Golden Girls Cheerleading squad still has short skirts, high kicks
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Monday, Jan. 27, 2014

Golden Girls Cheerleading squad still has short skirts, high kicks

When the Golden Girls Cheerleading Squad ran onto the court at halftime during a Charlotte Bobcats game last spring, their skirts were short and their kicks were high.

The crowd’s cheers and enthrallment, however, had more to do with what was not typical of these cheerleaders. The Golden Girls comprises 70- and 80-year-olds (the one exception is Gail Ledbetter, 69, who just got married this year) and there are many grandmothers and even some great-grandmothers in the squad.

Marie Ball, 71, and Paulene Stanley, 78, started the group in fall 2010. Both are members of the Levine Senior Center in Matthews and had represented the center in the Senior Games.

Ball, a former cheerleader, saw that there was a slot for competitive cheerleading but the center didn’t have a team. She approached Yolanda Osborne, who teaches line dancing and hula dancing at the Levine Center, about forming a squad and competing.

“I figured it’s another form of exercise,” Osborne said. “Let’s do it.”

The squad has grown to 10 women, four of whom are former cheerleaders and three of whom are former majorettes.

Mary Schultz, 73, still relishes twirling the baton.

“There’s nothing shy about us,” said Ball, noting that no one had any trepidation about wearing the short skirts that comprise part of their team uniforms.

“The legs are the last to go,” said Doris Green, 74.

“We get lots of compliments on our legs,” added Kay Major, 72.

Sharon Storck, the former cheerleading coach at East Mecklenburg High School, has taken over as their coach. The team practices once each week, learning routines and music, but squeezing in plenty of socializing as well.

“I love the friendship and camaraderie the most,” Stanley said.

“Sometimes the routines do me in,” Ledbetter said, “but what keeps me coming back is the sisterhood and friendship.”

That sisterhood is particularly strong when a member of the squad falls ill.

Doris Green, 74, is one of several members of the squad who is a cancer survivor. When her cancer recurred this past fall, the squad made her a “love blanket,” their traditional gift to a member who is ill to “make her feel loved.”

Green’s fellow cheerleaders presented her with the quilt as a surprise after she missed several practices due to her illness.

“It made me feel so good,” said Green, who is back to attending practices even though she is still too weak to participate in the routines.

The Golden Girls have performed in parades, on WCNC’s “Charlotte Today,” and at retirement and senior citizen centers, but what they’re most focused on are the Senior Games.

They won a silver medal last year, but are aiming for better.

“This year we’re going for gold,”Ball said.

Katya Lezin is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Katya? Email her at bowserwoof@mindspring.com.

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