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Photo of the Day – August 20

From 2011 – A Virginia Destroyers Cheerleader

Virginia Destroyers Cheerleaders

(Last set of photos from before my vacation)
It’s been quite a soggy year on the East Coast. And back on September 24th things were no different. A drive down the Delmarva Peninsula to Virginia Beach found threatening clouds.

Rain held off for the kick off of the Virginia Destroyers game, and the Destroyers Cheerleaders managed to smile as it began to drizzle.

The Destroyers Cheerleaders are under the direction of former Washington Redskins Pro Bowl Cheerleader Kimberly Vaughn.

Last chance to see the Virginia Destroyers Cheerleaders this Friday when the UFL Championship Game is played at the Virginie Beach Sportsplex.

[Destroyers Cheerleaders Gallery]

[Virginia Destroyers Cheerleaders]

Meet the Virginia Destroyers’ cheerleaders

By Denise Watson Batts
The Virginian-Pilot
August 22, 2011

The excitement at this Thursday night practice is reaching the feverish pitch of a score-tied, seconds-left Super Bowl: The cheerleaders of the UFL’s Virginia Destroyers are about to get their uniforms.

Only the day before, after a month’s delay to the start of the season, the football league had announced the date of the team’s first game.

The cheerleaders realize their five months of practicing finally will meet the turf during home games at the Virginia Beach Sportsplex.

Then one of the squad’s coaches walks through the tangle of dancers and quiets them with even better news.

“Kim is on her way,” she says.

A couple of dancers gasp, and they all break into cheers. Kimberly Vaughn, their director, lost her husband five days earlier when a helicopter carrying Navy SEALs crashed in Afghanistan.

In the time since, the women had respected Vaughn’s space and privacy but couldn’t resist doing what they do best – offering support. So they rallied electronically, offering email messages and posting prayers on Facebook.

Minutes later, Vaughn walks into the Virginia Beach dance studio with some close friends, toting her 8-week-old daughter and the box of uniforms. The cheerleaders cluster around her.

Vaughn bursts into tears and the squad members try to hold back theirs.

“I really wanted to be here,” Vaughn says. “It really makes me feel better to be here.”

Whether or not the Destroyers ever line up for their first kickoff, whether or not the first fans get cozy in their seats, whether or not the troubled season has a chance to once again stall, this much is clear:

These cheerleaders have already become – to use a football term – their own special team.

Getting to this point has taken days of dance practice, building stamina for long games, and too many pulled muscles to count.

While much of the attention of the past few months has gone to the United Football League and whether there would even be a third season, the women of the cheerleading-dance squad have kept their booty shorts in place and kept on high-kicking.

Many of them feel they have something to prove. They are moms and wives, educators, businesswomen, college students studying for master’s and doctoral degrees. They have the job of spreading the word and stoking enthusiasm about the new team, but they also want people to know they are more than long legs and manicured fingernails.

Tia Godwin, 29, grew up in Detroit and danced throughout elementary, middle and high school. She learned about hard work from her mom, a single woman who worked two jobs to send Godwin to private school.

“I’ve always gotten my drive from people telling me I could not do something,” she said.

Godwin was one of a handful of minority students in her Catholic high school and always thought the wealthier students attracted the eyes of teachers. Then during her junior year, she took an accounting course, studied hard and earned a perfect A. People started paying attention to her brain.

She came to the area and earned two degrees at Hampton University, and she is now a senior consultant with the accounting firm Deloitte, specializing in audit and enterprise risk services. She’s finishing her doctorate in business administration. Then she’ll apply to law school; Harvard and Yale are at the top of her list.

Godwin was used to staying up late to finish client reports and schoolwork when she heard about the cheerleading tryouts. Once she implanted the idea in her head, she couldn’t say no, even if it meant later nights.

“Anything I would regret not doing I have to do,” Godwin said.

She was named to the squad in early April, after a rigorous tryout that brought about 40 finalists to a packed food court at MacArthur Center.

Godwin is now part of the squad of 30 women who live in all corners of Hampton Roads.

Mara VanAlstine was involved in gymnastics and cheerleading while growing up in St. Marys, Pa. Since moving to Virginia a few years ago, she has concentrated more on working out and wellness, and she regularly participates in “figure” competitions, a blend of bodybuilding and fitness.

When she heard about the Destroyer auditions, the idea reminded her how much she missed performing, so she tried out and made the team. But she wants the audience to see more than a pretty face when she’s onstage.

VanAlstine is an elementary school teacher who soon will begin a master’s program to go into counseling. In the classroom, she sees how negative images can damage young girls’ self-esteem.

