Former Adamson drill team passes baton

Leopardettes of the past bridge the generation gap

When former Adamson High School Leopardette Sue Roberts, class of ’61, was asked to dust off her drill team baton for a reunion performance this spring, she never could have predicted the impact that twirling performance would have.

The result was Adamson High School’s drill team director, Kelly Bates, and principal, Evangeline Kircher, asking Roberts and the other self-proclaimed “vintage Leopardettes” to teach the current drill team the art of the twirl, resurrecting a 31-year-old Adamson tradition.

It all started in April when Leopardette alumni Deanna Sackett-Venable had the idea of reuniting former Leopardettes for a surprise twirling performance at the 11th annual Adamson all-class reunion.

“It was just like riding a bike,” Roberts says. “None of us had ever thought we would twirl again.”

After six weeks of rehearsal, the vintage ’dettes took the stage, brought down the house, and caught the eyes of current Leopardettes.

Adamson High School alumnae Sue Tucker Roberts, Donna Jones Stice, Suzanne Bass and Deanna Sackette Venable (from left to right) have a few things to teach the current generation of Leopardettes. PHOTO BY BENJAMIN HAGER

“During rehearsals in the auditorium, we noticed some members of the drill team would come to watch,” Roberts says. “Each rehearsal would bring more girls. They wanted to know what it was like to be on the team all those years ago; they wanted to hear our stories and know what we did.”

Roberts and the other vintage ’dettes told the girls how the team had twirled batons from 1950–81, how they had led the Cotton Bowl parade, and how the leaders of the Leopardettes had twirled fire batons.

“We didn’t know the history,” Leopardettes senior captain Jocelyn Sarmiento says. “We didn’t know they twirled, and we were so excited when we found out!”

Once Leopardette director Kelly Bates saw how excited her girls were about twirling, she says she “couldn’t think of any reason not to bring it back.” This summer, the vintage ’dettes will teach the current team the basics of baton twirling for use in their 2011 half-time routines.

“It has really been great for all of us … it’s incredible exercise, and all of our doctors are thrilled we’re doing it,” Roberts says.

The vintage ’dettes hope that this opportunity opens the door to a larger mentoring opportunity.

“My Leopardette experience was not just about twirling; it was a lifestyle full of lofty goals, ideals, behavior and grade expectations, and accomplishments,” Roberts says. “The Leopardettes was a safe place where I could learn the skills I needed later in adult life.”

“Being a Leopardette was like being Miss America,” says Roberts. “Now we are reliving the dream. Never in a million years did I think this could happen.”

About the Author:

Meghan Riney
Meghan Riney is the Advocate marketing director and business writer. Email her.                                                                                                                                                    


  1. Reed McKay August 5, 2011 at 2:43 PM

    Thanks for this great artical. I did not attend Adamson but went to James Bowie with alot of the class from 63′ to 65′. I attended S.O.C. but dated many of the talanted Leopardettes. The drill team was great and all enjoyed the half times at the football games. This artical has brought back many great memories.

  2. K.R.R. Muha July 25, 2011 at 11:12 PM

    Just reading this article gives me chills. Being a life-long friend of L.Legend S.Bass, I’ve seen the discipline, energy, and spirit that went into those early morning practices in the last weeks of summer vacations. I knew it was special at the time and think it’s GREAT that y’all have brought it back to the future. Leopardettes, You Rock!

  3. Don Coke July 25, 2011 at 12:26 PM

    “Gee, why weren’t they here when I was here!” was my response to seeing the Alum Leopardettes on stage at the All-Class Reunion of 2011 (this 1944 grad waa nearly a decade ahead of their formation). But, what is really amazing is to see their dedicated work with this generation of Leopardettes in teaching twirling and dance steps and a renewal of the values of teamwork and group spirit. The actions of these women has an energy and vitality and dedication that makes it difficult to believe they could have matched it as teenagers. Lead On Leopardettes!!!

  4. Kelly Bates July 23, 2011 at 1:53 PM

    I am honored to be a part of this team. These ladies both legends and current members have truely motivated me.

  5. Beverly Pfieffer Walker July 23, 2011 at 9:18 AM

    The minute I laid eyes on the group of Leopardettes performing at the first pep rally of the football season in 1961, I knew I had to be a Leopardette, too. It was such an honor to join this elite group and there were such high character and scholastic standards for not only making the squad, but performing at each event, that the pride I felt then at being a part of that group continues to this day. It’s wonderful to hear that the original Leopardette values and traditions will be revived.

  6. Deanna Sackett-Venable July 22, 2011 at 11:11 PM

    Thank you Benjamin and our most sincere thanks to The Advocate for this beautiful tribute, honoring a tradition spanning three decades at W. H. Adamson High School. The Leopardette Legends (former Leopardettes) are elated to be back at our alma mater and help bring back the historic tradition of ‘baton twirling’ to the 2011 Leopardettes drill team of Adamson High School of Oak Cliff. The current Leopardettes drill team, are a very special group of young ladies with determination, commitment and true Leopard spirit! We’re proud to serve, preserve and honor an old Adamson High School tradition! On You Leopards!

  7. Bruce Pfieffer July 22, 2011 at 6:45 PM

    Thanks for this story and the video! My sister (Adamson class of ’62) was a Leopardette, and I was always impressed with their skills when I was at Adamson (class of ’70). They were one of the few girl’s drill teams in the state and in the country, who twirled batons (along with splits and backbends) and we were majorly proud of them! It’s great to see and hear that after 30 years, a good tradition is coming back – especially to Adamson, a school that has many, many alums who still love her!

  8. Suzanne Bass July 22, 2011 at 5:41 PM

    Thank you so much for publishing this story. We “Leopardette Legends” are so very proud of what the current Leopardettes have accomplished in such a short time we’ve been together this summer. When we were at practice yesterday, there were a number of people in the audience. I overheard one student say, “They really have a lot of school spirit!” That’s one of the reasons the Leopardettes were formed in 1950, and has always been a primary function of the fabulous drill team…the ONLY twirling high school drill team in Texas, 1950-1981. And now, 2011 and beyond!

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