Shortly after we met Coach Hammy of West Halifax Cheer (Canada) at the Spring Tumbling Conference in Montreal in Sept 2018, he went home to find that one of his athletes was told they couldn't cheer anymore as they needed to use a wheelchair day to day. Having been inspired by what he saw in Montreal, Hammy knew he could find a way to help her continue the sport she loves, so he started West Halifax Cheer Fortitude.
We caught up with Coach Hammy and asked him a few questions about his journey so far.
What inspired you to start/coach a ParaCheer team (Adaptive Abilities)?
I was able to see Rick and Chantal perform at the Spring conference in Montreal. I had some questions after the performance on knowing how hard to push an athlete with physical limitations and their experience learning to adapt skills. 3 years ago I had a major hip injury and after surgery was confined to bed for 6 weeks then another 6 weeks of slowly just being able to walk again. This brief period gave me a small view into what athletes can experience for life. Shortly after meeting Rick, I learned we had an athlete that had recently begun to rely on a wheelchair and had been told cheer was no longer possible for her. We immediately decided to start Fortitude to give her a platform to showcase her love of cheerleading and the skills that she has.
How long have you been participating in inclusive cheerleading?
We have had the team for 1 year now and are looking to have new athletes join us this year.
What do you like best about coaching inclusively?
In ParaCheer there is no right or wrong way for a skill to happen. We have been able to look at each athlete’s ability and modify any skill so they are included in all aspects of the routine. In traditional cheer routines, the focus is on the skill, and performing it in a very specific way which can sometimes exclude athletes that are not advanced in that category. Inclusive cheerleading focuses on having everyone included in all aspects.
What are your aspirations for the growth of the sport?
I would love to see ParaCheer continue to grow as it allows all athletes to showcase their love of cheerleading. Currently, we are the only ParaCheer team in our area so having growth in the sport would allow the athletes to not only perform but also compete.
Are there any athletes or coaches that inspire you? If so, why?
Rick has been my main inspiration for this whole process. If we had not met at the Spring conference, I don’t know that we would have the ParaCheer team now. I was able to study the videos of his stunting and use the skills he has already figured out how to adapt, to help give me a base to work from in teaching the skills in our gym.
What has been your favourite moment on this journey so far?
After our first performance seeing the smile from an athlete told by doctors and physiotherapists that they could no longer cheer. It’s a moment I will never forget.
Visit https://westhalifaxcheer.com/paracheer-fortitude/ to learn more about the team!