. The team has raised their level of commitment and aspirations to new heights.

“This year is the first year where we are really at our peak,” said Monica Knaapen, co-captain of the team. Captains Fatouma Guindo and Knaapen have seen the team grow over the years since their arrival when the group was formed in 2017. 

The cheer team is not yet registered at a competitive level, but they are training hard to reach this goal. Outside the three weekly practices endured by the group the captains dedicated time to create routines and mixes. Knaapen and Guindo have carefully selected new recruits to attain their competitive ambitions.

Participant selections were not based solely on the criteria of confidence, attitude and dedication. The cheer team expressed that being a good cheerleader goes beyond appearances and is far from the stereotypes portrayed in American movies. 

“Yes, that’s great if you are a good dancer, if you’ve had cheer experience, if you’re a gymnast, but we look at people who are humbled. People who are ready to step up and help other team members,” said Knaapen.

Fatouma Guindo (Left), Monica Knaapen (Right) and their team enter the football field before their performance. Montreal, Qc. Photo Valentine Alibert

In addition to cheering for the football, basketball, soccer, and hockey teams at Concordia, the cheer team devote their time seeking collaborations with charities.

Last year, Knappen partnered with a women's shelter in Montreal to provide necessity products and with a  children's foundation to distribute toys for Christmas, explained Guindo.

Concordia Cheer helped two non-profit organizations in 2021: Chez Doris and La rue des Femmes, in 2021. Both collectives aim to provide products and services to vulnerable and unhoused women.

Concordia Cheer planned to continue this work in 2022. The team has raised money externally, for example, with associations such as JOVIALMTL who organize events and parties to help bring clubs and communities together.

Cheerleading is really athletic, and a lot of people don’t recognize it as being a sport, when it actually is. It goes so unnoticed but there is so much to it. — Monica Knaapen, Concordia Cheer team co-captain

Captains had the option of recruiting a plethora of committed candidates this year. Over 100 cheerleaders took part in the September try-out, a record broken since the club's inception. 

The captains chose 28 students to make up the team. Wanting to diversify the strengths of the team, the captains selected gymnasts, dancers and other athletes capable of stunting. Guindo herself was a dancer before starting cheerleading and she explained that cheer has a dance component that she finds compelling.

“Cheerleading is really athletic, and a lot of people don’t recognize it as being a sport, when it actually is. It goes so unnoticed but there is so much to it,” said Knaapen. The cheerleaders proved this with their five-minute performance during the halftime of the Stingers football game on Oct. 29.

The cheerleading team has not finished progressing. Even if it is the last year for the two captains, they will leave a skilled team comprised of important values and commitment to charitable causes.

“We’ve seen how our team has grown since it started,” said Knaapen, with Guindo adding, “and it is going to continue, even after we go.” 

Try-outs are planned in January. For people who want to get involved, they can send a message to the Concordia Cheer Instagram account.

Cheerleader lands a jump in the arms of her teammates. Photo Valentine Alibert

This article originally appeared in Volume 43, Issue 7, published November 22, 2022.