Get To Know: Dustin Velazquez

By Ashlee Buhler

“It’s all I could ever ask for.” 

That’s how Dustin Velazquez would sum up life lately. From coaching at his alma mater and helping the Navarro Bulldogs win its 16th NCA title to preparing to hit the road this summer as a member of House of Cheer, Velazquez is making an impact in more ways than one and loving every moment of his journey. 

Between his days as a cheerleader to his experiences as a coach, Velazquez has learned a lot along the way. He strives to use that knowledge to strengthen and inspire the future generations of cheerleaders for years to come. 

This summer he will tour the country with a star studded group of cheerleaders and performers who are making history and paving the way for future generations. Before he comes to your city, get to know him a little more here! 

You have a very long cheer resume! Walk me through your cheer journey up until this point.

I started off at a small gym in California that no longer exists anymore but they were called Supreme Cheer. I moved to another gym once they closed down called OC All-Stars in Orange County California. I stayed there for about three years and trained under Mandy Morgan, she is one of my cheerleading mentors and biggest inspirations in cheerleading. She cheered at Oklahoma State University and is just phenomenal. She taught me all of my collegiate coed skills and taught me how to throw pyramids, shoulder stands and things like that. During my time at OC All-Stars I also did NCA staff for two years and then I transitioned over to UCA staff for four years. I learned a lot under some really good mentors there in terms of how to be a collegiate cheerleader and really just honed in on my craft. During that time I was cheering at Navarro College from 2014 to 2015 and won a grand national championship with them. I was also on Cheer Athletics Wildcats in 2015. From there I moved on to Morehead State University and cheered there for three years. I cheered with my wife (Shannon) through this all! I cheered with her on OC All-Stars, at Navarro, and at Morehead State University.

From there I did Team USA in 2018 which was super fun and a really great experience. I graduated from Morehead in December of 2018 and competed partner stunt that year. I got third which was a really big deal for me and my personal accomplishments because I hit my routine – wouldn’t want it to go any other way. From there me and my wife decided we were gonna step away from cheerleading. We both went to work at Disney in California. I was a manager for the parks, so I managed the retail staff in the parks and my wife was a part of the product development team. We both started as interns in the college program after we graduated and basically worked our way up. Then Covid happened and we got furloughed. Me and my wife are both the type of people who don’t like to sit still and do nothing so we applied for other jobs and I ended up getting a position at UPS as an account manager in the corporate offices in Arizona. So we moved to Arizona and I was also coaching at CheerForce. We got third at Summit with my level 1 team. I also took a non-tumble level 6 team to Worlds that year. 

Then I applied for the coaching job at Grand Canyon University and was planning on doing that and Monica (Aldama) reached out to me and was like, ‘Hey I would love to have you come coach if you are interested.’ Going through that program and how much Monica taught me in my short time being there, I knew I had to jump at the opportunity! Even though it paid less than Grand Canyon and it would be a tough move for my family, I knew it was God calling me to Corsicana to coach Navarro. I really felt like I had to make it work and it really did pan out for the best. I feel like my role here now has been so impactful to so many kids that I’ve coached. Being a part of the program that molded me, and now I’m in a position to mold young adults, I feel like it’s all I could have ever asked for! It’s all I’ve ever wanted! It’s my purpose, it’s my drive, it’s my motivation. Win or lose, that doesn’t matter to me – more so that my athletes are successful and parents know that their kids are going to be taken care of and they’re going to be mentored. These kids are amazing and really inspiring in their own right. They are also insanely talented, so it makes my job really fun and really enjoyable. It’s a blessing for me to be in the position that I’m in and to guide and mentor them to be the best student athletes possible and teach them those life lessons! 

Was coaching something you always wanted to do? 

I’ve always coached! My second year of cheerleading I started teaching intro tumbling classes, like how to do a handstand and cartwheel, and just worked my way up to teaching the most elite athletes. Coaching has always been something I wanted to do. The reason I even got into cheerleading in the first place is because I have a black belt in Taekwondo and I was planning on being a martial arts instructor. Then being in LA when I was younger, I wanted to be a stuntman. I met this lady and she was like, ‘If you want to do that you have to know how to flip.’ I was like, ‘You’re right!’ I saw this girl who was a gymnast at my high school and I was like, ‘Where can I learn how to do that?’ She was like, ‘Come to the gym’ and I thought she meant like a work out gym. I showed up to the gym and was like, ‘What is this place?’ I didn’t even know cheer gyms existed! Her mom told me I needed to take a class and I was like, ‘Cheerleading? That’s not for me, I’m sorry.’ She was like, ‘It’s just tumbling, no pom poms.’ So I joined a class and learned a backflip in five minutes. They were like, ‘So we have this team…. You should join and we’ll teach you.’ They told me if I joined the team I’d get free access to the gym so I was like, ‘I’m in!’ So that’s how they got me into cheerleading. 

