Cheers to a new coach

Athletes get whipped into shape


Tia Baldwin, Editor-in-Chief

At the start of every practice, the varsity cheerleading team begins to roll out mats, stretch and practice jumps; all without the direction of their new coach. These cheerleaders know their expectations and uphold to them.

While doing so remains to be the expectation, having a new coach means learning new methods.
The 2015-16 season marks coach Zenia Smith’s 25th year coaching cheerleading and her 2nd year at H-F. This year, she is coaching the varsity team alone.

Senior Meg Austin, a four year varsity cheerleader, says the cheerleading program has seen many changes with Smith as head coach.

“Practices are a lot more intense. We run a lot more and condition every single day,” Austin said. “There is a lot more discipline with everything.”

More than anything, Austin notices growth among her team.

“Cheer has gotten better and better each year. Every year I see improvement in my teammates,” Austin said. “The [cheer] program is more talented.”

With big talent, Smith has big expectations for her team this year.

“I expect for a cheerleader to be well-rounded. They must produce the skills for competition,” Smith said. “Freshmen should be basic, JV should be intermediate, and varsity should be advanced to elite; and that’s what we are producing: elite athletes on varsity.”

These ‘elite athletes’ differ from years’ past.

This year’s varsity cheerleading team includes a lot of new faces, many of which are underclassmen.

“I brought in professional judges from IHSA and they decided who would be best for the team,” Smith said. “With only one day to impress, the new underclassmen that you see on the team, rather than veteran upperclassmen, brought the energy, excitement and skill necessary to impress.”

Younger, more inexperienced cheerleaders can have a difficult time making adjustments. However, freshman Danielle Johnson does her best to make it work.

“It’s really overwhelming because I have to work with older boys and girls,” Johnson said. “They have more experience than I do, but I push myself to meet the standards of a varsity cheerleader.”

Smith sees this enthusiasm within all of her cheerleaders this year.

“We have a lot of new faces, energy, and spirit,” Smith said. “The mentality of cheer is changing because they want to be champions. That’s what I like about this team.”

Smith only hopes her cheerleaders will gain the respect they deserve from the community.

“I want the cheerleaders this year to be the best representatives of H-F as ‘class A’ athletes,” Smith said. “I’m here to clean them up.”