Min: ODU Dynasty Dance Coach quit cheering for NFL’s …

NORFOLK, Va. – Dominick Fink was a cheerleader for the Jacksonville Jaguars, and if you’re not familiar with the world of NFL cheerleading, working for the Jags has opened many doors for her.

While the gig doesn’t pay much, the benefits are great. She danced with New Kids on the Block, Colt Ford and 69 Boys and at a concert with Cher and Nile Rodgers. She went to London four times and began doing commercials, including a series of ads for Carnival Cruise Line.

Eight times a year, she hit the turf at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville, dancing in front of more than 70,000 spectators and sometimes millions on television.

She joined the team for the fourth time in 2020 and was a returning captain.

She dreamed of becoming Miss America or going to Hollywood to become a dancer or actress.

But she was a single mom and her son, Preston, is on the spectrum. He was born with autism, and as he got older, Fink realized she needed help raising him.

“Doing it on my own was very difficult,” she said. “I couldn’t do it alone. So I came back and moved in with my family.”

She put her dreams aside, for now, and moved back home to Chesapeake, where her parents, Kenneth and Lesley Anderson, have been happy to help take care of their grandson.

And Jacksonville’s loss turned out to be Old Dominion University’s gain.

Last August, Fink became the coach of the ODU Dynasty Dance team and quickly used the lessons she learned in the NFL to instill a new sense of professionalism in the Monarch dance team.

“With all due respect to the previous coaches who did a great job, her experience in the NFL and the other life lessons she’s learned have all had a huge impact,” said Rachel Ayers, assistant coach for the ODU cheer squad.

“We’ve had fans come up to us and say that the dance team is different, that they’re still good dancers, but they’ve become so much more engaging.”

Her path to ODU was indirect. Ayers had resigned as cheer coach at Hickory High and was helping interview candidates to replace her. Fink interviewed, and although she didn’t accept the job due to other commitments, Ayers called Tara Lynne Cannon, ODU’s spirit squad and mascot coordinator, and told her she thought Fink was a perfect candidate to lead the Dynasty Dance team.

“Dominick’s NFL experience is what we needed to take our dance program to the next step and really increase our participation numbers,” said Carolyn Crutchfield, ODU’s executive senior athletic director

Her path to the Jaguars was not smooth.

Eight years ago, as an 18-year-old ODU sophomore, Fink was an up-and-coming member of the Dynasty Dance Team.

She had already won the Miss District of Columbia pageant two years earlier and had made it to the Washington Redskins Cheerleaders before having to drop out due to injury.

But when she found out she was pregnant at the age of 18, her world turned upside down. And although the timing was far from optimal, she embraced motherhood.

Her parents and other family members “were very adamant that I do what I thought was best for me. And I knew what was best for my future and my son was to finish my education.”

She went back to school on campus and struggled at times. In her first semester back, she failed two classes – the first she had ever failed. She said the ODU professors were helpful, and some allowed her to bring Preston to class.

She moved to be near friends in Jacksonville, Florida, and while working two jobs, completed her ODU degree online.

ODU Online, now known as ODU Global, proved to be the best option for her.

ODU Online allowed NFL Cheerleader to graduate from ODU

“The lessons were great and everything was organized,” she said.

Cannon said Fink’s relatively young age — she’s 26 — allows the dancers to relate to her.

“They have a unique relationship,” she said. “She’s able to say to them, ‘I was in your shoes not too long ago. I understand what it takes to be a Dynasty Dancer and what it takes to go on and dance professionally.’ “

Cassidy Scott, a junior member of the dance team from Washington, D.C., said Fink changed “the dynamic of the team.”

“It’s far more powerful, far more positive.”

Dominick Fink cheers on the Jacksonville Jaguars

Pausing for a few seconds, she added, “She’s literally the most amazing person I’ve ever met.”

She says this, among other things, because in addition to coaching and parenting, Fink has recently obtained her master’s degree in applied behavior analysis and is now working on her doctorate in special education.

Fink says she went back to school so she can do more to help her son.

“I just wanted to educate myself for my son,” she said. “I had no idea what I was getting into when he was diagnosed, and I wanted to educate myself on what I could do to help him and make his life easier.”

Life is not always easy for parents of children on the spectrum, whose condition is often caused by a developmental delay in the brain. Exactly what causes autism in many children is not fully understood.

Autistic children often have delayed speech and communication skills, may be disturbed by minor changes in their environment, and may have anxiety, attention problems or depression. There are different degrees of autism, with some able to live independently as adults, while others need support throughout their lives.

Preston has Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and sensory processing issues in addition to autism. But while attending ODU basketball games, Preston smiles and loves watching the dancers he has bonded with.

“He’s the sweetest little boy,” Fink said. “You know, every day is different with him. You never know what you’re going to get.

“But I think that’s what makes it fun. He’s a hard worker. He’s just a really good kid. He tries so hard.

“I take him to practice sometimes. He’s developed relationships with the team. Everyone on the breath team loves him. He’s just a happy kid.”

