Submitted by Pegasus Cheer Athletics
Do you remember the first place you felt at home? A place where you were accepted, encouraged, and excited to go every week? Maybe it was a friend’s house, the library, an afterschool program, or the community pool. For many children and young women in the Bay of Quinte region, Pegasus Cheer Athletics is that place for them.
COVID-19 brought many challenges that athletes and staff had to adapt to and figure out a new way to operate within. Pegasus Cheer Athletics, Quinte’s only competitive cheerleading facility, has adapted their programs to focus heavily on relationships.
“While friendships and connections have always been a focus of ours, over the last year, it’s become even more important. Our staff have seen athletes struggle with anxiety, eating disorders, personal connections, and sleeping issues,” says Liz Yntema, owner at Pegasus Cheer Athletics. “We realized our kids needed us now more than ever to help them get through what we’re experiencing. Our staff took training to understand the trauma these children are experiencing and how our facility can be a safe space for them.”
Previous years saw athletes from 3 to 25 years old competing at this time of year. You’d find them dressed in their uniforms, warming up their routines, and celebrating with their friends. This year is different. No competitions mean staff have had to have hard conversations with athletes about their goals and expectations for the season, and how it affects their training.
While the uncertainty of lockdowns and regulations loom in the air, Pegasus staff have a new mission: they strive to create a space where athletes feel safe to be themselves, where they feel empowered and can be honest about how they are feeling. In a sport that is mostly female, pandemic regulations have been an even harder hit to the athletes’ mental and physical well-being. More traditional male-dominated sports, such as hockey, have been allowed to continue practising. Cheerleaders, on the other hand, have had to adjust to new limitations, often at the expense of not being able to fully practice a sport they love. Pegasus aims to help them navigate the feelings that come with those limitations and continue to be a space where athletes can develop their leadership skills and be comfortable having real conversations about their mental health.
“Some of the stories we heard from parents were heartbreaking. Over the lockdown, one of our athletes stopped eating and said life didn’t matter anymore because she could no longer see her friends, attend school, or practice a sport she loves,” remarked Yntema. “Hearing those stories reinforced the importance of extracurricular activities for the children in our community and the impact the last year has had on their mental health.”
As the sport returned to in-person programming, staff saw a shift in their athletes’ moods. They started to see smiles and hear laughter in classes and team practices again. Athletes’ eating habits and grades improved, their bodies became physically stronger, their attention span got better, and their self confidence increased. This remarkable change was a beautiful reminder of hope after long hours and multiple heart-wrenching conversations with athletes often in tears.
“They have the biggest hearts and go out of their way for their kids. COVID-19 presented a challenge for most sports. The gym went above and beyond to ensure that practice was still offered in a variety of settings,” says Tara H, parent at Pegasus Cheer Athletics.“ I am forever grateful to have such amazing people supporting me in building a leader in our community. Invest in your kids’ futures!”
Pegasus is excited to continue being a safe space for families in the Bay of Quinte region. As they begin planning for the upcoming season, they are ensuring that the feeling of being a “home away from home” continues and athletes know they can have vulnerable conversations with someone they trust. The youth in our community have shown time and time again that they are resilient and Pegasus cannot wait to see them become the leaders of tomorrow.
If you are interested in learning more about Pegasus Cheer Athletics and their programming, please visit
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