From your days as a cheerleader and a coach, what is the biggest lesson you have learned?

Mindset is everything. Having a positive mindset, being driven, having motivation and having your reason why… that’s 90% of the battle! They always say everything you do in life is hard until it’s not, and I feel like the majority of the time it’s your mindset. Are you willing to put in the work? Are you willing to grind? Are you willing to show up on time and leave late? I don’t think you can really be successful unless you have that drive. These kids do hundreds of thousands of reps to be successful and that’s what it really takes. Going back to my time at Navarro, that was something Monica really preached to us. If you’re not at 100%, you give 60% of the 60% you can give. You don’t always have to be 100% but whatever you can do, you should do! Going into my job at Disney it was so easy to be successful because all I had to do was show up on time, ask for extra work, and basically when somebody couldn’t do something or didn’t want to, I would step up and say ‘I can do it!’ I got promoted to a manager position in six months because I never missed a day of work. I always showed up and I always did my job. I wasn’t even the best at my job, I just showed up. People don’t realize that time is the most valuable thing that you can give. If you give your time, that’s more valuable than your talent. As the saying goes, if talent doesn’t work hard, it’s going to get beat by the people who do work hard. All you have to do is show up and show out and I’m telling you you’ll be more successful than anybody!

You went on tour last year with Cheer Live and now you are going back on tour this summer with House of Cheer! How excited are you?

So excited! Last tour we didn’t really hit the West Coast and I’m from the West Coast, so I’m beyond excited because I’ll be able to have my family watch me perform live on giant stages in front of thousands of people. It’s not a competition, it’s a show and a performance and something that they are going to be able to sit back and enjoy. I’m going to invite as many of my family as I can. Most of my family have never seen me do what I do, they just see the little clips I post on Instagram or Facebook, so getting them there to see me live is going to be a completely different experience and very surreal. That’s the exciting part, having so many friends and loved ones being able to enjoy what I enjoy for at least one night. 

What are your biggest hopes for House of Cheer? 

Never in a million years did I imagine myself performing for thousands of people on ginormous stages where some of the most mainstream performers have performed like Taylor Swift… Knowing that that opportunity is going to be given to all the kids that are coming up … I never thought I would be in the position that I am and I want to let them know that this opportunity is theirs. It’s for their future! And hopefully it’s even bigger and better than what I’m doing! I always say whenever I leave something, I want to leave it better and even more amazing than when I got there. My goal is to make it the best show possible for them to come watch, but then also for them to join in the future. I want it to continue on for years to come and I want kids of all ages to know that they have the opportunity to be a part of it and to continue to work hard and keep dreaming because it’s there for them. Hopefully I can stay involved with it somehow even when my body is not able to perform anymore and do the things it does. Hopefully I’m able to support them in a different role and cheer them on. 

For fans to get to know you better, what are some of your hobbies outside of cheerleading?

I have a few hobbies, some would call me a hobbyist [laughs]! I collect Funko Pops and I have a lot of them! I told them we should get Funko Pops made for the House of Cheer cast! That’s my dream, to have Funko Pop reach out and make them for all of us. My other thing is I really enjoy doing video and photography as a hobby. I’ve done some weddings and paid gigs, but it’s just really fun for me. I’ve done a lot of content for Navarro. I’m also a fish guy so I have an interest in salt water aquariums. I just love the ocean and water! Obviously being born in California I have a close tie to the water. 

What do you want people to know about you?

I’m a follower of Christ, I believe in Jesus Christ. I’m really loving and caring, and I try to follow Christ closely and share the word of God with people I’m close with and anybody who wants to hear about it. I lead a small bible study group here at the college and I’m involved with my church here in town. My religion is a big part of my life, so if there’s anything that people should know about me, it’s that I’m a christian. 

Also, my wife is my number one cheerleader and number one supporter. She’s the reason I’m able to do anything and everything. I give a lot of credit to my success in cheerleading to my wife because we learned together and we had each other’s backs through everything. She’s my rock and the backbone to everything I do. I have two beautiful kids and when I’m gone on tour she’s holding down the fort by herself and she’s just an amazing woman and anybody would be lucky to know her because she’s phenomenal! 

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