JV cheer coach defines leadership through coaching, teaching
Emily Allen shows how team works on sidelines, classroom
Surrounded by poms in the air and music blasting throughout the arena, junior varsity cheerleading coach Emily Allen directs students during a pep rally. Heading onto the floor, she supports her team and puts her spirit, smile and energy toward getting the crowd going. Then, she carries those same strengths into the classroom and beyond.
Allen, who has “always” been involved in team sports, serves as the junior varsity cheer coach, teaches AP Psychology and sponsors more than one high school organization.
“I did dance and gymnastics as a young child, but I also did swimming and softball and some other things,” Allen said. “In middle school, I focused more on cheer and not all the multi-sports. Cheer was very different when I was growing up. It was a lot more about leading a crowd and school spirit, rather than tumbling. There was me and one other girl on the squad who could tumble, and it was only a back tuck. I stuck with it, and I think it was a good experience. I made a lot of friends, and it taught me some discipline and having time management, and it made me do my school work.”
The JV cheer squad is made up of sophomores, juniors and seniors, though there are mostly sophomores and juniors on the squad.
“We try to encourage them (the cheerleaders) to lead the school by example, to have energy, to be spirited,” Allen said. “We’re trying to teach them to gauge the temperature of the crowd, and know what to do and when to get them involved because it’s not just about performing. They have amazing skills, but it’s also about getting a crowd involved.”
For cheerleaders, when they tried out for the team they immediately join the UIL cheer team, which competes with local 6A schools in game-day performances. Cheerleaders who were accepted were also allowed to compete for another squad that performs more competitive, performance cheer. They’re all in the same squad, but certain girls get to focus on specific aspects of cheerleading, and it wasn’t required. Tumbling isn’t a requirement to be a cheerleader, but at competitions, it’s an additional score that can earn teams points.
“Everyone had to try out for UIL because that’s through the school and it’s required,” Allen said. “For performance, that was optional. We have a lot of girls who are already on a competitive cheer team, so if they can’t devote time or that’s overdoing that for them, physically, they didn’t have to try out. It gives the girls an opportunity to showcase both skills sets.”
Allen said she has always “loved the spirit and game-day part” of cheerleading, but finds the teamwork of varsity coach Cameron Jones and freshman coach Melissa Mesa “a blessing.” For Allen, she believes the cheer girls are good about helping each other, rather than critiquing and criticizing.
“Team is respect, collaboration, encouragement and support,” Allen said. “It doesn’t have to be that everyone is best friends, but we all have to learn to respect and collaborate with each other. Especially in cheer, it’s not an individual sport, and it’s not by yourself. You have to work together. I think the encouragement comes into play because it’s always nice to have someone who knows what you’re going through give you some words of encouragement, or if you’re frustrated to tell you, ‘Hey, it’s okay.’ I think that we have a pretty good support system in cheer.”
Students in Allen’s psychology class said they can appreciate her values on leadership and teamwork, as it shows in the classroom and not just for cheer.
“Coach Allen is a leader in the classroom because she’s just very engaging with her students,” former AP Psychology student and senior Gabby Winans said. “She always would show us pictures and videos, and it always made it easy to learn and keep up with the subject. She’s very kind and understanding with her students.”
Current AP psychology students like AP Psychology student and senior Ava Kirkendall says Allen’s leadership is “important” because “she helps everyone feel heard and important.”
Allen is also the head of the ‘Our Minds Matter’ club, which held its first meet on Wednesday, Sept. 15. The club originally started as the Psychology Club, but changed its name three years ago.
“It has the same purpose, but we just changed names to fit into a national organization,” Allen said. “It’s about awareness of mental health and the importance of it in psychology, and kind of the whole idea of spreading awareness, resources and promoting inclusivity and kindness. It’s similar to the values that Prosper is trying to promote now. I think it will be a good year for that.”
Our Minds Matter members meet in Room 2213 during Eagle Time.
“We work with Hope Squad and the Psychology Honors Society,” Allen said. “We liked the idea (for the name change) that it wasn’t only psychology students. Before, students felt like since they weren’t in a psychology class they couldn’t be in a club. Anyone can join it. There’s not an application you have to fill out or anything right now. We have about 20 returning members. we graduated some last year.”
Psi Alpha, which Allen is also the head of, is the psychology honor society. After meeting all the requirements, students who are part of the society can apply for a graduation cord.
“She motivates and leads me in the classroom because she wants to make sure everyone is understanding the content, she has in class discussions so our opinions are talked about and heard, and she keeps class fun by adding fun and interesting psychology videos to keep us engaged,” Kirkendall said. “Overall, I enjoy this class, because even though it’s an AP class, she cares about her students and shows that she cares about our success.”