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Lander University alumna returns to coach school's cheerleading team

January 26, 2007
Being on the court during Lander University basketball games is nothing new for Kim Schoolfield.

The 1999 Lander graduate spent countless halftimes revving up the crowd as part of the university's dance team.

And now, almost 10 years since her dancing career with Lander came to a close, Schoolfield is at the university once more - and she's finding herself in familiar territory.

At the start of the spring 2007 semester, Schoolfield took over the reins as head coach of the Lander University Cheerleaders, guiding the squad members as they take their own turns at boosting school spirit during men's and women's basketball games.

"I never thought that I would be back at Lander," Schoolfield said, smiling. "When I was offered the position, it felt like I had won the lottery. I'm very excited about being here because cheering and working with cheerleaders is my passion. I want to get the point across to the girls and people that cheerleading is not about what your body looks like, but instead about what your body can do."

Cheerleading has been a lifelong "passion" for Schoolfield, and the Clinton native, whose maiden name is Kim Steele, cheered throughout middle and high school. After she graduated from Lander with a bachelor's degree in elementary education, she began her career in the classroom, teaching eighth-graders at Bell Street Middle School in Clinton, where she continues teaching today. She eventually returned to Lander to obtain a master's degree in elementary education in 2004.

Though her schooldays are filled with textbooks and academics, Schoolfield finds plenty of time for handsprings, arabesques and pikes. In addition to her new position at Lander, Schoolfield also coaches cheerleaders at her middle school and she spends the summer months working with the Universal Cheerleading Association, which travels across the Southeast to conduct cheerleading camps for middle and high school students.

In fact, Schoolfield said it was her first year as cheerleading coach at Bell Street Middle School that led to her returning to Lander in 2007. One of the cheerleaders at the middle school, Elizabeth Holland, is now a freshman at Lander, and Holland offered some advice when the university needed a new coach.

"Elizabeth gave them my name and then I got the call," Schoolfield said. "I told them I'd love to come back to my alma mater."

And Holland, a pre-pharmacy major from Joanna, loves having her old coach back, too.

"It's exciting to have her here because she madecheerleading fun when we were little kids," she said. "She is an excellent leader. She really knows cheerleading and she helps us out on everything." 

Other members of the team are: Courtney Brown, a freshman nursing major from Williston; Shelly Calvert, a senior elementary education major from Ware Shoals; Victoria Ernest, a freshman psychology major from Woodruff; Dawn Green, a freshman business administration major from North Charleston; Christina Greene, a junior mass communication major from Boiling Springs; Maura Hamilton, a freshman nursing major from Greer; Suzanne Ingram, a junior psychology major from Dillon; Andrea Lewis, a senior elementary education major from Columbia; Erica Morris, a sophomore exercise science major from Prosperity; Brett Perry, a sophomore nursing and physical education and exercise science major from Monks Corner; Jill Perry, a sophomore mass communication major from Monks Corner; Erin Powell, a freshman early childhood education major from Fort Mill; Amy Robinson, a junior exercise science major from Boiling Springs; Brandi White, a sophomore health care management major from Mount Pleasant; Anna Wood, a freshman chemistry major from Ware Shoals; Katrina Young, a senior sociology major from Chester; and mascot Kevin Chastain, a junior exercise science major from Columbia. 

A grueling practice and performance schedule - the team and mascot have four-hour practices on Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday nights, with games on Wednesdays and Saturdays - forced Schoolfield to "hit the ground running" when she came on board at Lander, she said. The group is also preparing for the Peach Belt Conference Cheerleading Competition, coming up in March, which will be conducted at Lander.

"Though a lot of the coaching principles are the same between middle school and college, I'm now trying to learn the group's pre-existing routines and stunt sequences," Schoolfield said. "These girls are so responsible and knowledgeable, and they've really welcomed me with open arms." 

The Lander cheerleaders even traveled to Clinton to watch their new coach's middle school squad cheer for the Bell Street Middle School basketball team, which is coached by Schoolfield's husband, David. 

"That was so special for them to give up a Tuesday night and come to our game," Schoolfield said. "It was the neatest thing."

The long practices and numerous games give Schoolfield the opportunity to build close relationships with her team members, and she said one of the best parts about coaching is being able to see the group grow mentally, physically and spiritually.

"Cheerleading takes discipline, commitment and dedication. I love being able to see these students transfer those qualities into other areas of everyday life," she said.

That kind of passion for the job makes a strong and positive impression on the team, said cheerleader Christina Greene.

"Kim's a friend and a coach. She takes the job seriously and she makes it fun," Greene said. "Cheerleading has never been a huge sport at Lander, but I think Kim will help make the program grow to where we can do more for the school. That's our job here as cheerleaders: bringing spirit to everybody."

And that's exactly the direction in which Schoolfield wants to take the team. 

"I'd love to see them going to national competition and see them succeed in boosting the overall spirit at Lander and in the community," Schoolfield said, adding that she believes the team is ready to take on those tasks.

"After working with them for only a few weeks, I really think this might be our year," Schoolfield said, holding up a T-shirt she created for the team that reads in bold letters, "This is the team. Now is the time." 

"They've told me they are willing to give up their weekends and everything to get this done," she said. "They truly want it."