Not too long ago, cheerleading was not associated with much beyond the sidelines athletic fields. Those who aren't familiar with the world of competitive cheerleading, however, can scrap the pom-pom and "Go Team" stereotypes and replace them with fierce competition, championships and successful businesses, including Windsor's newest.
USA Wildcats, a cheerleading training center for Northern Connecticut and Western Massachusetts, recently cut the ribbon on the doors of its new facility on Hayden Station Road.
Home to the No. 1-ranked senior co-ed team in the nation for the third year, USA Wildcats has made Windsor a home of champions, and has established a hub for top-notch talent throughout the region.
The cheer training center, or school, as owner Nancy Discipio describes it, moved from its home at Enfield's Healthtrax, where it shared space, to a spacious, warehouse-style location fit for gymnasts.
"It's fabulous," Discipio said of USA Wildcats' move. "The kids are excited to have their own space, and they work super hard."
Open to participants from age 3 to 18, USA Wildcats is made up of dancers, gymnasts and cheerleaders from throughout Northern Connecticut and Western Massachusetts.
And while Windsor may seem like a far way to travel from Ludlow, MA, it's worth it, according to Mike Flebotte, whose 13 and 9-year-old daughters have won five separate national titles in four years with the Wildcats.
"The move to Windsor means we can focus. We don't have to share this space," said Flebotte. "This is set up for the kids... and it's an example of Nancy's commitment to the kids [being] successful."
Flebotte's girls chose to join the Wildcats when they began to take the sport of cheerleading more seriously, and sought a program that would fit their needs.
Five championships later, Flebotte says the trips to Windsor two nights a week won't be an issue, as his daughters have found their passion.
"There are sacrifices with their homework, their social life, but they do it, and the minute they walk out on that stage their faces light up," said Flebotte.
"If you have kids, you know when they find their passion, and I was fortunate enough where my daughters found their passion early in life. They're fine with making the sacrifices to be able to do this."
USA Wildcats is one of about training programs of its kind in the state, Discipio estimates. USA Wilcats alone operates programs out of Norwich, Naugatuck and now Windsor.
Those interested in competitive cheer can learn more at www.USAWildcatsMass.com.