We are one of the many sports offered through Calvert County Special Olympics. Special Olympics offers sports programs free of charge to intellectually disabled athletes, ages 8 and up. The programs are coached by volunteers that are well qualified in their sport. Calvert County Special Olympics (a non-profit) is fully dependent on financial donations they receive from the community.
I started this team the first year that Maryland Special Olympics started including a cheerleading competition to its events at the MD Summer Games at Towson University. We are finishing up our 7th season next week! We started with one small beginner team the first year and have been growing every year. I have 2 Coed Unified Cheerleading Teams this year. Unified Teams are teams that combine special athletes and their typical, non-disabled peers. They train and compete together. It is a great partnership! Lots of friendships are made and disability awareness is raised through this team arrangement. I also have several volunteers that help me. I have been a cheerleading coach for about 15 years now. I’ve coached competitive all-star teams, high school teams, and recreation league teams. But my special Olympic team is my dream team!
My Unified Beginner team is a younger group of athletes age 8 to 14. This is the first cheerleading experience many of them have had. Their competition routine consists of several cheers and chants that focus on cheerleading fundamentals: motions, jumps and crowd leading skills. My Unified Advanced Team is an older, more experienced group, age 14 and up. Their competition routine is longer and more difficult, also using cheer and chants but includes stunting, some limited tumbling skills, and a short dance portion choreographed to music.
This season, I have extended our program to include coed unified dance teams. We have 2 dance teams that are not competing yet, but training and doing exhibition performances. We have a Poms dance team and a hip hop dance team. Dance has been a very popular addition to the program. I’m hoping in the next couple of years Maryland Special Olympics will add dance teams to the Summer Games competition.
Our season usually starts in January and concludes after the MD Summer Games in June. This Sunday, 5/31, is our final practice before we compete on Friday, June 5th at Towson University. We will be competing with other Special Olympic cheer teams from several different counties in MD. Not every county has a cheer team yet. My team has athCheerleading isn’t an “official” Special Olympic sport yet nationally or internationally. But it is growing in popularity. Season 8 might need to start this fall in order to accommodate the growth of the program. More practice facilities are needed, uniforms, equipment, etc. We are also planning to do more public performances next season.
This year we have a small group of our cheerleaders participating in something called Cheer for LA 2015. I (Coach), 2 Unified Partners, and 6 Special Athletes will be traveling to Los Angeles, CA in July to cheer at the Special Olympic World Games! This is a really big deal! A once in a lifetime opportunity for the team. They will be cheering with 18 other special needs cheerleading teams from across the US. They will be cheering for athletes from every country at all of the World Games sports competitions, and promoting the concept of special needs cheerleading teams to the world. There is so much to tell you about this but too much in one email! I will include some links at the end for you to check out to learn more about this.
Our trip to LA is voluntary and each team member must pay their own way. The costs for airfare, lodging, ground transportation, meals, uniforms, etc. is expected to be about $2,500 per person. This expense is one not everyone can pay on their own so we are fundraising like crazy. We have a website set up where folks can make a donation on-line, and several fundraising events coming up. I will send you a list of the events with the photos once I get home tonight. Here is the link to make a donation: http://cheerforla2015.kintera.org/faf/search/searchTeamPart.asp?ievent=1126907&lis=1&kntae1126907=37601D7D81CC4F5B94187C9F758753BA&team=6275915
Our Team’s Facebook Group (The Starz) – https://www.facebook.com/groups/759766414053134/
Our main fundraising page – http://cheerforla2015.kintera.org/faf/search/searchTeamPart.asp?ievent=1126907&lis=1&kntae1126907=37601D7D81CC4F5B94187C9F758753BA&team=6275915
Our Go Fund Me page – http://www.gofundme.com/starztola
Thank you so much for helping us get the word out.
Gayle Watterson Head Coach, Calvert County Special Olympic Cheerleading
Head Coach, Beach Buccaneers Cheerleading
Nationally Certified Cheerleading Judge
Cheer For LA2015