Cheerleading club closing after six successful seasons

Submitted photo This will be the final season for the Storm Force Cheerleading club in St. Stephen. The club has had tremendous support from the community, but coach Tamara Dunphy had to make the painful decision to close, in part due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Storm Force Junior Hurricanes, back row, from left to right: Kennedi Gullison, Ashley Duchesneau, Cadence Stewart, Avery Kerr, and Gabby Hyslop. Front: Chloe Hatt.

ST. STEPHEN – Cheerleading is a huge part of Tamara Dunphy’s life, and it is with great regret that she has had to make the painful decision to close her cheerleading club, Storm Force Cheerleading. Dunphy said she has been working in the cheerleading industry for 15 years, and it is a huge part of her life. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic made it difficult for cheerleaders all over New Brunswick to be able to practice and compete, and Storm Force had to shut down for several months.

“It’s been six years, and COVID took a toll,” said Dunphy. “This will be 15 years for me in the industry, so a long, long time. We did six successful seasons with Storm. COVID was kind of a kicker.”

Dunphy said they managed to make this last season work, but the pandemic finally managed to take its toll on the club, as it has with many other clubs around the province. She said it was a difficult year for everyone, and the club numbers were down. They also lost a few staff members, and she said it is difficult enough to replace such good staff and gather new athletes during normal times, let alone during a pandemic.

“It’s scary. People were worried about what they should and shouldn’t do,” said Dunphy.

During this past season, Storm Force still had three teams and six staff members. Dunphy said she couldn’t ask for better staff and athletes, and said they were all “amazing”. She added they still had a great year, despite the setbacks and COVID-19.

The three teams, Mini Tornadoes, Youth Thunder, and Junior Hurricanes had athletes ranging from three years old to 18 years old. Dunphy said the youths were saddened to learn that the club would be closing at the end of this season. But, this doesn’t mean that they are finished with cheerleading all together. There are other local cheerleading clubs, and Dunphy and her staff are urging the youths to stay in the sport.

“It was a really, really incredibly hard decision for us,” said Dunphy. “The kids were quite devastated, as were we. That’s why I’ve done what I’ve done for so long. It’s for the kids. I love coaching them and love watching them grow in this sport. I’ve got such a passion for this sport. It’s hard to close that chapter, but we did encourage them to try and stay in the sport. There’s lots of other clubs locally that are amazing and we’ve encouraged them to reach out to them and continue doing this.”

While the teams were not able to compete at in-person events, they did manage to take part in what Dunphy described as “some pretty amazing live, virtual events” throughout the season. This at least allowed the athletes to be able to compete and feel like they were doing so in front of a live audience.

“We had no in-person events this year because of COVID,” Dunphy remarked. “That’s a big part of it. They look forward to that, they work hard all year to do that. Some of the clubs around here hosted some pretty amazing live, virtual events. It was great to give them at least that little bit of a feeling that they could have an audience and it was live.”

Dunphy would like to thank the community for all of the support it has shown for Storm Force. She regrets that the club will no longer be offering kids in the community a chance to learn, practice, and compete, but she is excited that there are other opportunities for them with other clubs. She said she and her fellow coaches and other staff are very happy to see them move into other clubs, and they will continue to encourage them as they grow in their sport.

So, what is next for Dunphy? She said she isn’t planning on looking into anything new at the moment, because cheerleading was and still is such a huge part of her life. She just thinks that it is time to close this chapter of the Storm Force Cheerleading club, and she has every intention of continuing to be involved with the sport, even if it is just from the sidelines.

“It’s part of my life,” said Dunphy. “It’s been part of my life for a long time. I’ll be going and watching and cheering them on. I’ll still be there for that. You can’t take that out of me. I look forward to being able to go and watch them, hopefully when everything gets back to somewhat normal when they can start doing that.”