Alumni Cheerleaders found out what member, Lia Duncan, who is a former Sacramento Kings Dancer, San Francisco 49ers and Oakland Raiders Cheerleader has been up too. She shares a great story and impressive background with us about how she got started with cheerleading and dancing.
I was born in Honolulu, Hawaii but raised here is Sacramento, California. I guess I started like many professional dance/cheerleaders by splitting my time between the dance company and cheerleading squad in high school. Most of my dance training post high school was at a local studio in Sacramento, Step 1, run by Pepper Von.
The first team I ever cheered for was the Sacramento Surge. They were a professional football team in the now defunct World League of American Football, which later became NFL Europe. While it was a small league, it gave me the foundation of working within a team and professionalism. Our director of our squad, the “California Girls Cheerleaders,” was the former Director of the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders (DCC), Debbie Bond. She definitely ran our squad with the same philosophy of DCC, stressing discipline and excellence.
I also cheered in the Canadian Football League (CFL) for the Sacramento Gold Miners, as a “Pure Gold Cheerleader.” This squad was directed by Pepper Von and Mary Wright. Again, it was an experience working with a smaller league but the Sacramento fans were very supportive and loyal to their team.
Another one of the teams I had the privilege of cheering for was the NBA’s Sacramento Kings, as a member of the “Fastbreak Dance Team.” Heidi Hopper was our director and a former pro cheerleader herself, with the San Francisco 49ers Gold Rush. Heidi also ran her squad with a healthy dose of discipline and it was a much more dance-oriented squad. Heidi’s goal was to have a very well rounded dance team, which is what we were. After Heidi’s retirement from the team, Wendy Rogers took over. Wendy was also a former Sac Kings Fastbreak Dance Team member from my first year.
The greatest thing that the “Fastbreak Dance Team” taught me was perseverance. I did not make the team my first time auditioning. Even more challenging, I did not make it back after being on the team my first year. That taught me not only to be humble but not to take my position on the team for granted. I did later rejoin the team for an additional two years with was fantastic.
The season following my last year on Kings, I auditioned for and joined the Oakland Raiders as a member of the “Raiderettes.” The team was directed by Mary Barnes. Our head choreographer was Karen Kovac and assistant choreographer was Ramona Braganza. The Raiderettes was the first team I cheered for that had an even greater following beyond the local area of the team. I definitely felt the difference cheering for such a huge organization within the NFL. I had a great time cheering for them all three years.
My swan song as a pro cheerleader came as a member of the San Francisco 49ers, “Gold Rush Cheerleaders.” Again, there was such a mystique with cheering for the 49ers on “Goldrush” Like the Oakland Raiders, the 49ers had a huge fan base and I always felt the passion of the fans throughout the country on various promotional events.
One thing that sounds chiche’ but is very true in my case is the friendships that I made in my years of cheering. I had dance team members from all of the pro teams that I cheered for in my wedding party. Many of them are my closest friends to this day. The years that I cheered professionally were as follows:
1991- Sacramento Surge, “California Girls Cheerleaders”
1991-92 – Sacramento Kings, “Fastbreak Dance Team”
1994 – Sacramento Gold Miners, “Pure Gold Cheerleaders”
1994-96 – Sacramento kings, “Fastbreak Dance Team”
1996-99 – Oakland Raiders, “Raiderettes”
2000 – San Francisco 49ers, “Gold Rush Cheerleaders”
As for my life now, I feel like an average, everyday wife and mother. I have been married to my wonderful husband, Sean for six and a half years and we have a beautiful four year old son named J.C. (John Curtis). Like most mothers, I juggle home life with my job. I work for the California Prison Health Care Services.
On the side, I enjoy working out and taking fitness classes…Zumba is my favorite and I recently completed my instructor training in Zumba! I was drawn to Zumba because of the Latin dance influence as well as the fact that anyone can do it. It’s a ton of fun.