Melany Morrison: Head Coach of Ravens Rhythm

Melany Morrison is extremely busy.

It is especially noticeable when one tries to get ahold of her, as I experienced this past week. Our email correspondence is a mess of dates and times, trying to find a time to chat. Eventually, we settled on a phone call.

“It’s pretty crazy here,” Morrison said from her office at Carleton University on Tuesday. “I work full time here at the university, and I’m still coaching my city team [Ottawa Sooners Junior Team], and then I coach [Carleton Ravens Rhythm].”

The Ravens Rhythm team itself participates in dozens of university and community events every year, but 2013 marks an especially big year with the return of the Carleton Ravens football team after a 15 year hiatus. The excitement surrounding the return of football puts even more pressure on Ravens Rhythm, who perform at all home games.

“It’s still important for us to put on a really good show,” Morrison said, “because that’s what people expect.”

Morrison knows all about performance. She began dancing at four years old, studying ballet, tap and jazz. She had her first cheerleading audition at the age of 18 for the Ottawa 67’s, Ottawa’s junior Ontario Hockey League (OHL) team. Morrison was with the team for six years. She became the assistant coach and choreographer during that time. However, Morrison knew she always wanted to cheer for football. She auditioned for the Ottawa Sooners junior football team - a team she now serves as coach.

It was Morrison’s coaching work with the Sooners that prompted Carleton University to ask her to coach a performance team for the school three years ago after seeing an online video of them performing. Morrison also happens to be a graduate of Carleton University. After graduating from Algonquin College with a diploma in early childhood education, she received a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology at Carleton.

Morrison’s full time job is the registrar’s assistant at the university. She, along with the assistant coaches, choreographers, and members of Ravens Rhythm are all volunteers. The work that they do comes only from love for Carleton and for performing. When Morrison began with the team, she was looking to create an outlet for those who wanted to perform, but did not want to constantly compete.

“Cheering for sports performance teams, much like any of the CFL (Canadian Football League) teams . . . we’re there because we’re almost like an addition to the team itself.”

Morrison said that Ravens Rhythm is recreational but she is strict with the team in how they present themselves, especially on social media, knowing that they represent the public image of the school. Dedication and discipline is required from every member of the team, and every member must perform to the utmost of their ability.

Though Morrison said that the team will likely never compete, she is eager to get as many opportunities as she can for the members of Ravens Rhythm. She has plans to look into fundraising to take members of the team to professional level cheerleading conventions. At the conventions, team members can work with renowned choreographers and professional dance teams. Morrison also wants Ravens Rhythm to act as a gateway for members to move onto performing for CFL teams, especially with the return of a CFL team in Ottawa.

Morrison’s dedication and ambition for both the team itself and its members shows no sign of lessening in the coming years. She has already completely changed cheerleading at Carleton with the shaping of the performance team, and will likely continue to improve the program and turn Ravens Rhythm into a staple of Carleton athletics.

So, though Melany Morrison’s schedule is hectic on a good day, it looks like slowing down isn’t going to happen anytime soon.

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