Welcome to the our third issue of "Getting to Know Your Coaches!" Coach Lisa has been the owner of Cheer Pride since 2013, and currently coaches all 6 teams in the gym! She holds Tumbling & Stunting Credentials from the USASF in Levels 1-5. We recently sat down with Lisa to ask her a few questions!
1. How long have you been involved in Cheer? I've been involved in competitive cheerleading now for 25 years! I cheered for 15
years all the way from competitive rec, high school, and college to All Star Level 6! I've been coaching for 18 years- rec, high school, college for 7 years, and I'm now in my 12th season of coaching All Stars!
2. What made you choose to start Cheer Pride? It came to my attention that our area was full of either dangerous programs with unqualified and unsafe coaches or accomplished all star programs who burn out their athletes year after year. Athletes who no longer find joy in the sport they once loved, athletes being taught improper technique and causing chronic injuries, coaches who stress kids out and have not a care in the world about the needs of their individual athletes. As a long time coach in the all star world, I wanted to create a new type of all star gym experience- one in which athletes can train in a safe, positive environment, with coaches who truly care about each individual athlete and their goals and needs. I didn't want to just be another gym that places athletes in a position for an immediate win, while ignoring the future and the athlete's individual potential. I wanted to start a program that focused on building all athletes equally, whether beginner or advanced, where athletes feel comfortable regardless of their skill set, and where we are setting each athlete up for success in all of their endeavors- college and beyond! I feel that, despite only being in our 3rd season, we have accomplished this. We like winning, but will never jeopardize safety, ethics, or morals to do so. We place emphasis on the big picture, skill progressions, and the best interest of each athlete's future, rather than focusing on a short-term win.
We are a gym that athletes feel is a second home, surrounded by teammates and coaches who they can call family. Everyone knows everyone, and I am very accessible as an owner. My staff and I focus on teaching work ethic, sportsmanship, teamwork, dedication, perseverance, and most of all PASSION for this amazing sport which we've all grown up in and love! . 3. What aspect of cheer are you most passionate about? I love doing choreography and coming up with new/creative ideas! However, I have always been most passionate about performing and stunting. I was 5'8 with a large frame when I entered high school. My height and strength ended up being a huge asset, as I was recruited to cheer competitively in college, solely based on my stunting skills. I loved being the person that everyone could rely on to keep them in the air, and the person who all the flyers fought over having in their group. Stunting has always been an adrenaline rush for me, even when something wasn't hitting. I loved the challenge of getting knocked on the floor time and time again, only to be hitting my stunts a week later. My college teammates voted me as the person who they'd most trust with their life, and I definitely earned that!
Similarly, I was always passionate about coaching from a young age. I can remember attending high school cheer camp and listening intently to the instructors as they explained every role in the stunt group, not just my own. I LOVED learning new stunts, and gaining as much knowledge I could to further my team's skills. As a coach now, as well as an owner, I am always keeping current with the new ways of teaching things, new skills coming out, new rules to follow, etc. No matter how long you've been doing something, you will always find someone who knows something that you don't. I seek these people out, and live to learn from them. Each summer, my staff and I attend various conferences, retreats, and seminars to keep growing and improving our skills. We are constantly researching, reading, and sharing information with one another to help all of our athletes see their potential.
4. What is your favorite thing about coaching? I think this is an incredibly hard question to answer in just a few sentences. Primarily, coaching is about having a positive influence on children and giving them the skills necessary to be successful on the mat and in life beyond cheer. For me, it goes much further than that. I coach for the kid who doesn't believe in themselves, for the kid who feels like they don't belong anywhere, for the kid who has no self-confidence. I coach for those kids, because cheer can provide that place where you're truly valued for what you can do and nothing else. This is a sport for everyone- tall or short, flexible or not, weak or strong, athletic or not, shy or outgoing- it doesn't matter. Every kid brings their own unique set of skills to the table, and I see that in every kid that walks through my doors. Coaching is seeing potential in kids who may not always see it in themselves, helping them believe in that potential, and taking the steps to get them there.
Another great joy in coaching is watching our athletes grow together. Seeing the bonds that form and the genuine joy that they take in each other's successes is incredibly rewarding. The excitement that they all share when they hit a routine, or when a new athlete learns a cartwheel, or the athlete who struggled with a mental block finally throwing their tuck is something that cannot be expressed in words. As a coach, my proudest moments are when our kids work together and show love and support for their teammates, as well as other kids in the gym.
5. What's your greatest memory as a coach? There are too many to even list! The many wins and championships my teams have won all come with their own back story. My favorite memory at Cheer Pride would have to be when our J2 competed with an athlete out sick last season and not only won our division against 9 other teams, but took Level 2 Grand Champions and a Paid Bid to the US Finals. Before opening Cheer Pride, I coached at other gyms. I've had some phenomenal Levels 1-4 teams, ones whose wins were less important to me than the journey that each team had those seasons. I once had a team that won every competition, but it was the story behind the team that made the season so rewarding. We faced so many obstacles, yet continued to defy odds and be successful.
My greatest coaching memories are those with little or nothing to do with any success in competitions. It's all about the small victories, the kids who surprise you or who surprise themselves, and the joy of seeing athletes develop into passionate, hardworking cheerleaders. My very first year coaching All Stars, in 2005, I had an athlete on my Youth 2 team who was terrified to throw her backhandspring in competition. She was a shy kid with no confidence. I worked with her in private lessons to finally get her to the point where she would throw it at practice. At her first major national, this little girl threw her backhandspring on stage successfully and popped up with the biggest smile on her face! I swear I don't remember anything else that happened for the whole rest of the routine, just that she was so excited and proud of herself that she was glowing! She ran off stage right to me and jumped up into my arms, we were both so excited! That has stuck with me all of these years, and there are dozens more moments that I can recall just like it! Moments like that are why I do this- watching a kid overcome their fear, see the results of their hardwork, and find true joy in this sport!
Fun Facts about Coach Lisa:
I have 2 cats named Monkey & Cinderella
I cheered at Elmira College in NY
Before I opened Cheer Pride, I was a police officer
I am a member of the USASF Northeast Regional Advisory Board
In middle school, I played boys baseball and was the only girl in the entire league
I have a Bachelor of Arts in Music
I used to work as a competition reporter for CheerNJ
I played Softball in college
I have performed in Carnegie Hall over a dozen times
I am a USASF Certified Legality Judge
I love to travel
I am a certified EMT in the state of NJ
Keep an eye out for our next "Getting to Know Your Coaches" feature!