Total Sports Development to include Unified cheer program

Organization partners with Special Olympics


Total Sports Development (TSD) has teamed up with the Special Olympics to create the TSD Cheerleader Believers, a Unified co-ed cheerleading team composed of athletes with disabilities.

Amber Ogle and Candace Hurd will coach the cheerleaders, who will begin practicing twice a week on Aug. 13. The team will cheer from the sidelines at four Thurston County Youth Football League (TCYFL) games this fall.

The program was part of a longtime vision of Ogle’s, who recalls interacting with students with disabilities when she was in high school and them telling her that they wish they could be cheerleaders one day.

“That stuck with me for the longest time. At the time, there weren’t any options for that,” Ogle said. “I connected with [Yelm] high school, and I was planning on doing a Unified program with them, but because of the levy, we weren’t sure if that was going to be a possibility. Instead of waiting to see what’s gonna be available, we just decided to do it with TSD and do it no matter what.”

Ogle said she hasn’t chosen which four games the TSD Cheerleader Believers will attend, but they will be at games at every level, from minor to eighth grade, and they can cheer alongside the Tornados and other teams.

Prospective cheerleaders can fill out an application on the TSD website. The program is for athletes ages 12 to 21.

“Everyone is welcome. We really hope that this is something that the community absorbs and accepts and loves so that everybody with wonderful abilities can get a chance to shine. I think we all need a sense of empathy, and I think that this can bring all of us together,” Ogle said.

Ogle hopes that TSD can create Unified programs for every sport to promote social inclusion and growth for all. Unified programs pair youth with and without disabilities on the same team.

“People need to come and watch because they will never experience the kind of joy like seeing these kids’ faces. I would love for them to hear the parents go crazy,” she said. “I’m excited for the dream to finally come alive.

“Getting the other kids involved with them, it gives them a sense of empathy and then the kids with special needs a sense of belonging,” Ogle continued. “That’s another thing I really want to bring to the community. We all belong. It doesn’t matter what your ability is. Everybody has different abilities.”

To be eligible to participate in Special Olympics TSD Unified cheer, athletes must be diagnosed by an agency or professional as having one of the following conditions: intellectual disability; a cognitive delay as determined by standardized measures such as intelligence quotient or other generally accepted measures; or a closely related development disability, such as functional limitations in both general learning and adaptive skills. Athletes must also complete the athlete registration packet, including all required medical and release forms. To learn more about TSD Unified cheer, visit