BELT — As the head cheerleading coach at Belt High School, Andrea Visocan teaches routines, chants and drills to her team. Those are learned exercises.
But the things you can’t teach are enthusiasm and spirit. You either have them or you don’t. And luckily for Belt, senior cheerleader Madisyn Lords has more than enough for the entire gym.
“I’ve been Madisyn’s cheerleading coach since her sophomore year. It’s been a lot of fun to watch her and see her grow,” Visocan said. “She’s probably the biggest Husky fan at Belt. When the Huskies are winning, she’s hyped up. When the Huskies are down, she gets really upset. She loves to cheer for the Huskies and it’s just so much fun to watch her.”
Madisyn, or “Mad-Dogg” as her classmates calls her, lives with Down syndrome. But that’s never stopped her from showcasing her Husky pride and putting smiles on faces during every Belt athletic event.
“I love it,” Madisyn said. “People tell me good job.”
Madisyn enjoys the spotlight and loves to perform. She has attended Belt sporting events since she was little, so cheerleading was a natural fit.
“We were thinking about a sport that Madisyn could do and she was always coming to the games anyway,” said her mother, Tracy Lords. “She just really got into the dance part and the music part. Also she’s a people person.”
Madisyn was a little hesitant to be interviewed for this story. But then after the Belt volleyball team swept Augusta in straight sets on Thursday night, she called over fellow seniors Sabrina Wing and Anna Pethel to flank her, and she was all smiles.
“These are my besties,” Madisyn said as she wrapped both of her classmates up in a big hug. “I cheer for Sabrina and Anna, and they’re doing good. We won!”
In today’s world, many people with intellectual disabilities still face discrimination and obstacles to inclusion.
But not Madisyn and not in Belt.
“It’s the perfect place for Madisyn. We have never ever ever had a problem with bullying. In fact, she’s probably more likely to bully other kids,” Tracy laughed. “She can take care of herself, her teachers take care of her, her senior class takes care of her. All different teams come to visit Madisyn, so we’ve never had a problem.”
And the love between Madisyn and Belt goes both ways. There’s nothing she can’t do with the Huskies by her side.
“All of my cheerleaders, we do it all together,” Madisyn said.
She’s the heart and soul of the Belt cheerleading team and makes sure everyone is engaged when the Huskies are playing.
“She does everything she can possibly do,” Visocan said. “She loves to dance and that’s one of the most fun things to watch her do at the games. When the band is playing that’s Madisyn’s thing.”
We could all stand to learn something from Madisyn’s example.
“Madisyn is very chipper,” her mother said. “She loves cheer and she just lives for cheer. A very enthusiastic gal, who likes to put smiles on people’s faces.”