Cheerleaders sidelined waiting for Sport Canada approval

June 5, 2020   ·   0 Comments

By Brian Lockhart

A local cheerleading group is currently in limbo when it comes to training because their sport is not recognized by Sport Canada or the Ontario Ministry of Heritage, Sport, Tourism, and Culture.

Cheerleading has thousands of participants across the country with a large number from Ontario.

Groups have become quite successful with over 12 gold medals won by the Team Canada Cheer national program. Ontario cheerleading clubs have earned over 13 podium finishes at World Championship competitions.

Because cheerleading, for the most part, takes place in indoor athletic facilities, the sport has had to postpone all activities due the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, as sports are slowly being allowed to return to training, although in limited numbers, cheerleaders have found themselves in a rather tough situation as they don’t qualify as a sport by governing bodies.

Even though cheerleading is recognized by both the International Olympic Committee and the Canadian Olympic Committee, the sport is not funded which means they lack this requirement in order to apply for official recognition from Sport Canada.

The Champion Cheer Academy has been running their cheerleading program in Orangeville for seven years. With the current situation, all programs have stopped as the club waits to find out when they can resume training.

As of Tuesday, May 19, the province of Ontario is only allowing certain indoor sports facilities to re-open. Those included a sport organization that is funded by Sport Canada, a provincial sport or multi-sport organization recognized by the Ministry, or a professional sport league or member club of such a league.

“As a sport, we have over 4000 members of cheer teams in Ontario,” explained Lindsay Groves, a coach at the Champion Cheer Academy. “We’re not a recognized sport by Ontario and we’re not a recognized sport by the federal government. Cheer Canada is our (governing body), and they’re not a recognized sport by Sport Canada, but Sport Canada is not recognizing any new sports right now due to COVID-19.”

That’s where the local club is caught in the middle. In order to be able to officially re-open, they have to be a recognized sport, however since they aren’t funded and new sports aren’t being recognized, they have few options in regards to getting athletes back in training.

“The definition, from the Ontario government for phase one of the rules for opening back up, is you have to be funded by Sports Canada in Ontario,” explained Ms. Groves.

Currently the club is still communicating with members and providing routines and exercises on-line, however, that is no substitute for actual training.

The Academy wants to re-open with safe conditions to get their athletes back into training.

“It’s a waiting game. We’re trying to get recognized so we can open back up,” Ms. Groves said. “We have been in contact with the Ministry and put forth our argument. We’re waiting to hear back from them. We’ve been doing on-line virtual practice with our kids. We’ve already missed two big year end events. We’re trying to give the kids something to look forward to.”

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