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Cheering for Their Team and Their Community

More than just pretty faces

Posted By Sean Meyer

elizabethThe London Silverbacks are hoping to take field for the North American Football League (NAFL) ­championship game later this year.

And should the Silverbacks find themselves in ­position to play for a championship, Elizabeth Morgan is hoping her cheerleading team will be right there beside them. In fact, the cheerleaders might even have a better chance at reaching the championship game than the Silverbacks do.

“The NAFL has their championship weekend, which every year is in a different city. We have been invited twice now to go and perform during the halftime show at the championship game,” says Morgan, who is director of the Silverbacks cheerleaders and the owner of Expressions Dance Arts. “We have been pretty ­recognized as a skilled team, a dedicated team within the league. So we are having aspirations of doing that this year if our team makes it; we want to be cheering them on.”

The opportunity to cheer on the Silverbacks is just one of the many reasons the cheerleading team is once again a regular fixture at ­London’s home games at TD Waterhouse Stadium. This year’s squad may only be six members strong, but with styles varying from street jazz to hip-hop to contemporary – as well as mixing in traditional CFL and NFL style cheerleading – Morgan says they will once again be putting on the best show possible for the team’s fans.

elizabethsilver“Gameday is about a six to seven hour day for the cheerleaders. We arrive a few hours early for an ­on-field practice. We work with the football club to help with anything they need in terms of halftime activities or mini-games, anything they need help with during the game,” Morgan says. “We try to bring ­awareness to our football club, but also to the style of cheerleading these girls perform.”

That job is one the members of the cheerleading team take seriously, despite the fact they are all ­volunteers committing a considerable amount of time. Of course, there are potential benefits for the team members as well.

“We do it because it is a commitment to our ­community. It is a chance for the girls to perform; a lot of them have trained in dance and/or cheerleading for many years. They are either in college or have ­graduated and it is a chance for them to continue to perform,” Morgan says. “The football club is a feeder team for the Toronto Argos and I have been a CFL and NFL Cheerleader (Hamilton Ti-Cats Cheerleaders, Tornoto Arogs Cheerleaders and Buffalo Jills – james) and done choreography for the Argos cheerleaders. So this is an opportunity to train and perhaps audition to the next phase. We kind of mirror that same process the guys have for the cheerleading team.”

Just as members of the Silverbacks hope some CFL or NFL scout might take notice of their football ability, Morgan says the members of the cheerleading team are also hoping their efforts won’t go unnoticed. ­Morgan is also quick to point out the members of the team aren’t just sitting back and waiting for good ­fortune to find them.

“Just as an example of the commitment these girls have, one of the girls on the team, she has been a ­ballet and jazz dancer with my studio since she was three years old. She was at the National Ballet School for four years. She auditioned for Juilliard (in New York City) two years ago and made the final 12 for dance and she just completed a college diploma with a professional dance program in Vancouver,” Morgan says. “So she has come home and is looking to expand her ability to perform, to get contract work with ­different ballet companies. This is a way for her to showcase her talents and stay active in the field. You never know who might see you performing.”

Morgan says the approximately 90 percent of the team is in their third or fourth year cheering, and that dedication is important to keep in mind considering how much work the members put in during the week.

“Your average professional cheerleader would train between six and nine hours a week in rehearsals, between one-and-a-half to four hours a week in ­personal training and gym time and then anywhere from 3-10 hours a week in community appearances,” Morgan says. “So when you look at the amount of time they are putting in, and much of it volunteer, that is very significant, very similar to professional athletes.”

The effort the team members put in goes beyond just what they do to prepare for a typical gameday.

“Practices will last anywhere from three to six hours at a time. We usually do a warm up at practices. We do work on kicks, extensions, turns, things like that. We work on choreographed pieces, sidelines, team cheers. We also ­discus ambassadorships, we talk about upcoming appearances and things the girls can volunteer for. It is important to remember they put this time all in on a voluntary basis.” Morgan says. “We also balance it with community appearances, we have done things like Rib-Fest, we work with our Junior Silverbacks – that is for ages 5-16 – we help them, training them, giving them an opportunity to perform at a real sports game. Sharing some of ours skills as mentors, this is an important way to give back too.”

When it comes to giving back to the community, the commitment of the cheerleaders puts them on par with not just the football team, but perhaps the ­average postal carrier as well.

“The physical nature of what we do, dancing, ­kicking, jumping, tumbling, stunting, in the heat or in the snow or in the rain, is quite a feet. The girls on the team have trained for many years and we practice about once a week together,” Morgan says. “I like giving back to the community. I like grassroots programs. I think it is important for people to support community sports organizations as well. I am a London native. Even with all the travels I have done, different teams I have worked for, I really feel strong that for young people especially, we need to offer them opportunities and be good role models. This is a way to be able to do that.”

Even at a time when dance shows are among the most popular forms of TV reality show program, ­Morgan acknowledges there are those who still don’t understand the level of commitment and athleticism it takes to be a cheerleader.

[London Silverbacks Cheerleaders]