'We're there because we love it': Alouettes cheerleader shocked by decision to axe team

Ally Pileggi has been a member of the Montreal Alouettes' cheerleading team for five years. She said if the decision to cut the team was about money, if she had been given the choice, she would have worked for free.

Ally Pileggi says she would have worked for free if given the choice

Ally Pileggi says cheerleaders do more than just shake pom poms — they're the backbone of a team's fan base. (Dominick Gravel/Montreal Alouettes)

A member of the Montreal Alouettes' now-defunct cheerleading squad says she hopes the team will one day reconsider its decision.

Ally Pileggi has been an Alouettes cheerleader for five years. She found out about the fate of her team on Wednesday, while she was at work — a friend texted her, then she checked her email and found a message saying the team was being scrapped.

"I was super blindsided. I had no idea that this decision was being made," she told Sabrina Marandola, host of CBC Montreal's Let's Go.

As of Friday morning, more than 5,000 people have signed a petition asking for the team to be reinstated.

In a statement, the team said the decision was a financial one, and had nothing to do with the cheerleading squad itself.

But Pileggi said she would work for free, if she had been given the option.

Read on for more of Pileggi's thoughts, as told to Let's Go. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.

How did you react when you read that e-mail?

I was shocked. We were ready for the auditions. I had bought my audition outfit, I was preparing my body for the auditions, working out as soon as the holidays were over. To my understanding, we were having our auditions up until [Wednesday].

This is something you do part time, right?

Yeah, absolutely. I'm a teacher full time. I've been dancing since the age of four. This is something that I wanted to do. I went for it, I made the team and it has been a dream come true. It was the most beautiful chapter of my life so far.

What have you heard from your teammates?

We're all really heartbroken. Everybody is super confused and shocked but we're leaning on each other and we're supporting each other. They became my second family, so it's really nice to have them as a support system.

Pileggi, second from right, says she is trying to stay positive about the fate of the squad, and is leaning on her teammates for support. (Dominick Gravel/Montreal Alouettes)

Why is it important for a team to have cheerleaders at the games?

One of my friends put it perfectly, she said that the cheerleaders are the backbone of the fan base. Win or lose, rain or shine, we're always there, we're always smiling and we're always ready to perform and have fun. We're there because we love it.

A lot of people think that cheerleaders are only there to shake their pom poms, but it's so much more than that. We are in the community, we're out with the kids, we're at hospital visits ... the fans love us and they want us to stay.

Is this something you would do for free?

Absolutely. Not all teams get paid — we were one of the lucky teams. We were taken care of. If they said to me, "We're making pay cuts and we're not going to keep paying you. Do you still want to cheer?" I would say yes, because honestly, it was just fun. I do it for the experience, not for the money.

The Alouettes will be the only CFL team without a cheerleading squad this season. (Dominick Gravel/Montreal Alouettes)

If you could talk to the new owners of the team, what would you tell them?

I would just say that I hope that they one day reconsider. I do respect their decision because it must have been a really hard decision to make, but we really do bring an amazing aspect to the stadium on game day and I think they would really benefit from having us back.

What's next for you?

I will continue to dance. I teach at a dance studio, so at least I still get to keep my passion through that. I'm a first-year teacher as well, so I'm going to focus on being a teacher. I'll be at the Alouettes games this season, in the stands. It'll be a bit of a different point of view, but I still support the Alouettes, no matter what.


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