Tara Lynne Cannon and Dominick Fink

Fink was no stranger to adversity before she came to ODU. She was withdrawn and shy as a child, so her mother put her in dance lessons. She was a natural and blossomed into an excellent dancer.

But when she was 12, Fink underwent several surgeries after temporarily losing her hearing.

Doctors told her to stop dancing for a while to give her time to heal from the surgery.

But she didn’t listen and started dancing almost immediately. She eventually suffered some hearing loss, which she said probably happened because she stubbornly went back to dancing too soon.

She has to wear a hearing aid, but she rarely does.

“I’ve become an expert at lip reading,” she jokes.

Almost two years to the day after her surgery, she tried out for the Governor’s School of the Performing Arts as a ballet dancer and made the cut.

Her surgery, dance and hearing loss did not affect her schoolwork – she graduated from Western Branch High School a year early.

“I was just getting ready for college,” she said.

Because she has faced adversity, she can relate to what her dancers are going through and her dancers can relate to her.

“They know if they’re struggling in class to tell me before it gets worse,” she said. “They also know that mental health is extremely important to me, so they know if they’re having a rough day to come and tell me so we can work something out.”

She has 10 dancers on her team, and her goal is to double that number by next season.

When she recruits dancers, she is honest about what she wants to ask of them. They train two days a week, and she often makes them run on a third day to increase their endurance.

Most people dance at basketball games on both Thursday and Saturday nights.

They must meet the same academic standards set for student-athletes to remain eligible, and although dance is not a varsity sport, they receive academic advising and have access to mental health care offered by ODU Athletics.

“I’m tough on them because I know the skills they have,” she said. “I know what they are capable of doing.”

As for the curves life has thrown her, Fink is philosophical.

“I really believe that everything happens for a reason,” she said.

“Preston changed my life for the better. He forced me to grow up. You know, I can think about things in my career before I had Preston. I wanted to be Miss USA, to be Miss America.

“But I wouldn’t change a thing.

“He’s my everything. I’m going to school for him to be a better mom and help him and just navigate life. I just want to make it as easy as possible for him, to be the best advocate for him that I can possibly be.”

As for her dreams of cheering in the NFL, she hasn’t completely closed the door.

“I always think in the back of my mind that maybe I’ll come back, you know, maybe to another team, dip my toes in it and try again,” she said.

“I don’t know if I’ll hang up my pom poms yet. You never know. I don’t know where I’ll end up in a year or two.

“But right now, at this moment in time, for me it’s about my son and focusing on making a better life for him.”

Cannon knows a thing or two about motherhood. Less than a year ago, she almost lost her son during childbirth.

Tara Cannon almost lost her son in childbirth

She admires Fink’s dedication to his son.

“She put her dreams aside to be here and take care of her child,” she said. “Some people forget that mothers have dreams and aspirations. But at the end of the day, mom will put that aside to do what’s best for her child.

“She put all that behind her to be a mom. She’s just a beautiful person inside and out.”

Contact Minium at hminium@odu.edu or follow him on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram

Is ODU a Division 1 school?

Former names
Norfolk Division of College of William & Mary (1930â1962) Old Dominion College (1962â1969)Sporting affiliations
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Is ODU a Tier 1 school? ODU ranked in the top tier of 1,500 national institutions of higher education evaluated for the 2022-2023 report, placing 156th among public schools. See the article : Ping pong, pool tables, basketball dunking contests & voice leaders turning to team trick games is how Argentina went down in front of the quarters.. Additionally, Old Dominion remained a top performer in promoting social mobility, ranking 140th.

When did ODU become d1? ODU elevated its athletic programs from NCAA Division II status to Division I in 1976 and competed as a member of the East Coast Athletic Conference (ECAC) from 1977 to 1982.

What division is ODU in?

Is ODU a d1 or d2? The Monarchs compete in the NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) and are members of the Sun Belt Conference (SBC); university attended the conference on July 1, 2022. See the article : A handful of former Falcons nominated for the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2023. Fight, Old Dominion!

When did ODU leave CAA? Because ODU had announced it would leave the CAA to join Conference USA in 2013 to move up to the Football Bowl Subdivision, the league declared the Monarchs ineligible for team titles in all sports.

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Is ODU Lgbtq friendly?

Is ODU a division 1 football? The 2021 Old Dominion Monarchs football team represented Old Dominion University in the 2021 NCAA Division I FBS football season. The Monarchs played their home games at S. See the article : In the new world of the Dallas Cowboys cheerleader.B. Ballard Stadium in Norfolk, Virginia, and competed in the East Division of Conference USA (CUSA).

What is ODU best known for? As one of the most affordable public doctoral universities in Virginia, ODU offers a valuable, high-quality education. ODU is ranked “Best National University” and “Best Online Bachelor’s Programs” by the U.S. News & World Report.

  • Which college has the most LGBT? These universities have also all been featured in the QS World University Rankings® 2021.
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Pennsylvania State University.

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