Port Stanley Villager March 2020

Cheerleading coachdefies perceptions David Lee Tracey makes no bones about being a jock.

At 60 years of age, “Trace” is the strong, silent type, frequently sitting quietly at Village Square Coffee House – a big fellow, wearing a Stetson hat. He is a huge sports fan. The Port Stanley resident hasn’t missed a Western Mustangs football home game since 1977. He rides a Harley. His dog Sir Magnus Nashville Colt is named in part to commemorate the Western Mustangs. Trace grew up playing football, as well as basketball and track and field. He comes from an athletic family. His mother Kit Sage was a Western basketball and tennis standout. His father Ron Tracey was a Western football and basketball star. His sister Jill excelled in track and field at Western. All that is to say … Trace’s persona betrays his 40 years as a cheerleading coach, or at least general perceptions about his choice of career. “Oddball” may be the kindest name some people have called him. “I still get that,” he said in a recent interview at his gym. Power Cheer Gym, at 580 Quebec Street, in London, is the largest dedicated cheerleading gym in Southwestern Ontario. “People say, ‘you’ve been a life-long cheerleader’, but I just think of myself as a jock. I recruit athletes, not cheerleaders. I just say I’m a coach and leave it at that.” The Grand Canyon Road resident is head coach of Western Mustangs cheerleading, the longest running collegiate program in Canada, and coach of Cheer Canada, the national cheerleading program.

Trace has coached more than 3,000 cheerleaders in his career and entering the 2018-2019 season, Mustangs cheerleading squads had won an unprecedented 32 National Co-Ed Cheerleading Championships. That’s all but one of the National Championships since its inception in 1985. He also led Cheer Canada to a silver medal in 2018.  “It’s always been tied to football,” said Trace. “That’s what drives me and keeps me in it. It gets me into all the games for free too,” he adds with a broad grin. Born in Ancaster, Trace grew up in Milton, where he went to high school and cut his teeth on sports. To his surprise, Trace didn’t make the Western football team, so instead, threw himself at his studies. “I loved school, I loved reading, I loved research, everything about it.” He graduated after a four-year kinesiology program, then continued in school another five years to get his Biophysics Masters. Also in that period, Trace joined the Western cross-country ski team, but started running with a cheerleading crowd when a season of no snow steered him off the trails. Cheerleading at Western started as an all-male activity in 1929, with “Doc Thompson and his Rollicking Rooters” at football games. Doris Eagles was the first woman to join in 1939 and by the 1950s it became a co-ed squad. 

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