Durham Divas prove you are never too old to play

The Divas and Dude are in the Durham Bulls’ dugout preparing for a performance during Project Homeless connect. Divas and Dude founder Louise Gooch (second from the right) advises “What you did in your youth: let it carry over, as you grow older.” (Staff photo by Robert Berges)

Durham Senior Divas and Dude showing off their gold-medal-winning skills at Durham Bulls Athletic Park on Oct. 10. Louise Gooche said, “What you did in your youth: let it carry over, as you grow older.” Although, she didn’t start cheerleading until she founded the Divas at 62 years old. (Staff photo by Robert Berges)

Durham Senior Divas cheerleading squad is out to get you moving, and thinking positive. The mantra of the seven-time North Carolina Senior Games gold medalists is simple: “You don’t stop playing because you grow old; you grow old because you stop playing,”

But what keeps the Divas playing is that they have so much fun while they’re doing it. That’s why, as founder Louise Gooche explains, they’ve had to decline enticing offers from NASCAR, and Americas Got Talent.

Gooche explained, “They wanted us to be able to travel whenever they said travel, stay as long as they wanted us to stay; it was very, very binding. So, I thanked both of them for even thinking about us…we wanted to keep it as a fun type of thing, and just encourage people. I’m not in it to make money, or anything like that. It’s just strictly fun! That’s what we do!”

The 13 active “Divas and Dude” as they call themselves, range in age from 56 to 77 years old, and, as 10-year veteran Diva Edna Titus said, “We all met at the Y, and it just keeps us coming to the Y.”

Gooche explained that the Divas were born of an idea for a fun surprise at the Durham YMCA’s senior citizen Christmas party, but before they even made it that far, they were approached to be in a YMCA promotional video, and things just took off from there.

Gooche said, “It would continue to grow when people would see us practicing, and they’d ask us to come and do their events, and I thought, ‘Well, we need to get some uniforms!’ All we had was white shorts and red t-shirts. So, then we bought a set of uniforms, and then we really looked cute!”

This relationship with the YMCA has continued to be a mutually beneficial arrangement.

Britney Johnson, the American Tobacco Campus YMCA’s wellness director, said “All the proceeds [at the YMCA] go into programs that we have, such as Y Learning, our LIVESTRONG program, swimming lessons, things of that nature. The Divas volunteer their time, their services, to help bring awareness to the Durham community, and help raise money for our programs. They’ve been a big help with that, and, actually, all of what they do ties in with community.”

In return, the community gives back to the Divas. Gooche said, “[The YMCA] provides a place for us to rehearse twice a week. They also provide us with our sweat suits, our pom-poms, the megaphones, the uniforms, our flags. They will just continuously come to me and ask, ‘What do we need? How are things going?’ And if I say I would like to have something they say to order it, and it’s just as simple as that!”

Solo Dude Keith Williams said, “I never would have thought that at this point in my life I would be part of an award winning cheerleading group. I love to perform for the elderly in the nursing homes, and bring a little joy to their hearts, and let them know: once you become a senior, you don’t have to stop, you can still do something,”

Williams added, “We’re still looking for more Dudes! 55 and up!,” he said.


Full caption goes here. (Staff photo by Robert Berges)

Preparing to perform, from left to right, are Burnette Smith, Keith Williams, Louise Gooche, and Coach Althea Williams. “The best part about the Divas is the friendship and the sisterhood,” Williams said, “I think that [Divas and Dude] could be the best thing that ever happened to me.” (Staff photo by Robert Berges)