NDSU cheerleaders are defending former coach after allegations

FARGO, N.D. (Valley News Live) – That’s the story we brought you first. Our investigative team uncovered allegations of abuse against former NDSU cheerleading coach Verona Winkler. “I guess I was just sad,” said the former NDSU cheerleader from 2008-2011.

Kristina Wood, who also supported the team from 2001 to 2004, said: “I’m really shocked by the allegations to be honest.” Some former cheerleaders are now coming to Winkler’s defense. “These actions that are being taken are unfair,” said Shad Heffernan, another former cheerleader from 2001 to 2004. She was said to have an “old school” coaching style, but that was never a cause for concern. “She was difficult. She told you what you needed to hear and what you didn’t want to hear,” said Matt Welt, who was on the team from 2001 to 2006. Kelly Mallette, a cheerleader at NDSU from 2002 to 2008. “She was always very tough, but I’m also a soldier myself and I’ve had a lot of coaches. It’s nowhere near the firmness I’m used to,” she added.

This group of athletes says they are not discrediting those who have spoken out, but say their experience is far from what others claim. Another former cheerleader, who asked not to be named, said: “I never felt like she was overreacting or expecting too much.” One of the biggest complaints was that Winkler forced some cheerleaders to perform due to injuries. “If it was too much, we would have told her I can’t cheer today, I’m in pain,” Welt said. “We always sat outside. We didn’t have to go through the injury.”

Heffernan added, “have we personally passed the time? That. I can say 100% that there were times when I didn’t feel it, but if we had a competition or performance, something had to be done. I did.” Some say they expect that kind of coaching at the collegiate level. “Any athlete, any sport at that collegiate level you don’t go into expecting it to stay the same. You’re forced to get better,” the former cheerleader said.

They also believe that the generation gap can explain their differences in experiences. “The mentality is different so I could definitely see how her style could be misunderstood,” Wood said. Through it all, these individuals believe Winkler genuinely cared for all the cheerleaders she coached over the years. “Not once did we doubt her training, where she comes from. Her heart. She really cared about us and we all felt it,” said the former cheerleader.

Winkler has resigned as NDSU’s cheerleading coach after two decades. Valley News Live tried to reach Winkler but has not yet heard back.

Copyright 2022 KVLY. All rights reserved.

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