Girls tend to be the ones at the cheerleaders’ public appearances who watch their every move, who look up at them – and to them.

“I definitely see myself as a role model,” said Van-Alstine, 29. “I want them to see where I am and to see what I’m capable of doing, and being around them lets them know they can be anything they want to be.”

Outsiders sometimes look at Van-Alstine, Godwin and their squad mates and wonder why professional women would want to take on the cheerleader stereotype.

The women don’t see it that way. Cheering requires fitness – the women are required to attend a gym regularly – and the routines require dance skills.

The role also taps into the women’s love of both dance and sports, and it lets them be part of something bigger than themselves.

Because some people don’t understand the attraction, the women find they are often their own best cheerleaders.

“We each have cheer buddies, and mine, matter of fact, works for one of my competitors,” Godwin said. “But it’s great to have someone who understands the struggles you go through.”

The cheerleaders take part in two three-hour practices a week, but they discovered early on that wasn’t enough. They started meeting in between cooking dinners and finishing laundry.

They’ve gone out to eat together, planned birthday parties for each other and joined hip-hop classes together to stay fit.

They celebrate their progress. They ask one another how a class or job is going. They clap at practice when the kicks that were waist-high in April now stretch to their shoulders. Head flicks are more natural, hip rolls less stilted.

At the recent Thursday practice where they’re getting their uniforms, Van-Alstine and the other women are in deep stretches on the dance floor, warming up to Rihanna’s “S&M.”

VanAlstine sits with legs spread in a wide V, her forehead almost touching the floor’s wooden surface. She peeks under her arm and sees a cheermate trying unsuccessfully to stretch herself forward.

Without a word, Van-Alstine reaches back, grabs her friend’s hand and pulls her the rest of the way.

It’s now two days later, and about 25 cheerleaders have returned to the site of their tryouts, MacArthur Center, this time wearing white Destroyer jerseys and black dance pants.

It’s Aug. 13 – a Saturday that was to have been the date of the first game of the season. The Destroyers had been set to play the Hartford Colonials, but the Connecticut team folded the week before. The league is down to four teams, and the season’s launch is now planned for Sept. 15.

Several of the women say the squad will continue to perform if the season is suspended again. They’ve become the region’s unofficial cheerleading group and have various gigs scheduled through the summer and fall. This gathering at the mall’s first-floor center court is a back-to-school rally.

About 200 onlookers line the upstairs railings and mill about the T-shaped stage and vendors’ booths. League officials introduce some players.

It is a pep rally in serious need of some pep. The players’ voices get lost in the vacuum of the mall, and shoppers are busy picking up freebies lining the area.

“We have a football team now?” a woman asks another as they check out the free bottles of vitamin water on a table.

“I guess,” the other says, shrugging, as she tugs the hand of a little girl toward stores, away from the rally.

The little girl, though, glances back at the group of eight cheerleaders climbing the stage with blue pompoms that shimmer as they move.

The first notes of Prince’s “Kiss” start thumping, and the cheerleaders start swinging their hips and arms, tossing their heads and working up a sweat, trying desperately to pump up the crowd.

A few onlookers tap their flip-flops to the beat.

Then in the back, near the Yankee Candle store, shouts of “Let’s go, ladies!” and “Work it, Whitney!” and a string of “Woo-woos!” drown out Prince.

It’s a small knot of other Destroyer cheerleaders, shaking their pompoms, doing what they do best: cheering on their friends.

Sad News

From UFL-Football.com:

Navy SEAL Aaron Vaughn, husband of Virginia Destroyers Cheerleading/Dance Team Director Kimberly Vaughn, was one of 30 American service members who died when their helicopter was shot down by insurgents Saturday in Afghanistan.

The crash, which also took the lives of eight Afghans, was the deadliest single loss for American forces in the war in Afghanistan.

“I am saddened to hear that Aaron Vaughn, the husband of Virginia Destroyers Cheerleader Director Kimberly Vaughn, was among the Navy SEALs killed in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan on Saturday,” said United Football League Commissioner Michael Huyghue. “The thoughts and prayers of everyone at the United Football League go out to the Vaughn family and to the Virginia community at this difficult time.”

“It’s a very tragic, tragic situation. Our thoughts and prayers are with Kimberly and her entire family,” said Destroyers Head Coach/General Manager Marty Schottenheimer. “It’s very difficult to imagine the magnitude of this loss and how this affects families and extended families. Certainly, Kimberly is part of our Destroyers family. Again, our prayers are with Kimberly and all the families who lost loved ones.”

