New Coach Takes Reins Of NHS Cheerleading Squad Rooney Lists Four Specific Goals
Natick head coach Lindsey Rooney, left, and her varsity assistant, Casey Domrose.
By KEN HAMWEY
Staff Sports Writer
Lindsey Rooney is Natick High’s new head cheerleading coach but she’s no stranger to coaching the sport and she’s very familiar with the Redhawks’ program.
The 39-year-old Rooney coached cheerleading as a volunteer in Natick’s youth league for 14 years and also coached the Redhawks’ jayvee team for four seasons before spending a year as the varsity assistant to Samantha Baril.
Before graduating from Natick High in 2001, Rooney was a capable setter in volleyball, pitched in softball and also competed as a cheerleader. Now, after two decades of instructing and teaching the nuances of cheerleading, she’s taken the reins of the varsity squad.
“My philosophy of coaching is for the girls to enjoy their experience, reach their potential and be competitive,’’ said Rooney. “If they’re having fun and striving to reach their potential, then winning invitationals and tournaments will follow. And, there’s valuable life lessons that can be learned from competing — like overcoming adversity, being responsible, learning to be a leader and how to organize and manage their time.’’
The native of Natick set four goals for her squad when she was appointed in June. “First, I wanted to increase our numbers,’’ she noted. “Covid-19 forced many of our girls to leave the program. Some left to work, others left to focus on their collegiate futures, and some left to deal with other interests. Last year, we had only seven girls on the varsity and seven at the jayvee level. Now, we’ve got 16 girls on the varsity and 12 on jayvees.
“Another goal is to place at the Bay State Conference meet, move on to the regionals and qualify for the states. At the states, there’s always a chance to advance to the nationals.’’
The Redhawks won the nationals in 2016 and 2017 and the 2019 team finished second. As the jayvee coach, Rooney played a role on the title team in 2017 and the runner-up squad in 2019.
“Our third and fourth goals are to ensure the girls enjoy their cheerleading experience, in practice and in meets, and to rebuild the program’s rich tradition,’’ Rooney emphasized.
So far, two boxes have been checked and Rooney hopes to quickly complete the team’s goals of advancing deep into post-season competition and rebuilding the Redhawks’ winning tradition. The conference meet is scheduled for Wednesday (Nov. 2) and if Natick’s placement is strong, then the regionals and possibly the state meet will be on its itinerary.
On Oct. 16, Natick participated in the Milford Invitational and placed second among the three squads that competed. Grafton High finished first with 83.6 points, the Redhawks compiled 75.2 points, and Brookline finished third at 65.7.
“The Milford competition came early in the season, so we pushed the team to be ready,’’ Rooney said. “They performed very well. Their stunting and overall routines are improving. The BSC competition is next up and we’ll be prepared.’’
Rooney, who’s been an account manager with Fair and Yeager Insurance for 21 years, built her team with competitors who have the attributes she believes are crucial. “Tumbling efficiency, sharp motion (precise movement), gymnastic ability, strength, and the ability to project a positive and welcoming appearance are the keys,’’ Rooney said. “The strengths of our team are we’re athletic, the girls have a high cheerleading IQ, they’re mentally tough, they’re resilient, they have experience and they’re competitive.’’
Natick captains — seniors Jessie Pfahler and Gianna Tomassini — are quality leaders and are highly skilled.
“Jessie is a two-time captain and a BSC all-star,’’ Rooney said. “She’s great at tumbling and she’s a very good flyer (capable in the air). An all-around competitor, she has a high cheer IQ and is mentally tough. Gianna is an all-around talent who’s outstanding at dancing. She’s a good back spot (one who catches the flyer) and she makes people want to watch her routine. Her work ethic is excellent.’’
Seniors Mackenzie Rocheleau and Michaela Goodwine are experienced competitors.
“Mackenzie is a very strong dancer who’s stepped up as a senior leader,’’ Rooney said. “She’s athletic, has a high cheer IQ, is mentally tough, and always positive. She’s a strong base (lifting function). Michaela was in the program as a freshman but left for Shrewsbury. She’s back now. She’s solid with her motion, very positive and a strong back spot.’’
Five juniors provide outstanding effort and plenty of other key traits. They include Mark Carney, the only boy on the team, Sierra Domrose, Emily Gaudet, Maeve O’Shaughnessy and Eliza Standwill.
“Mark is new to the program,’’ Rooney said. “He’s a good back spot, tumbles well and is eager to learn. Sierra is a great tumbler, a solid base and a good leader. Emily has a high cheer IQ, she’s athletic and is a good base. Maeve is positive, a leader, has all-around ability and tumbles well. She’s a great back spot. Eliza is very motivated, positive, willing to learn and an effective flyer.’’
Five sophomores, who all competed at the jayvee level last year, include: Keira Donaghy, Sarah Doucette, Zahara Martins, Julia Rocheleau, and Auburn Shagoury.
“They’ve all improved tremendously,’’ Rooney said. “They’re very motivated, have good all-around ability and the attributes to succeed. Their techniques also have improved greatly.’’
Freshmen Izzy Chambers and Hanna Ferguson round out the squad. “They’re both great tumblers and their stunting is very good,’’ Rooney said. “Both girls have great attitudes and they’re quick learners.’’
Rooney’s two assistants this year are Casey Damrose (varsity) and Abbe Adams (junior varsity). “Casey is a former youth coach who was jayvee coach last year,’’ Rooney offered. “Abbe was a youth league coach in the past.’’
If the NHS cheerleading squad performs well in post-season competitions, then it’s more than likely that all of Lindsey Rooney’s four goals will have reached some degree of fulfillment.