The Student News Site of Fluvanna County High School

The Fluco Beat

  • February 20FCHS will be offering the ASVAB test to interested sophomores, juniors, and seniors. For details, please email [email protected]
  • February 20The FCHS Music Department is hosting a "Night at the Movies" Concert at 6pm on Thurs. Feb. 22. Tickets are $5. See Ms. Harkrader in room 1517 for details.
  • February 19The FCHS Library will be hosting a Read-A-Thon on Thurs. March 7. It is $1 per 30 minute block or $10 for the entire day. Funds go to Dolly Parton's Imagination Library.
  • January 20Juniors and seniors taking the SAT in March should check their email for information and a calendar invite from Ms. Blevins. Email [email protected] with questions.
The Student News Site of Fluvanna County High School

The Fluco Beat

The Student News Site of Fluvanna County High School

The Fluco Beat

Sophia Branch
Coaches Kirsen Pillow and Holly Johnson going over the plan for practice.

Taking Cheer to the Next Level

If you have ever been to a high school football game or sports event, you have probably seen cheerleaders at work on the sidelines. However, few people see the behind-the-scenes training that goes into successful cheering, or know what goes into perfecting a routine, gaining a new stunting or tumbling skill, or memorizing 50 cheers.

That’s why second-year coaches Kirsen Pillow and Holly Johnson prepared the cheer team all summer to get them ready for competition and sideline cheer. They have implemented numerous tactics to help strengthen the team.

“Over the summer we conditioned a lot and set goals for competition, as well as attended a home UCA (Universal Cheerleaders Association) camp where we got to learn a lot of new material,” said varsity cheerleader and junior Abi Taylor. “I believe that Coach Pillow has prepared us for the upcoming season because I feel like we’re a lot stronger in stunting and cheering,” she added.

One new thing that Pillow and Johnson have added to the team is captains, something which the team has not had before.

“Olivia Reardon and I were selected by our coaches to be the varsity captains. So far, I’ve really enjoyed planning what we are going to do at football games. For example, during timeouts and quarter changes I think it’s fun to experiment with different kinds of dances and cheers as well as create different stunt sequences,” said Varsity Captain and senior Karsyn Botkin.

When choosing who will be the captain or captains of a team, a vetting process is often used to narrow it down. “Our captains were chosen based on natural leadership qualities that we observed, along with their flexibility, positive attitude, and overall respect for and commitment to the team. All candidates were also asked to complete an application, which addressed several aspects including how they would address certain team conflicts and execute their new responsibilities,” said Johnson.

It may surprise some people to learn that cheerleaders not only cheer on the sidelines, but they also compete in competitions. This year the cheer team will be competing in four to five competitions, depending on how they place. The first one is an invitational at East Rockingham High School on Sept. 20. The second one is also an invitational located at Fort Defiance High School on Oct. 4.

These competitions will be followed by Districts on Oct. 12 and Regionals on Oct. 28. If they place either 1st or 2nd in Regionals, then they will qualify for the VHSL Cheerleading State Championship, which will be held on Nov. 4

“Our greatest rival is going to be Louisa this year as far as our district competition. Monticello is probably a close second. but we’re coming for the Jefferson District title this year, so look out for us. We’re also shooting to make it to at least the second round of Regionals. Only the top four teams make it to the second round, so that’s our goal,” said Pillow.

Johnson expressed her goals for the season and what she hopes to improve on. “As this is my second-year coaching, I have gotten to experience a full year and have seen firsthand what was successful and what would help strengthen our team as a whole. For this season, I hope to continue to grow our communication and overall chemistry as a team. I would also like to focus on improving our current sideline cheers and stunting abilities so we can move to more complex stunts and can add even more new cheers and sideline dances to our catalog,” she said.

Recently, Pillow reflected on last season’s results. She said she hopes to have a better turnout this year. “Last season did not go as well as we had anticipated or wanted it to go. This year I think we’re going to really step it up and make up for that loss. But I hope no matter what, my athletes feel valued, safe, and accomplished,” she said.

One of the things that makes someone a good coach is when they are there for their players on and off the field or court. So Pillow has worked on conditioning over the summer, as well as on team bonding and being there for her cheerleaders. Her efforts appear to have paid off.

“Coach Pillow and Coach Johnson are unique coaches in the sense that they really know how to connect with their athletes and are always willing to be flexible. They truly care about their athletes on a personal and professional level and are good about knowing when to be a friend and when to be a coach. They have made this a strong and skilled team, as well as making sure we all bonded with each other,” said JV cheerleader and sophomore Hayden Hopp.

Pillow admits that it is the small, everyday interactions that keep her motivated when juggling being a History teacher and coaching. “I appreciate the moments when I can joke with the kids I love. I enjoy being able to talk to them about their day as well as I love it when they talk to me about my day. It really boils down to the simple things. It’s in those moments that I am reminded why I continue to coach. Even on days when I feel like I’m barely able to keep my head above water, I remember that these kids are amazing and I love to work with them,” she said.

Johnson, who was a teacher for 10 years and now works as a social worker, also appreciates the relationships she’s built with students. “When I walk into the entrance of the gym, the athletes are always so excited to see me. It is such a rewarding experience to know that I can be a source of positivity for them, and it radiates,” she said.

Many of the cheerleaders have expressed that in Pillow and Johnson’s short time at FCHS, they have done a great job. “I think Coach Pillow and Coach Johnson are amazing coaches and have brought new positivity and energy to our team over the past two years,” said JV Co-Captain and sophomore Sophie Pace.

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