Michelle's Coaching Story
Michelle is the head coach at Lazer Cheer Academy and has been coaching for 10 years. After falling in love with cheerleading at university, Michelle was voted Vice Captain of the University team which fuelled her desire to get more involved in cheerleading. She and the captain of the team then set up a high school cheer squad in Huddersfield. Michelle said:
"This was challenging as the young people had amazing talent but their mind set wasn't always there every week. I learnt patience, motivation and different ways of communicating the skills across to this age group."
Michelle then moved to North Yorkshire and coached at two local leisure centres and a youth club.
"The youth group was extremely challenging. I had young people turning up in jeans, and other attire that I wouldn't dream of coaching cheerleaders in now! We had 1 mat to work with and young people with very little motivation or concentration. After starting at the new leisure centre, I started a young session for 10-16 year olds and the youth club participants came along! They improved massively. One even went on to become one of my employee coaches. She is now at university herself and is coaching cheer in Liverpool."
The leisure centre squads that Michelle set up grew larger until she had five different age groups. Michelle looked to move to a new facility with a permanent sprung floor which was both safer for stunts and tumbles and provided the same environment as competitions.
"I'd say one of my biggest challenges as a female coach is the fact that cheerleading is still thought of as pompoms, hot pants, cheering on football teams. I have often found people have not taken me seriously when looking for funding, a facility or information when I tell them we're from a cheerleading club. The main assumption I get is I coach 5-8 year olds how to dance around with poms in their hands, not the actual 3- 40 year old athletes who have the ability to hold their own weight and other peoples, up in their air!"
Michelle lists her career highlights as attending the Cheerleading World Championships in Orlando, competing in Paris and performing in the world famous Disneyland parade in 2015.
"Coaching has made me a lot more confident with people, I've got more patience and understanding plus I'm a lot more organised. I love seeing the progressions the cheerleaders make. Whether it's from learning their first forward roll or their first back hand spring, or going from being a level 1 cheerleader to a level 5/6 cheerleader. The satisfaction of their personal achievements is the best feeling."
We asked Michelle what she would say to other women who were thinking about coaching, she said: "do it, do it, do it! At first you will feel totally out of your comfort zone. It may even take a few years for you to feel totally confident to coach any sport, but if you have the passion for the sport, your ability to coach it will naturally come!"