By Josh Beavers
Lakeside joined teams from across the region last week for the UCA Cheer camp at Louisiana Tech.
Fifteen squads attended, and participants learned cheers, chants, dances, stunts, and pep rally ideas for next school year. There was instruction and guidance for improving technique for all skills.
They received private coaching time with professional staff members. Also, they learned by watching older, more experienced squads.
“Camp is vital,” said Leslie Utley, who is in her first cheer coaching the Warriors. “It can set the tone for your school year. Most importantly, it brought them closer as a team. Spending that amount of time together and overcoming challenges as a team helped to build their friendships and made them more unified.”
Utley said many of the team members are new to cheer, and most of them are new to this squad.
“We have only one senior and a handful of veterans, so we are inexperienced but very eager,” she said. “We spent a lot of time bonding as a team, sharing personal stories, and just getting to know one another since we have so many new team members and a new coach. Having the girls see that many of their teammates have had similar tough life experiences helped to form connections between girls who may not otherwise be friends if they weren’t on a team together.”
When asked what she liked about coaching cheer, Utley said, “I think what I like about coaching cheer is similar to what I like about teaching. I love getting to know kids, being a positive influence on them, and being someone they can depend on.”
She said not all children are blessed with stability at home, and as a teacher/coach, “I hope I can be an adult in their life that they can trust and come to if they need help. I want them to think back on their experience years later and be glad that they did it, so I try to foster an environment that has lots of positivity and no unnecessary stress or drama.”
She said the girls are on board with that. They have been kind and supportive of one another so far.
“The best part is to watch them accomplish something they never thought they could,” she said. “They are already doing impressive things that seemed impossible a month ago when we began practicing, so I’m just excited to see how much more they can accomplish.”