by Alexis S. Terry

Director, Diversity & Inclusion
ASAE: The Center for Association Leadership

When I close my eyes, I can recall the butterflies in my stomach, grueling team workouts, and the time in my life when yelling and cursing from superiors felt motivating. It was the first week of cheer camp. Although it was more than ten years ago, I recall a specific gymnastics routine when I lost focus for half of a second and caught the fall of a teammate from a three-tier pyramid with just my face and continued with the routine as if nothing happened. The shiner was an awesome souvenir to accompany our first-place trophy.

Lessons learned continue to influence my work ethic and values, including a determination to win and put more people in the game, a commitment to be the best squad, and an acute awareness of the need to challenge assumptions about our sport. Here are three routines that still influence my career:

1. Stick It!
Cheerleading and gymnastics teach the discipline of follow-through. Before major cheerleading competitions, our coach would say: “When you get out on those mats, I’m going to ask you not to be nice. Be bold. Stay focused. Stick it!” The same mantra and discipline is needed in my work. I embrace whatever “it” is—a task, commitment, workout routine, career objective—and see it through. The ability to say it and then to stay with it is critical to winning.

2. Take the good with the bad.
More than ten years ago, I was well aware of the stereotypes of cheerleaders. Our images of sports or athletes don’t often match our images of competitive cheering or cheerleaders. Still, the most subtle and pernicious labels led me to a greater appreciation for differences. Labels also taught me that in my career and in life, one of the greatest challenges is to remember that timing is important when competing or changing the game.

3. Diversity and inclusion isn’t just an industry: It’s an organizational imperative.
If you’re like many people, you’re probably thinking that competitive cheerleading is not a real sport. Similarly, sometimes when I tell people that I am a diversity and inclusion practitioner, they don’t believe it’s a real field or discipline in organizational management. For me, leading diversity is not just a hobby or activity organizations do, but the way to get things done.

When I wonder why we don’t have more practitioners in organizations, or competitive cheerleaders in school athletics, I’m reminded that the past is a present, and general awareness is still a goal of my work and sport.

Alexis S. Terry

Alexis S. Terry

Director of Diversity and Inclusion

Alexis Terry is director of diversity and inclusion at ASAE: The Center for Association Management in Washington, D.C. ASAE is a membership organization that serves 22,000 association executives. To read more about ASAE and its D+I Strategy, visit