Cheer and Pom teams keep improving in face of coaching changes

Multiple coaching changes during the season haven’t deterred spirit squad members


Kenna McNally

Cheer and Pom perform during the Homecoming assembly on Oct. 7.

By Finn Lotton-Barker, Reporter

After a difficult pandemic year hindered by online and hybrid learning, LHS cheer and pom have faced additional obstacles.

Among the challenges, several coaching changes throughout the year forced team members to adapt.

At the end of the 2020-2021 school year, spirit director Kaitilin Lugo and the two squad coaches resigned from their positions at LHS and moved on.

“It was with heavy hearts that we were all leaving the program and Lawrence High,” Lugo said.

The coaching staff was fully replaced heading into summer tryouts and practices. However the turnover wasn’t exactly smooth for the teams.

“Turnover in administration, a new athletic director, and a whole new coaching staff can be tough on any program,” Lugo said. “It was a lot of transition after a really unusual year.”

Over the summer as the teams worked to learn cheers, dances and routines spirit squad members worked to adapt to the new leadership. This process didn’t come easily, according to sophomore pom member Avery Goldman.

“I think everybody was a little stressed out,” Goldman said.

Before the teams had time to settle with their new coaches, coaching turnover during the summer and early fall left the team with a new pom coach and coaches Gwen Wedd and Lugo returned as coaches. Lugo said it has been tricky returning mid year but said she was happy to be back.

For Lugo, the team’s continuing strength and unity was best displayed at the LHS versus Free State football game.

“I was so proud of the cheer and dance team for being positive role models for the middle school teams that were in attendance,” Lugo said. “All their hard work and practice to prepare for their combination performance at halftime and overall their wonderful representation of LHS tradition and spirit as they cheered on the sidelines.”

Through the changes, the students said they still feel they have advanced and improved.

“I feel like the team this year has a bond unlike any of the three previous years that I’ve been on the spirit squad,” senior cheer member Vivian Podrebarac said. “This group has seen so many highs and lows, but we all fought our battles together. We have come so far — both as friends and as athletes.

Freshman cheerleader Provi Fowler said while some aspects of the season were made challenging by staff turnover, spirit squad members have taken it in stride..

“I would say the team made a lot more progress than I would say other teams have made,” Fowler said.

As the LHS spirit squad moves on from football and toward basketball season, interim coach Lugo is confident that the teams will continue to grow.

“Returning to coaching overall has been wonderful.” Lugo said. “The girls are very positive, talented and excited to have a more ‘normal’ season post a challenging year with COVID, virtual learning, etc.”

This story was updated on Dec. 10.