LAUGHLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Texas—He was stationed at Laughlin in 2016, and by 2018, the renowned cheerleader helped make it possible for a local Del Rio, Texas, team to win a national cheerleading championship.
For Maj. Owen-John Williams, 47th Medical Group Mental Health Flight commander and Amistad Eagles assistant cheerleading coach, cheerleading was a way of life since he was 15-years-old.
He describes his first experience with cheerleading as challenging and fun, which carried over to when he went to college and cheered for the University of Oklahoma, Okla. When Williams went on to the University of Oklahoma, he cheered for their co-ed team. He and his wife-to-be, Lindsey, met through the sport as she cheered for the school’s all-girl team.
“We both taught cheerleading at summer camps for the National Cheerleaders Association, coached high school and all-star teams together, judged competitive cheerleading competitions—including college events—and traveled as a family to Daytona Beach and Disney World, Fla., for cheerleading competitions,” Williams said. “It’s definitely been a constant in our lives that we’ve bonded over.”
Years later, after completing college and commissioning in the Air Force, Williams and his family still base much of their lives on going to the gym, practicing cheer, and competing together with a local Del Rio cheerleading team, the Amistad Eagles.
“It has been such a blessing to have someone of William’s caliber help coach the team,” said DeeAnn Reavis, Amistad Eagles coach. “He just appeared one day, and we became friends from there.”
After judging a few competitions and seeing the team’s philosophy—‘perfection before progression’—Williams brought his daughter, Avery, to join the Eagles. He also began assisting Reavis in her mission to coach the girls to greatness, earning him the name “Coach OJ” amongst the team.
“Being from a small town, the girls didn’t have many opportunities to train with highly experienced cheerleaders,” said Reavis. “Because of Lindsey and OJ, they were able to get more opportunities and excellent training.”
“Working with young athletes is a true passion of mine,” said Lindsey Williams, Amistad Eagles assistant cheerleading coach. “I love going to the gym, coaching and pushing the athletes to do their best. There could be no greater gift than to have the opportunity to impact a young person's life through coaching a sport I love.”
Lindsey truly appreciates the character-building opportunity cheerleading, or any sport, offers to her family.
“I am so proud to see my kids performing, no matter the sport, but it hits a sweet spot when it’s cheerleading,” Lindsey said. “I know the hard work and dedication it takes to perform under pressure. I am thankful for the abilities that God has given Avery to compete, and I am forever thankful for the long-lasting relationships built through this sport.”
Lindsey went on to describe why she believes the team is so successful.
“OJ is truly the hardest worker I know,” Lindsey said. “He comes home from active duty every day and puts on his coaching hat. His dedication to the fundamentals of "perfection before progression" and his ability to use psychological preparation with the team set them apart on a whole new level. He helps train them to be mentally strong as well as physically. A mentally strong team is a team that can’t be beat.”
The Williams worked with the team throughout the past two years. He coaches them weekly through the off-season and two days a week for two and a half hours during the lengthy cheerleading season. They train so much so they have a shot at earning bids, which could possibly be a team’s ticket to a fully-paid trip to a national competition. Every year, a competition called the Summit takes place at Walt Disney’s ESPN Wide World of Sports in Orlando, Fla.
The Amistad Eagles stood out during a competition in the fall 2017 in San Antonio, Texas, where the team landed a wild card bid—their path to the Summit.
“Summit is the pinnacle event of the competitive cheer season, so each year the goal is to ‘climb the mountain!’” Williams said. “It’s an annual competition, so the minute the team is selected, we have Summit on the mind!”
More than a year out, they were already signing up to compete. The team placed into D-2 Summit since they were a team with fewer than 120 athletes.
Before long, the competition day arrived, and the team traveled down to Florida for D-2 Summit. According to Avery,13, performing at nationals was amazing, and the energy the team had was at its peak.
What happened next is unusual for a wild card team: the Amistad Eagles won the national championship.
“It was a cascade of emotions, all crashing into one another” recalled Williams. “I specifically remember saying out loud ‘We did it! We did it! We did it!’ over and over and over.”
Avery—who is working toward following her parents’ footsteps at the University of Oklahoma—described training for Summit as very intense.
“Winning was such a mix of emotions that is so hard to capture in words,” Avery said. “It was phenomenal—amazing! It was one of the best experiences of my life.”
Lindsey said it was amazing to see the progress the team made during her family’s time with them because of the strong technique Reavis instills in the athletes.
“The precision of execution these athletes use is really wonderful,” Lindsey said. “They have taken their base of perfection and continued to progress. I knew this team could do great things, but they beyond exceeded my expectations! The Amistad Eagles put the town of Del Rio on the map for cheerleading!”
After winning the Summit, the team celebrated the hard work they had put in, but after returning to Del Rio, they returned to their cycle of training.
Their next goal, Williams informed, is to win an NCA National Championship and qualify for the D2 Summit and U.S. Finals National Championships.
An Oklahoma boy developed a unique interest in cheerleading at a young age, which he took with him to college. There he met his wife who shared a love for the sport as well, and they had a family in whom they instilled a love for sports.
Since college, the military has taken Williams and his family numerous places where he has shared his passion for cheer. Moreover, he shared that passion and knowledge in Del Rio’s community, helped lead a local team to a major award, and continues to work toward even greater goals in the future.