By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes
Stephanie Salzer’s plans as new head coach of the McNary High School cheerleading program include nothing less than redefining what Celtic Spirit means.
“We’re rebuilding from the ground up,” said Salzer. “We’re reinstituting our summer camp, getting new uniforms and really trying to fix school spirit at McNary.”
Salzer applied for the job at the urging of Ron Richards, Celtic athletic director, who wanted a coach in the building. Salzer fit the bill between her duties as a school counselor and involvement in spirit activities.
“I wasn’t a cheerleader in high school, but I was part of the dance team and I have some coaching experience with a rugby team,” Salzer said.
To handle the team choreography, Salzer enlisted the help of McNary alum Lexi Voigt, but gymnastic ability wasn’t the only thing she was looking for in the next spirit squad.
“When we did tryouts, I wanted a diverse group. We have some girls who are great with technique, but we also have some girls who are great at being loud and believe in the school,” Salzer said.
She ended up with a varsity team that will be 20 athletes strong, and a junior varsity team with another eight members. Salzer had the team working daily doubles beginning this week.
“I want them to work as hard as everyone else in school sports,” Salzer said.
In addition to learning choreography and sharpening the look of their handsprings, Salzer is taking a no-nonsense approach to behavior in the rank-and-file.
“My first focus is who I want the girls to be as individuals. They are student-athletes first and foremost. They’ll be held to a pretty high standard as far as grades and behavior. Social media use is going to be monitored,” Salzer said.
Salzer said the reputation of the program has sagged in recent years because of intrateam drama making its presence known outside the squad.
“One of our biggest hurdles is going to be changing the reputation of the team within the school,” she said.
She also hopes to get future Celtics pumped for when their time at McNary arrives. A Celtic Cheer Camp is slated for August to coincide with McNary’s youth football camp. Children as young as three and up to eighth grade are invited to participate. The camp runs Aug. 20-22 from 5 to 7 p.m. Participants will also be on the field during McNary’s annual Blue Day football showcase to cheer for the teams in their corresponding age group.
“They’ll also be part of a halftime show during our first home game,” Salzer said.
Cost of the camp is $40 and includes a T-shirt. Registration forms are available in the McNary main office and need to be returned by Aug. 8 to guarantee a shirt.
In the long run, Salzer wants to see the team return to competitive form. The program had garnered its fair share of competition titles in the past.
“I’m really excited to work with the girls and I hope they’re just as excited to work with me,” Salzer said.