Former Panther Paw and Texas Tech University Pom Squad member Cassidy Ray is taking on the challenge of reforming the University of Texas Permian Basin dance team.
Ray is the daughter of Odessa Collegiate Academy Principal James Ramage and Stephanne Ramage. Ray was hired this past May as the new head coach of the UTPB dance team.
“There has not been a team in three years, so it’s a brand new team. We’re just starting out. We are doing auditions throughout the summer,” Ray said.
Ray, who is from Odessa, danced at Texas Tech for three years and was an assistant coach.
“I knew that I wanted to come back home and I knew this program had disappeared, so when I got the call about this program returning I was so excited because our town team needs another program like that. We have such a strong dance community and it was just perfect that I was moving back home and looking for a job and it just really worked out. As soon as I heard about it, I knew I had to try and get it,” Ray said.
Ray has been cheering and dancing since she was 3 years old.
“I just fell in love with it from the time I was 3 and started competing when I was 7 and I competed for 10 years at Tammie Locklar’s Dance Studio. I was on varsity Panther Paws for three years and I was captain my senior year. And then I was on Tech Pom squad for three years and assistant coach for one, so it’s been 19 years,” she said.
As an athlete at Tech, Ray said she won three national championships and two this past season as an assistant coach.
“It is a very highly competitive team and I still work closely with my coach as a colleague now,” Ray said.
She added that she loves teaching and has been doing so since she was 15 at Tammie Locklar Dance Studio.
“I love helping girls figure out new things and I love being able to help girls in the process because a lot of times it’s hard to figure out things when you’re doing it yourself, so it helps to have an extra set of eyes. I think dancing in college was one of the best opportunities I had in my life, so to give that to other girls would be amazing,” Ray said.
Building the program at UTPB is a thrilling concept.
“I feel like it’s a great opportunity for a fresh start and I feel like with my experiences I’ve kind of seen different programs across the nation that I’ve come in contact with from traveling and I’ve seen what works and what doesn’t work. I came from a very well established program and I’m excited to be able to give that to our community,” Ray said.
Adrian Lodge, director of student engagement, said the university is pleased to have Ray leading the team.
“… Cassidy brings a wealth of knowledge and dance experience to campus and, with her leadership, we are confident this program will grow and succeed,” Lodge said in an email. “Spirit groups are important to UT Permian Basin. Bringing back the dance team is something the university has wanted to do for quite some time so we are excited to bring it back and allow dancers the opportunity to compete and dance at a collegiate level.”
The dance team will start working some this summer, but things will get more serious in August.
“We’ll be attending all the sporting events for the university and community outreach and just working our way through everything we need to for student events; university events. I know the community will request appearances from the girls, too, so we’ll just kind of have our outreach everywhere we can,” Ray said.
She added that she has been in contact with both Odessa high schools and is still working on reaching out to the high schools in Midland.
“I feel like this program will spark a lot of interest pretty quickly once we get it started just because a lot of kids are not moving away from home. Having a four-year university like UTPB in our community and then having a place where you can continue doing what you love at a college level I think will have a lot of interest for a lot of girls here,” Ray said.
Ray has a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Tech.
She and her husband, Blake, who works for Swiftwater Resources, have an 8-month-old son, Brant.
Her parents and brother are in Odessa and her husband’s family is from Midland.
“As much as we did love Lubbock, both of our career paths were kind of leading us back that direction and after having our son with both of our parents there; I still have a brother that goes to Permian, so being able to be there for all of that was really a big pull. Then once I got this opportunity kind of reached out to me, we both kind of decided that’s exactly where we wanted to go,” Ray said.