By Maddy Pasche, Paige Murphy and Arianna Gibson
As appearing in the October 1, 2015 issue of FOCUS
Confusion and panic filled senior Hannah White’s mind as she tried to prepare herself for her last fall pom tryout without a coach or an idea of where her team was headed. The team was left upset and overwhelmed by the fact that their coach left as tryouts were underway.
“I didn’t know why she quit or what we we’re going to do without a coach,” White said.
Since the loss of the varsity pom coach last season, the program has gained two new coaches: English teacher Katy Stearns and assistant coach Crystal Forsberg. Stearns and Forsberg quickly jumped into the program and completely changed how the team practiced and how the overall program was run.
“They have such different personalities that it really balances everything out,” Junior Abby Jozwiak said. “Crystal is tougher on us and Mrs. Stearns is really positive and brings more of a happy element to the team.”
Pom has influenced Stearns throughout her entire life. She pommed at Northeast Middle School and continued at Midland High for three years. While in college, Stearns coached two years at Jefferson Middle School and then went on to coach pom at Midland High for three years, when she began teaching. However, she took a break from coaching once she got married and had kids.
“I loved pom when I was a pommer,” Stearns said, “and I always knew I wanted to come back.”
Students approached Stearns after their coach had resigned and asked her if she would be willing to fill the spot. She felt reluctant, knowing the amount of time and work that went into coaching; but after discussing the opportunity with her family, she knew it was perfect timing for her to come back.
Having not coached or been in the sport of pom for a while, Stearns brought in Forsberg to help. Forsberg is an experienced coach and pommer whose life has revolved around pom for 14 years. She started pom in elementary school and continued through high school at Midland High. Since then, she has coached middle school and JV pom for seven years.
“Pom has been a part of my life for so long that I couldn’t imagine not being a part of it,” Forsberg said. “I love the sport, the competitions, the stress, the games, the performances, the uniforms, the pom poms, the parents, the long weekend practices, and of course working with an amazing group of girls.”
Stearns and Forsberg have brought a lot of new changes to the pom program. at Midland High. Since becoming coaches they have increased fundraising and opened up JV to everyone, in order to cut costs and ensure that every girl who wants to participate in pom is able to. Fundraisers such as car washes, can drives, and sponsorships have allowed the team to cut costs and give out scholarships. These scholarships will make the sport more affordable for anyone who wants to join JV.
“The JV program has to feed the varsity program, and the varsity program cannot do well without a solid JV team,” Forsberg said.
Along with fundraising, the new coaches have provided a positive atmosphere and a family feel to the team. Senior Hannah White has been on Varsity for 6 seasons and has felt a noticeable difference in the team’s confidence and unity since Stearns and Forsberg have become coaches.
“We’ve been focusing a lot on team unity because these new coaches really care that we’re all close. A big part of pom is trusting each other,” White said. “We are so close this season and it’s awesome because we’re all best friends and a family, and it’s made pom fun, and I enjoy doing it with these new coaches.”
Junior LeeAnn Rielle, who has been pomming for four years, agrees that the new coaches have brought a positive atmosphere to the sport and team. Rielle says that having Stearns and Forsberg as coaches helps make tough practices more enjoyable and fun.
“They are just more passionate about pom and really love pom,” Rielle said. “That rubs off on us so that we get more excited about pom too.”
Not only have Stearns and Forsberg made the team more cohesive, they also hope to make them more competitive and respectable throughout the student body. White says that this new coaching style has improved the team a lot over the past five months, and made them more confident in their skills and ability.
Stearns felt right away that in order to increase the pom teams skills and credibility throughout the school, they needed to increase the number of practices. She hoped that with the increase in practices the team would improve in form and strength, and be more competitive throughout the state as a whole.
“They were only practicing twice a week. They’re a varsity sport and no other varsity sport practices that little,” Stearns said. “They want to be better, and you’re not going to get better with practicing only two days a week.”
The increase in practices have greatly improved the team even over the short five months they have been together. Jozwiak feels as though they now have more time to go over their routines and make them clean than they had in the past. This contributed to the teams recent wins as Mid-American Pom summer camp, where they won first in original routine, first in kick line, and second in speed-learning.
“We expect a lot out of the girls individually and as a whole team,” Forsberg said. “We know that they have not reached their full potential yet, so we are pushing them to be the best, and they are succeeding beyond our imagination.”
The coaches and teams have set high goals for themselves as high-kick, regionals, and state competitions approach. They hope to move Midland High out of division two and into the more competitive division one.
“Midland High has been competing in division two for too long,” Forsberg said. “I think they have always aimed low so they can place high, but they have been limiting themselves to this. Have the girls shoot for the stars. You’ll never know your true potential until you actually try to reach for the top.”
As a team they hope to place in at least the top three this year at states. In order to prepare for these competitions, Stearns and Forsberg have increased practices and conditioning. They’re focusing on cleaning the teams kick line, jumps, form, showmanship, and overall pomming.
“Above all, I want the girls to have fun,” Forsberg said. “No one is going to want to work hard during practices if they are not having fun. If I can get the girls to love pom half as much as I do, then I’m off to a very good start.”