For more on Aaron Vaughn and other American service members who died on Saturday, the following Web links are provided:

http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/44056945/ns/today-today_people/t/navy-seals-widow-we-were-blessed-be-together/

http://www.cnn.com/2011/US/08/07/afghanistan.fatality/index.html

http://www.usatoday.com/news/world/afghanistan/2011-08-07-Afghanistan-Navy-SEALS-chopper-crash_n.htm

http://www.suntimes.com/news/nation/6937311-418/loved-ones-remember-30-fallen-troops.html

The Virginia Destroyers Fan Club is taking small donations to provide a floral arrangement and a donation in Kimberly’s name to a foundation of her choosing. We are taking Paypal donations for the next 24 hours in case anyone would like to make a small donation. The Paypal email is VirginiaUFL@aol.com

Virginia Destroyers Cheerleading Finals

Destroyers Have First-Ever Cheerleading Prep Classes in Virginia Beach, Norfolk

by Dusty Sloan
February 28, 2011
UFL

The Virginia Destroyers began the process of building their 2011 cheerleading/dance team Saturday with a pair of prep classes, one in the morning in Virginia Beach and one in the afternoon in Norfolk.

“The prep classes went off without a hitch,” said Kimberly Vaughn, Destroyers cheerleading/dance team Director. “Talented women gathered in two locations on Saturday for cheerleader prep classes, and lots of fun was had.”

Destroyers Public Relations Director David Seals noted the historical context of Saturday’s prep classes, telling the participants, “You have become a part of Virginia Destroyer history by attending the first-ever cheerleading event.”

Women ages 19-33 attended the prep classes, with the goal of better preparing them for the preliminary cheerleading/dance team auditions, which will be March 12 at Broadway Dance Academy (1777 London Bridge Road in Virginia Beach). Attendees practiced kicks, leaps and turns, and learned a dance routine. Pointers such as pointing toes, looking the “professional cheerleader” part and showmanship were reiterated throughout the class.

Vaughn said the feedback from Saturday’s attendees was great.

“I aimed to give the ladies who attended prep classes a really good idea of what to expect during auditions,” she said. “I went through what the day will be like and what’s expected, as well as what the judges will be looking for. Of course, attending prep classes doesn’t guarantee a position on the squad, but it definitely will help give the ladies an edge.”

Speaking about what she will look for once the preliminary tryouts begin, Vaughn said, “I’m really looking for a well-rounded candidate. A woman is who poised and attractive, entertaining to watch, intelligent and has good dance talent will fill the role of a Virginia Destroyers cheerleader perfectly.

“A common misconception of professional cheerleading is that it’s much like high school and college cheerleading teams. The world of professional cheerleading is really focused on dancing, not basket tosses and stunting.”

Virginia Destroyers Appoint Dance Director

Kimberly Vaughn, an eight-year veteran of the Washington Redskins cheerleading squad, has been named the Virginia Destroyers first dance team director.

The Destroyers, the United Football League’s second-ever expansion team, will begin play in August 2011 at the Virginia Beach SportsPlex.

“I am really excited to be starting with the Virginia Destroyers for their very first season,” said Vaughn. “It allows me to be really creative and be a part of something really special.”

Vaughn was a member of the Redskins cheerleading squad in 1998 and from 2000 to 2007. She was a four-year captain, a choreographer and was a 2007 Pro Bowl representative.

“I am very familiar with choreography and the game day experience,” Vaughn said. “Because I’ve actually been a part of a professional squad before, I have a different viewpoint, not only as an onlooker, but having been one of the cheerleaders, I know what they need to know to be game day-ready.”

Vaughn also was a swimsuit cover girl and annual calendar model, won the Director’s Choice Award every year from 2003 to 2006, won the Outstanding Leadership and Choreography Award in 2003 and 2006 and earned the Lifetime Achievement Award in 2007.

While with the Redskins, Vaughn also was a Variety Show Traveling Team Member. From 2001 to 2007, she took 12 tours traveling overseas to more than 35 countries to various military bases in support of the Department of Defense, MWR and USO, performing for United States troops.

She also was a member of, and calendar model for, Sweethearts for Soldiers in 2007 and 2008, and a Royal Challengers Bangalore Professional Cheerleader (professional cricket) in 2008.

Vaughn is ready to begin assembling the Destroyers dance team / cheerleading squad. Tryouts will begin in February.

“I’ve moved here from the West Coast,” she added. “I’m happy to be back in Virginia and thrilled to take part in this exciting new venture.”