Military families help spread cheer

Cheerleader Jayna Flammand (left) and Pacific Cheer Empire owner and head coach Shannon Samson display Jayna’s bronze medal banner. Flammand is the eight-year-old daughter of Cpl Kevin Flammand. She won the banner for her individual performance at the Feel The Power West Coast Championship in Vancouver, March 7, 2020. The Colwood-based sports club has several military family members and is currently looking to grow its membership. Photo by Sylvie Blais, Pacific Cheer Empire

Cheerleader Jayna Flammand (left) and Pacific Cheer Empire owner and head coach Shannon Samson display Jayna’s bronze medal banner. Flammand is the eight-year-old daughter of Cpl Kevin Flammand. She won the banner for her individual performance at the Feel The Power West Coast Championship in Vancouver, March 7, 2020. The Colwood-based sports club has several military family members and is currently looking to grow its membership. Photo by Sylvie Blais, Pacific Cheer Empire

Peter Mallett, Staff Writer ~

The Pacific Cheer Empire cheerleading club has scored some impressive results in recent competitions as it continues to grow in popularity, especially in the military community.

Since opening at Colwood’s Wale Road location in 2016, the membership base of youth to adult-aged women and men has almost tripled.

The club has also found competitive success. In 2018, a senior level team placed third in their division at the UCA International Championships at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, Florida, earning them a bid invitation to compete at the U.S Finals in Las Vegas two months later.

That success has come under the guidance of head coach and owner Shannon Samson.

Samson, 32, has been involved in dance and cheerleading since early childhood and is a past winner of the 2012 Canadian Cheerleading Coach of the Year Award, which she earned during the Cheer Expo national cheerleading competition in Halifax. Samson moved to Victoria from her native Cape Breton in 2012 when a family member was posted to CFB Esquimalt.

Samson also owns a gym in Nova Scotia and she was surprised to learn there were no cheerleading clubs in Victoria at the time, so she decided to fill that void and create her own club.

“I knew military members and many people from other parts of the country get transferred here from places where thriving cheerleading communities already exist,” said Samson. “So, being able to fill that void was a driving force behind founding Pacific Cheer Empire. It was my intent to give families a sense of belonging in their community and a place they can call their own.”

Cheerleading is a team activity that combines dance, stunting, and tumbling with shouted slogans to encourage enthusiastic cheering from the audience. It has grown from high school gyms and sports fields into a sport of its own.

Military mom, and now the program co-ordinator, Sylvie Blais enrolled her eight-year-old daughter, Jayna Flamand into the squad when they moved to Victoria two years ago. The youngster was a ringette player in Saint-Hubert, Québec, and was sad when she had to say goodbye to her teammates. Pacific Cheer offered her much-needed camaraderie and an athletic outlet.

“I really like tumbling and learning stuff like flying and flips, but what I like best is going to competitions,” said Jayna.

The enthusiasm of club members has been tempered with some recent disappointment. Their first-ever participation to the prestigious Summit International Championship competition in Orlando, Florida, in May was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In-person classes and training at Pacific Cheer Empire were suspended starting March 13 due to health and safety physical distancing measures. They were able to train via video conferencing. However, with the isolation protocol being lifted, the club re-opened June 1; individuals or small groups of six can now train in person, albeit with numerous restrictions and precautions.

“It really hit our athletes hard not being able to see their teammates and coaches, so now we are just so excited to be reunited with our cheer family and return to training,” said Samson.

The facility is equipped with a five-panel birchwood double layer spring floor system, as well as multiple tumbling mats and training shapes.

In the coming months when the gym becomes fully operational, Samson will expand her club to offer a new dance program that will offer members both all-star competitive dance teams, as well as regular dance class options in different styles from jazz, hip-hop, lyrical, and line dancing to Acro dance.

“We are a sports organization and a business, but at the end of the day we really operate like a family,” said Samson. “Our main goal is to give athletes a safe place to be themselves and to really develop them, make them good human beings. We want to see our athletes contribute to society, and I know the skills they learn here such as hard work, time management, problem solving, and commitment are the type of training they require to succeed in the real world.”

For more details about Pacific Cheer Empire and their program options visit www.pacificcheerempire.com or send an email to pacificcheerempire@outlook.com.

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Filed Under: Top Stories

About the Author: The Lookout Newspaper can trace its history back to April 1943 when CFB Esquimalt’s first newspaper was published. Since then, Lookout has grown into the award winning source for Pacific Navy News. Leading the way towards interactive social media reach, we are a community resource newspaper growing a world wide audience.

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