When it comes to cheerleading, the athletes don’t have the opportunity to go on to a pro level as hockey, football, soccer, and basketball players do.
Which is why when a cheerleader finishes his or her all-star cheer career, they will regularly go on to cheer on their college team, or follow a path of cheering for a professional football or basketball team.
The latter is the case for Brittany. During her career with the Cheer Sport Sharks, cheering at the Ottawa location, Brittany also cheered with the University of Ottawa Gee-Gees team simultaneously. Following her university career, she is now the captain of the Ottawa REDBLACKS cheer team in the Canadian Football League (CFL).
Before Brittany began her cheer career, she took part in competitive gymnastics for almost 14 years.
“When I was 16 it became too demanding on my body but I knew I wanted to continue as an athlete and find a new sport. Competitive cheerleading was a very natural transition because I could apply my gymnastics background and training,” Brittany said.
Prior to the Sharks, Brittany’s first ever cheer team was the London Heat, a competitive team that she cheered on during her teenage years.
Throughout her time on the Sharks, Brittany had the chance to attend the Cheerleading Worlds in Orlando, Florida.
“Definitely the Cheerleading World Championships in Orlando. I was lucky enough to go twice and it really is unbelievable,” Brittany said about her most memorable moment on the Sharks.
“It takes place at Disney’s ESPN Wide World of Sports and there are literally thousands of cheerleaders there from around the world. You truly feel like you are in some kind of movie,” she added.
While at the University of Ottawa, Brittany’s time on the cheer team would give her an experience for the CFL, due to cheering for the Gee-Gees football and basketball teams at the Panda Game and the Capital Hoops Classic.
“Being part of a university team is so much fun. You become so close with your fellow teammates because you’re in the gym with them and then also in classes with them and usually all live close together. My best friends today are all girls who I cheered with at U of O,” Brittany said.
Amidst her time with the Gee-Gees, Brittany attended the 2013 Panda Game, the first year the game was brought back.
“It was very exciting and of course the Gee-Gees winning it made it that much more memorable,” Brittany said.
In 2016, Brittany also got to perform as a Gee-Gee in her final Capital Hoops Classic.
“It was my final year in University and on the team so it was very emotional and holds a special place in my heart,” Brittany said about her most memorable Capital Hoops Classic.
Aside from performing at the Panda Game and at Capital Hoops Classic, Brittany got the chance to perform at the PCA Collegiate National Championships with the Gee-Gees cheer team.
“It is a big competition every year that a lot of other Universities attend so the competition is fierce. It was always so much fun to watch everyone’s routines and see friends from other universities,” Brittany said about her most memorable moment on the Gee-Gees.
Then came the year of 2014.
In 2014, the REDBLACKS inaugural season, Brittany auditioned for the cheer team.
“When I saw auditions being advertised for the inaugural season of the REDBLACKS, I will admit I knew barely anything about the CFL, but I figured sideline cheering would be something I would love,” Brittany said.
“Performing was always my favourite part about gymnastics and cheerleading, so doing so in front of 24,000 people sounded like a dream,” she added.
Although being on the team in her first year was a challenge, Brittany got to do it with everyone else.
“It was definitely overwhelming during my first year because not only was I new, but so was every one of my teammates, my coaches, and the entire program,” Brittany said.
“Fast forward to now and I have grown tremendously as a leader and hopefully a role model. I have experienced so much in six years and I really try to lean on that experience and use it to help my teammates,” she added.
While with the REDBLACKS, Brittany has gotten the chance to attend all five Grey Cup games.
She cheered on the sidelines at the 2015 Grey Cup in Winnipeg, the 2016 Grey Cup in Toronto, and the 2018 Grey Cup in Edmonton. During the 2014 Grey Cup in Vancouver and the 2017 Grey Cup in Ottawa, Brittany attended the games but did not cheer on the sidelines.
“I felt incredibly blessed and lucky to be on field for a third time in just five years. You could spend an entire career with a team and never make it to a championship game, so being in it again was surreal. Even though we had just won in 2016, it hurt a lot to lose,” Brittany recalled about her Grey Cup experience.
“There’s no way around it, it just sucks. But I was happy for the Calgary cheerleaders as I’ve gotten to know some of them personally over the years and having lost back to back in 2016 and 2017 was devasting for them, so I tried to focus on being happy for them instead,” she added.
So far, while cheering for the REDBLACKS, Brittany’s favourite thing is the community that supports the team.
“R-Nation is such a proud, strong and fun fan base. I am so honoured to be a part of it. The atmosphere at every game is just full of electricity and excitement, and it makes our jobs on the sidelines way easier,” Brittany explained.
Just like every athlete, Brittany has faced challenges and adversities to get to where she is now. The biggest adversity she has faced, is the stigma and stereotypes that surround the sport of cheerleading.
“It has gotten a lot better in recent years but it’s definitely still out there. One moment that really stuck with me is when a woman said she refuses to come watch the games because of her dislike for cheerleaders,” Brittany said.
“Whenever I think about that it upsets me, but then I remember the hundreds of times our amazing fans have cheered us on and told us how important and inspiring we are to them and I can see the value we are adding to their game day experience,” she added.
Through all the challenges she has faced, Brittany has been able to take pride in many aspects of her cheerleading career.
“Being well-rounded. As a competitive cheerleader I like to think I was fairly strong in each of the main four components- tumbling, jumping, dancing and stunting,” Brittany said.
“Now as a REDBLACKS cheerleader I like to think I am well balanced between what I can bring on the field talent wise, what I can bring to the community personality wise, and also what I can bring to the team leadership wise,” she added.
Despite the fact she won’t be a REDBLACKS cheerleader forever, Brittany has learned a lot of lessons throughout her cheer career.
“It has taught me time management and organizational skills for sure. It is definitely a challenge balancing school and a professional career with sports. It has also taught me how to work well and trust and depend on others, because you literally have to do that as a flyer,” Brittany said.