Desmond Owens cheering his way to the top

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By Becca Owsley

A decision to switch from band to cheerleading led Desmond Owens to national competition opportunities and gave him a foot in the door for potential college scholarship.


Owens, who soon will be a junior at Central Hardin High School, began tumbling and gymnastics when he was 6 or 7 years old but was very active in band when he entered high school.

Some friends encouraged him try out for cheerleading. At first he was hesitant.

“Boys don’t do cheerleading, that’s not something boys do,” he said.

He was really dedicated to the band and initially didn’t want to leave it. After talking with his mom he decided he could go far in cheerleading.

He learned the addition of boys on the squad brings something different, he said. 

The coach tells them having the boys along makes the girls feel safer. The girls depend on the guys, especially with stunting, he said.

At first, he was nervous he’d drop someone, but was more at ease once he learned technique. It’s no longer in the front of his mind but it is always there, he said.

“You’ve got someone’s life in your hands,” Owens said.

Sometimes the crowd is more nervous than he is.

People think cheerleading is not a sport, but throwing a 100-pound girl up and catching her in your arms is definitely an impressive feat, he said.

Cheering not only has college scholarship opportunities but Owens has taken an extra step toward his goal of cheering in college by being a part of GymTyme in Louisville.

GymTyme is the cheer gym used by the University of Louisville. There he can learn from U of L cheerleaders who know what they are doing, some are world champions and influnencers in the cheer industry.

At the gym, Owens is on two world teams. He is on a new team called Maroon 5 and an alternate on the Platinum team, the team all the cheerleaders want to be on, he said.

“It hasn’t set in yet that I’m on Platinum,” he said.

Those opportunities will allow him to compete nationally.

Owens wants to become a cheerleader at U of L, a school many of his family members has attended. His mother told him she would disown him if he went to the University of Kentucky.

“I’m continuing on the legacy at U of L,” he said. 

He knows it’s a big deal to cheer there because the school has a prestigious and award-winning cheer program.

His coach at Central Hardin, Shauna Thompson, said he came into Central Hardin’s cheer program saying he wanted to cheer in college. Knowing what she knows about him now, she knows he will accomplish that goal.

“There’s no doubt in my mind he will,” she said.

She said he works hard and is one of the most coachable kids she has.

“He loves his sport,” she said.

Through cheering and working at Central Kentucky Athletics Owens gained leadership skills and built his confidence level.

“As a freshman I was a little awkward and afraid of cheerleading because I didn’t know what I was getting myself into at first,” he said.

He thought he would try it for a few years and take off some weight in the process. During his second year he began learning new skills and said he now feels like he can do anything he tries. 

He’s learned how to lead in an affirming way.

At CKA, he helps kids learn new skills. After spotting a kid who puts time and effort into tumbling and learning a new skill, he said it feels good to see them finally perform that skill on their own.

“It’s a reflection of myself in someone else,” he said.

Through cheering he also has learned that everyone is different. He feels people see all cheerleaders the same but they are all different, with different personalities and skills that come together in one team.

In the future, Owens wants to combine his career with his passion for cheering. He hopes to study psychology to become a sports psychologist.

Becca Owsley can be reached at (270) 505-1741 or bowsley@thenewsenterprise.com.

Getting to know Desmond Owens:
He hasn’t had a carbonated beverage in three years. He’s in love with Starbucks, has it twice a day sometimes. He also loves Zaxby’s and Chick-fil-a. He has the prices of his favorite meals memorized.
Owens loves Harry Potter and said he’s nerdy about it. He’s been to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando and got a wand.
Favorite color: Green
Favorite school subjects: English and political science
Favorite music: Ellie Goulding and Paramore, his “favorite band ever, ever, ever.”
Siblings: a brother, sister and six stepsiblings.