USA Coed coaching legend Leroy McCullough has spent years perfecting his passion and leading athletes on their journeys to become champions. From his favorite skills to his coaching philosophy we found out what makes this world-renowned coach tick.
Meet USA Coed Coach Leroy McCullough!
Varsity TV: How did you begin your cheerleading career?
McCullough: I didn't start cheering until college. I started cheering because of a girl that I went to high school with at Pine Forest High in Fayetteville, NC, who taught me a toss chair after a basketball game. Gwen Holtzclaw, who founded Cheer Limited, is one of my good friends from high school's mom, and going to visit her camps exposed me to the athleticism of cheerleaders.
I started college at North Carolina A&T State University and transferred home to Methodist College, which is where I started cheering competitively. One of my teammates there transferred to the University of South Carolina, and she introduced me to her coach, Bill Boggs, and I went to cheer there the following year. After graduating from Carolina, I worked for a couple of years before deciding to pursue a master's degree. At this point, I was at my highest skill level as an athlete, so I accepted an invitation to cheer at the University of Louisville.
After graduating from U of L, I managed and coached at GymTyme All Stars for two years before moving to Oklahoma. I started coaching at Twist and Shout and at Oklahoma State in 2004. Took over OSU in February and took them to nationals in April. I coached at T&S, OSU, and several area high schools until 2012.
I got invited to coach the U.S. national team for the first time in 2011. I have coached at Cheer Athletics since 2014. I now coach Claw6.
- GymTyme Allstars 2000-2004
- University of Louisville assistant coach 2002-2004
- Twist and Shout Allstars 2004-2012
- Oklahoma State University 2004-2012
- Cheer Athletics 2013-present
- U.S. National Team 2011-present
What were some of your signature stunting and tumbling skills?
Round-off one-arm rewind to awesome back in the summer of 2002 was my favorite that ever did.
What about cheerleading has sucked you in and kept you apart of the industry for so long?
"I think the idea of holding people over my head is what literally drew me into cheer. The challenge of trying to create new things, or new variations of skills is what keeps it fun and exciting."
But the biggest vacuum that cheerleading has for me personally is the community. I have met some of my best friends through this industry. Some of my most memorable experiences involve cheerleading or cheer people. Whether it be the places that I have visited or the opportunities that God has blessed me with, His delivery system for my life was through cheerleading. Getting to work with people from all over the nation and the world is awesome. But getting to share these opportunities and to put others on the path to their own opportunities is by far my favorite part.
I only have one sibling, but I have some HUGE families that are lifelong connections. My PUCG, FTS-ITS, GTWJDM, G3FCA2A, U of L, and Carolina alumni and my SuperFriends all have permanent places in my heart.
When did you know you wanted to become a coach?
I started in 1995. I didn't know I wanted to be a coach. I knew I needed a job, and a coaching position at the Carolina Cheerleading Academy had opened and I just jumped in. I figured it was just like custom coaching at camp, just more often... Not true. That was a massive underestimation!
How great is it to have the opportunity to coach some of the greatest athletes in the world through your time with USA Cheer?
Coaching the U.S. national team is truly an honor. I am thankful for the opportunity every day. To get to coach the level of athletes that we do amazing. It's the best of the best from all the college programs around the country... When I hear people talking about the athletes that have been on this team and the regard that their peers hold them in, it is a good feeling to know that we as a staff get the chance to work with these kids and build them into a cohesive unit representing our nation.
Some of them, you see on social media, or you've seen in competitions, and you recognize their talents and their drive, but when you actually get to coach them and go through rough patches of the preparation process, that's when you actually get to learn about them as people. That's the best part for me. Because, even though our time with these teams is short, it's very intense, and I strongly believe that a person's truest character is unveiled in times of adversity.
What would you say is your coaching philosophy?
This is a tough one because I feel like I have a lot of them. I don't know where they have come from, because I have absorbed so many influences from people that I have worked with over the years. I think that my competitive coaching philosophy is "work to beat this routine." Not "work to beat your opponent," not "work to beat the routine from last year," just beat this routine that you are in. A good routine that is built for success is NOT going to be easy. So, as an athlete, you don't really have the luxury to worry about anything other than your job.
As soon as you lose sight of your responsibility to the team, it sets off a chain reaction of other negatives. So, I encourage them, don't worry about what others are doing, don't worry about the judges. That is the coach's responsibility. You focus on the section that you are in, and then when that is done, focus on the next one, and continue this until you get to the end result, which will be you hitting the best routine possible. We talk about ZERO routines all the time, and that means a zero-deduction routine, but it also means a ZERO REGRET routine too. Give it everything you have so you won't regret holding back after you are done.
What are some of your favorite cheerleading memories as an athlete? As a coach?
My favorite memory as a cheerleader would be my first game cheering at the University of South Carolina. I remember that feeling of standing on the sideline of Sanford Stadium at the University of Georgia and looking up and not being able to see the top rows of the stadium. Cheering SEC football cannot be beaten… No way no how!
As a coach, I would have to say USA 2016. It was the best executed, most difficult routine that I have ever had the honor of being a part of.
What is the most rewarding part of your job as a coach?
The most rewarding part of the job for me is just hearing that I have positively impacted these athletes off the mat. If there is a chance that at least one of the messages or lessons that we discussed resonates with them to the point where it makes a positive change in their life, then it's a win. The hit routines and success on the floor is amazing, and the chase for those feelings is part of the fun. But the result from seeing athletes flourish in the rest of their lives is the absolute best part. Whether it be as students, coaches, business people, or parents, it's really cool to hear that you had any level of impact on them.
Fun Facts With Leroy
Leroy met his wife, Brandy, at NCA Nationals! The cheer-tastic couple said "I do" and sealed the deal just like any other cheer couple would, with a celebratory stunt!