By Oliva Dow
As the Arizona Rattlers’ new dance team director, Shelby Underwood wants to deliver a great experience to her fellow Sidewinders.
“I had an amazing experience as a Sidewinder under the previous director, Angie Baker, and she created an amazing program,” says Underwood, an ASU graduate.
“I am here to facilitate the team, hold them accountable, but ultimately, I want to empower them to also become leaders and take a lot away from the experience, just like I did.”
Underwood was promoted to director from assistant director for the 2021 season.
She started with the Sidewinders from 2011 to 2013, when she was a captain. Underwood left to join the Arizona Cardinals cheer team, for whom she performed for three seasons.
“We had so many great experiences and opportunities, so I’m grateful for that, and then I was able to move and transition into a coaching role now,” Underwood says.
“It’s so exciting to see my team get to do those same things that I felt were so fulfilling.”
Before her work with the Sidewinders, Underwood earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from ASU. A longtime dancer, she realized how much she missed it when she auditioned for the Sidewinders in 2011.
“My passion for dance started at a young age, and I knew it was something that I just missed in my life,” Underwood says. “I’ve left these teams with lifelong friendships as well. And I know I’m really fortunate to be able to continue to pursue that.”
As the director, Underwood will pick up where the Sidewinders left off. The Rattlers paused the cheer team’s performances because of the COVID-19 pandemic. She says she encouraged the team to stay connected and support each other.
“What I’m looking forward to this season is just being back on the field with this team,” Underwood says. “We have such an amazing group of dancers. They’re all well-rounded, extremely talented, very positive. And after having a break from dance, I think we’ve all missed it so much. It’s something that we’re so passionate about, and I’m excited to hit the field with this team this season.”
Underwood’s team goal is flexibility and the ability to get back on the field — when that time comes.
“We’re (looking) forward to being prepped for game day, and we’ll make sure that happens and in any capacity,” Underwood says.
She’s also enthusiastic about connecting with the community once again.
“With pro cheer, you not only have the opportunity to pursue your passion and what you really enjoy, which is dance and performance, but we also get the opportunity to really connect with the community,” Underwood says.
“We get to be out in the community, not only representing what we love to do but representing an organization and the experiences that come along with that. I think you remember for the rest of your life.”
Underwood is finished dancing, but she feels “really lucky” to have the director role.
“I just hope that I continue the positive trajectory that the program is on and continue to allow a lot of personal growth among my dancers,” Underwood says. CT