Two Northwestern students are using their talents to lead NW’s cheer and dance teams this year. The transition to being in charge after previously competing on the team is a difficult one, but Emily Honken and Amber McNeill are excited about the opportunity.
McNeill, a senior, cheered her freshman and sophomore years, and was introduced to coaching last year as an assistant.
“I wanted to continue cheering, but I had gotten quite a few injuries and I didn’t think my body could take it anymore,” McNeill said. “Emily Loveland was the coach at the time and asked me to student coach. We had a new squad of competition last year, so I got a chance to teach and instruct. It helped me realize that I can do it and it is almost as fun as cheering myself.”
Since McNeill was previously a part of NW’s cheer team, she was worried about how the team would respond to her being in charge.
“I didn’t want to coach people I’d cheered with because it’s such an awkward balance,” McNeill said. “It’s like we’re friends, but now I’m also in charge of you and you have to listen to me.”
Tyree Cox, a senior who has cheered on NW’s team for two years, believes that because McNeill was previously a part of the team, more improvements can be made.
“Amber was in our position last year, so anything that we were all feeling last year she knows and doesn’t want to do as a coach,” he said.
In regards to the team dynamic, McNeill is all business.
“It was weird because we are used to being friends, but we do a great job of separating friends from responsibilities,” Cox said. “When it’s practice time, we know that she’s the boss and we have to put friends in the back pocket.”
One of the senior captains this year, Sam Nelson, added, “[McNeill] was always a leader on the team. Amber knows a lot, she’s really passionate about it which is awesome.”
Emily Honken is a 2015 NW graduate. She was first hired as an athletic trainer, but stepped up to the role as the dance coach this year.
“It’s going to be an interesting transition from being on the team last year to being a coach,” Honken said. “I think it will be fun. The girls have really positive attitudes and really good relationships.”
Krista De Bruin, another senior captain of the dance team, believes that having Emily as a coach will be helpful.
“I think it’s beneficial that [Emily] was a part of the team. It’s awesome because she knows what we’ve done in the past. She knows what has worked and what hasn’t,” De Bruin said.
The hardest part for Emily will be the time commitment. Combining dance with athletic training is difficult, but Honken said that her assistant coach Jen Van Wyk is a tremendous help to be able to balance the two activities.
“She’s very talented and I’m excited to have her by my side,” Honken said. “I think our strengths balance each other so I think we will work well together.”
Both Emily and Amber are adjusting to their leadership roles with ease and cannot wait to see the future improvements of their teams. Cheer will perform at football games this fall, while dance performances will be during halftime of basketball games.