Testimonial of Phillip Rowlands
Describe the type of person you were before you joined AEC.
I think I was kind of an outsider before I joined. I had friends and everything, but I was super into performing and was always putting on shows in my room, dressing up, making up stories, acting. I wasn’t great at speaking to new people, so found that acting confident worked just as well as actually being confident!
What attracted you to cheerleading?
So, my story into cheerleading is a little bit different to any other boy who started cheering with AEC. At the church, the new vicar (Jonathan) put on a football tournament… I think I’m remembering that right! I’m totally not into football, but my family were there to support, and during the evening, his glamourous (I mean, to me she was glamourous!) American wife and her sister Alisa had put together an all-girl cheerleading squad to perform a routine. Although the uniforms they wore were very much not the cheer uniforms AEC went on to have (think sequins, satin, and puff-shoulder sleeves) it still spoke to the performer in me! I saw how excited the girls were to be on the team.
Seeing how much the girls were bonding, and how much fun they were having was what I really wanted to be a part of.
How did Cheerleading and AEC impact on/shape you as a person?
One of the things I’ll always remember Shara teaching us is about our behaviour, even out of uniform and outside of AEC events. We were ALWAYS representing AEC and in the local community, there would always be people that recognised us. This hit home for me while I was on a train; a man we had worked with (in a separate organisation) was incredibly rude publicly. I recognised him and knew the company he worked for, and it completely undermined the persona he put out in public events while at work. I realised then that I never want people to recognise me and see me behave in a way that would change the opinion they have of me professionally. I’ve carried that with me throughout every aspect of my life since.
Since cheerleading for AEC what have you been able to go on and achieve?
Three years ago, I married my long-term partner Steven. We have a miniature dachshund, a fridge-freezer, and a mortgage. My career has been varied. After trying (and failing) to make it as a professional performer, my career has been pretty varied. Whilst still keeping a hand in and performing, directing and choreographing amateur shows, I’ve been a PA for a Director of Marketing and a costume designer for amateur and professional theatre. I was a reservations manager for Gordon Ramsay Restaurants for almost five years and am now a Restaurant Service Manager for OpenTable – looking after almost 300 restaurants across the UK, as a trusted consultant and systems trainer.
Tell us more about your profession/work.
OpenTable helps restaurants to grow and thrive. I look at restaurants availability for opportunities to help seat more diners. I advise and train restaurant owners, management, and staff in using the system to get the most out of what we do, travelling across the UK seeing restaurant teams from small family run bistros, to big restaurant groups.
What is your favourite AEC memory?
So many. I was going to say from 1998, when a team of 8 of us (Ascension Eagles Elite) won a competition on ITV to march in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City, but in actual fact it was when we had our first WCA Cheerleading Camp. I wasn’t in the team, and Shara was quite clear that no boys were allowed to participate, but I could help out over the week if I wanted to. I checked the girls in each morning, kept the staffers hydrated, and just kept busy doing whatever anyone needed of me. I was then allowed to join the stunt workshop! One break we were talking about jumps, and I showed the WCA staff my Toe Touch… which they said they were impressed by! I ended up learning cheers, stunts and dances that week (which I still remember!).
What would you say to young people like you who have big dreams and aspirations for themselves?
Plans change. Life is messy. Someone else’s road may be smoother than yours; it doesn’t make their journey any more special, or yours any less worthy. Things happen for a reason, and you should absolutely go for your dreams, but not at the expense of being kind hearted and professional. Play nice!
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