Cheerleading at Western actually began in 1929 with “Doc Thompson and his Rollicking Rooters” at football games, as an all-male activity. Doris Eagles joined the squad in 1939 becoming the first woman. Her body movements were much more restricted than present day cheerleaders and she had to wear a longer skirt than the uniforms of the 1990s and 2000s. Women were not quickly accepted, but by the 1950s however it was a co-ed squad. They remain today one of the less than 10% of teams in Ontario that are completely co-ed.
Western’s cheerleaders have been a valuable part of Western sports, helping to raise spirits and lead to wins. The cheerleaders have always been involved in homecoming, parades, orientation, and football and basketball games. The marching band provided the musical backdrop to these games. In 1926, medical students started the band which has since grown into an award winning ensemble. While encouraging school spirit is an important role of Western cheerleaders, the squad is competitive as well.
Cheerleading became more systematized in Ontario in the 1980s and at Western became what it is today under coach David Lee Tracey. A focus on competition made the squad more athletic. They have found success in Canada, winning the national championship every year since 1985 (apart from 2007). They have also found success in the United States, being the first Canadians to win the United Performance Association Target National Championship in 1995. They often encountered financial difficulties though and were not able to return and defend.
In the 1990s, the Western cheerleaders worked hard practicing at least four times a week for the senior varsity squad. This paid off as they were so successful that they even appeared in the 1994 movie The Air Up There starring Kevin Bacon.
They underwent difficult try-outs in which only ten to fifteen of the up to seventy individuals who tried made the team. Western’s cheerleaders took part in spring training and trained in the weight room and competed at the SkyDome, yet they were not a sport in 1996 according to the Canadian Interuniversity Athletic Union. They even had to pay to travel and practice indoors. Cheerleaders were an important part of sports at Western and took part in competition but have not always been recognized to the full extent.