Helena Magazine

Sports Q&A: Mallory Tesmer and James Taylor, coaches for the Helena Middle School cheer team

Published 3:25 pm Monday, February 19, 2024

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Mallory Tesmer and James Taylor, talk their role as coaches for the Helena Middle School cheer team

For those unfamiliar with how the sport is organized, can you tell us what grades the team consisted of that won the AHSAA Cheer State Championship this year? And what the championship competition entailed?

MT: Each division is based on age and the number of athletes on the squad. We have 25 girls, so we compete in Large Junior High divisions. We are the only middle school team in the state of Alabama that received first place in Large Junior High. In order to compete at State, we had to receive a BID to qualify at our State qualifying competition. We had some tough competition this season but we are so proud of the team for coming out with winning their first competition along with State.

JT: The team is made up of 7th and 8th graders that tried out for and made the team. The competition brings teams from all across the state and at all skill levels and team sizes from as little at 10 athletes on a team all the way up to 30 athletes on a team. There are tumbling and non-tumbling divisions and the HMS group was in the tumbling division.

How did the team prepare for the competition?

MT: We prepare for competition as soon as the season starts. Coach Bender and I encourage the girls to practice and perform at each event like it is a competition. We want our girls to be strong in all aspects from sidelines at football games, to stunting and tumbling. We practice consistently to prepare and work on those skills. We also have teamed up with Alpha Extreme to work on our routines. Jay and his team are awesome!

JT: We started choreographing back in May and from there the team came to our gym, Alpha Extreme Cheer, once a week and I would go to the school and work with them as well.

What can you tell us about the cheer routine performed by the team?

MT: The routine we placed first in at both Regionals and State was our Traditional routine. The girls were able to show off their tumbling, stunting, and sideline skills.

JT: The routine is made up of stunts, tumbling and a cheer section. Once the music starts it is constant building, jumping, motion work, tumbling, crowd leading and energy with no breaks.

Can you describe a particularly challenging aspect of the routine or moment in the season and how the team overcame it?

MT: The skills our team performed were extremely advanced for a middle school team. Our girls were faced with a difficult stunt sequence for their “elite stunts” that we worked very hard on. The girls really dedicated their time and effort into their stunt groups to accomplish hitting that stunt sequence. This part of the routine really made them shine! 

JT: We had a moment near the end of the season the week before State where one of our top girls was injured and suffered a concussion and was not going to be able to compete at the State competition. We worked hard and changed up some of the choreography and even had to add in a new top girl who had never competed in that position ever before. In the end the entire team was able to pull it together and we had an amazing performance and brought home our goal of a State title.

What specific skills or routines did you focus on to gain an edge in the competition?

MT:The talent we have is unreal! This team has skills that cheerleaders strive to accomplish. They have tumbling skills from fulls and layouts to multiple standing tucks. Our team also has a special bond that shows on the mat.

JT: We focused on not having the absolute hardest routine there, but being the cleanest and sharpest and loudest team there.

Can you share a standout moment where you felt extremely proud of the team from the season?

MT: A moment that stuck out to Coach Bender and I was when they were about to perform for State they got in a team huddle and started naming all their accomplishments. They were reminding each other what they had worked so hard towards. We were very proud to see them lifting one another up in positive affirmations.

JT: Easy, winning State! That was the goal from the beginning and they and the coaches made it happen.

How do you plan to maintain and improve the team’s performance for the next season? 

MT: These 8th graders have been amazing since day one. I am sad to see them go but they have really led the 7th graders to continue our streak. We will continue to encourage our athletes to do their best throughout the season and promote a positive environment for them to grow as student athletes.

JT: We will start right back off where we left off and continue to grow the program to become stronger and more competitive than the year before.

What role do you believe teamwork played in the team’s success this year?

MT: This team is beyond special. This group of young women are extremely motivating and positive towards one another. They also love this sport and it shows through their performances.

JT: Teamwork in cheer is an absolute must! Unlike other sports where you always have a back up or someone can be swapped in or out of a position, cheer requires maximum participation from everyone and everyone’s position in the routine plays a critical role. This requires the athletes to work together at all times to make the routine work.

How do you foster a sense of unity and team spirit among the students?

MT: As a team we participate in activities and conversations where we acknowledge our strengths and discuss how we can improve our weaknesses. We have a spirit stick we pass from athlete to athlete at each practice. The spirit stick is awarded to the cheerleader who stood out that day for being a positive role model and hard worker.

JT: I have always taught my athletes that a team is a family. You are going to have your ups and downs but we will always be there for one another and have each other’s backs and work hard to achieve our goals!

What would you like readers to know about this cheer team and this program as a whole?  

MT: This team is strong inside and outside of the classroom. They have kind hearts, work hard, and will continue to make a positive impact here in Helena. We are so excited we have the opportunity to highlight these girls and this competitive sport. Cheerleading is a major role in our community and school system. We will continue to strive for excellence with our Cheerleading program here at Helena Middle School!

JT: I have worked with the Helena cheer programs for many years now and it has been an absolute pleasure to with them grow every year. They are hardworking and dedicated athletes and I am so very proud of what they have accomplished!! And who knows maybe one day a National title will come home to Helena!