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Cottonwood drill team coaches encourage dancers to 'win the day'

Feb 01, 2018 10:38AM ● Published by Julie Slama

Cottonwood High's Chaparrals, seen here in their pom routine, were host to the 5A region competition on Jan. 20. (Cottonwood High School)

For 15 hours each week, 25 Cottonwood High Chaparrals practice routines to precision.

Their routines are not just to be performed for the student body at the high school’s sporting event half-time shows and assemblies, but also at three invitational meets leading up to region and state.

“We tell the girls to ‘win the day,’” said Erin Burk, who coaches with Kelsea McGregor. “(We ask) ‘What did you do at this competition that you consider a win?’ We try to keep their focus on their own accomplishments as a team.”

That may not result in winning a competition, but putting forth the best effort for the team, she said. For example, Burk said at a recent competition, an alternate learned 30 minutes before competing that she’d take part in the dance routine. 

“She learned her new spot seamlessly and was prepared for the team. She went on to compete the routine and was perfect. The whole team walked off the floor screaming in excitement because she was able to pull this off for the betterment of the team,” she said.

Cottonwood hosted the 5A region competition Jan. 20 that included high school teams from Murray, Alta, Jordan, Brighton and Corner Canyon.

“Our region is once again very competitive. We have amazing teams that we’re competing against which has pushed the girls to work even harder this year to make it back to state,” she said. “Our goal is to always do better than we did at our previous competition and through hard work, they have been able to increase their scores at each competition.”

Last year, after a five-year absence, Cottonwood advanced to state where they competed in the semifinals.

To prepare for region, Cottonwood competed at several invitational meets, including those hosted by Wasatch High and Clearfield High, where they took home trophies for placing in the top four in their routines.

“So far, our strongest routine at competitions has been military. The girls really love this style, we had an amazing choreographer, and it’s just been working for us,” she said.

Training and team bonding started soon after last season, once the new team was announced. First, the team built leadership and bonded as a team by participating in the Disney Youth Education program in California.

“We love going on this trip because it creates team unity being able to experience traveling together out of state. We love the leadership workshop. It helps the girls think about what type of leaders they look up to, what type of leader they can be, and how their actions and leadership skills directly affect the team and program,” Burk said, adding that they are making plans to return in April with next year’s team which is determined at tryouts and based on grade-point average, citizenship, teacher recommendations and performances.

The team also went to the Epic Drill Camp in Park City where they performed their pompom routine. They also learned their choreography for football half-time routines as well as team unity activities, techniques classes and focusing on what it takes to have a successful year, she said.

The Chaparrals also bonded through community service projects. Recently, the team decorated and donated a Christmas tree to a family in need in the community, Burk said.

Another benefit to the team has been two former members and Cottonwood graduates, Sophie Ford and Bella Papadopoulos, who are helping coach.

“The dancers really look up to them and their talent, they’ve been a huge asset to our coaching staff. We love having the extra help and a couple extra eyes on our routines,” Burk said. “Our team motto is ‘We can, we will, end of story.’ This motto helps remind them that they are capable to do anything they set their mind to.”

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