Maryland’s Special Needs Cheerleading Team Is Something to Shout About
This uniformed crew is giving us major squad goals.
The members of the Shooting Stars cheer team, based in Salisbury, Maryland, have more challenges to live with than most. But despite those challenges, the dynamic squad always has something to cheer about. Like, for example, competing in 15 national competitions, winning first-place awards, and preparing for an upcoming stint at the All-Star National Championship in Dallas, Texas. The only difference these team members have than most others is that they each have special needs.
The Shooting Stars is comprised of more than 20 members, ranging from ages 7 to 53. Not only do they have a diverse range of skill, but they also have varying disabilities. None of which has stopped them from cheering and besting non-special squads.
The team was started in 2010 by coaches Laurie Andrews, Katya Andrews, Karli Boog, along with Nor'Eastern Storm All-Stars gym owner, Pam Duke. What originally began as a hobby for the three coaches, all of whom have experience with someone who has special needs, has turned into something the community of Salisbury can be proud of and support.
Once the program was approved, Laurie began teaching the fundamentals, like cartwheels, splits, and tumbles. Although she was determined to have the squad do a lot more than cheer, rah-rah-rah, Laurie only demanded they master one skill: having a positive attitude. The Shooting Stars started out as a small group of seven, competing only in local events at first, but the squad continued to grow. Eventually, it was broken up into two teams: competition and exhibition, with the competition team held to the same rules and scoring as non-special needs cheerleading teams.
"We knew we weren't that competitive early on," Laurie said. "We went up to a competition and the Maryland Twisters were there, who have been around forever. I went up to their coaches and just asked them really what to do, and they encouraged us to just try and don't give up."
They didn't give up.
In fact, they worked even harder to perfect their skills, going head-to-head with the very same team that once gave them advice: the Maryland Twisters. After coming in second to the Twisters for five years straight, the Shooting Stars finally beat the Twisters this year, taking home the top prize at the Maryland Cup Nationals on January 21, 2017.
Following up that title win, the team went on to earn four first-place awards, including two at national competitions. Now, they're raising money to compete at the National Cheerleaders Association All-Star National Championship in Dallas, Texas next year. You can help them get there by donating to the team's GoFundMe campaign.
"They work hard for it," said Coach Boog. "They come to practice ready to learn and they want to win."
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Give us a W! Give us an I! Give us an N! What's that spell? We, here, at SL hope it's another victory for the Shooting Stars in February 2018.