Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

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November 2, 2013

Creating opportunity in region

Princeton woman gives back to community through competitive cheerleading

PRINCETON — Megan Belcher has been cheerleading since she was 4 years old.

While she doesn’t actively cheer anymore, she coaches “Dynasty Cheer,” a competitive cheerleading team she started in Mercer County in the spring of 2002.

The first all-star team started out just by an assignment in college, Belcher, 30, of Princeton said.

“While in college, I had to create a fake business for a class I was in. I taught gymnastics at the rec center and I loved cheerleading, so I decided I would make my fake business a cheer gym, and now it has turned into my ‘real’ job,” she said. “My mother used to drive me to Beckley or Charleston to take gymnastics because there was nowhere really around here for me to go. I was extremely blessed to have a mother that took time to take me.”

Belcher started cheerleading when she was 4 years old at the recreation center, and then moved to cheering at PikeView High School and Concord University.

“When I was younger, cheerleading was my outlet. It was my thing to keep me active and involved. It taught me a lot about hard work, team work, and being part of something that was bigger than just myself,” Belcher said.

After some research, Belcher found a need for a cheerleading and recreational gymnastics program in the area so parents would not have to take their children too far away for them to participate in cheer and gymnastics.

“We were the first!” she said.

It was the first all-star team in the area, and Belcher has coached around 57 all-star teams throughout the years. She said the gym is like family.

“Cheerleading is like any other sport, the kids work hard. They do it because they love it, enjoy it and they want to be here,” Belcher said. “I would not be as successful as I am today without the girls and all their hard work.”

Belcher coaches girls of all ages ranging from 3 years old up to 18 and 19 years old.

In-between all those ages are five different teams based on age and skill set.

“Competitive cheerleading is not a cheap sport, the kids have got to want to do it, but when they work hard there are definitely some good opportunities out there for them,” Belcher said.

The teams participate in tryouts, summer camps, practices and travel on a regular basis for competitions.

“They have about two-and-a-half minutes to show you what they got, and they put on a good show,” she said.

Not only do Belcher’s cheerleaders work hard in the gym, they also strive to become role models in their schools and community, Belcher said.

The girls have participated in Relay for Life, Locks of Love, March of Dimes and Special Olympics.

The teams have performed in the Macy’s Day Parade, ACC Championships, and made their first appearance at the U.S. Finals in May 2013 to compete. They ranked in the top 13 overall.

“I am very proud of them for what they accomplish,” Belcher said. “To be ranked so high for just a little gym from Princeton, I think that’s great.  

“We teach sportsmanship, responsibility and ethical and work values,” she said. “This is a serious sport, but we manage to make it much more. I love seeing the girls start out young and watching them grow and seeing them get cheerleading scholarships to universities.

“We have had our cheerleaders accepted and recruited by universities including Concord University, Bluefield State College, West Virginia University, Marshall University, Fairmont State, University of North Carolina, Virginia Tech and Coastal Carolina,” Belcher said. “Our gym has been featured in articles by The Cheerleader Magazine, American Cheerleader Magazine and Inside Cheer Magazine.”

Belcher has also been accepted into the Who’s Who of America’s All-star Coaches consecutively since 2004, which is a listing of the top U.S. coaches.

In West Virginia there are only three coaches listed with Belcher being the only one in southern West Virginia.

“I love the opportunity to give the girls to compete that I didn’t have,” she said. “The kids and families at the gym are my family. But I love more that they all know they have a place to come, whether it’s because they are happy, sad, lonely or just need somewhere to hang out.

“Cheerleading means me giving back to the community a love for a sport that I can share,” Belcher said.

— Contact Anne Elgin at aelgin@bdtonline.com

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