The decision to switch the Bethlehem Central cheerleading program from a sport to a club has brought about changes and complications that have frustrated students, parents and a former coach.
That includes a choice this year to appoint a new coach. At a school board meeting held Wednesday, Aug. 8, two cheerleaders going into their senior years attended the meeting to speak in favor of the team’s previous coach, Stephanie Breen. The board had already opted to hire a member of the middle school faculty to take over the position, which the girls said is not sitting well with team members.
“We’ve never had a coach that got us first place (before),” said Alexa Abreu. “We had an undefeated season, and we really appreciate her.”
Last year, the cheerleaders placed first in both the Suburban Council competition and the Rumble in the Jungle competition held in Saratoga.
Breen, who also attended the Aug. 8 school board meeting, said she was shocked to hear the program hadn’t won a trophy in years and was often derided and booed during pep rallies.
“When I took over last year, I completely revamped the program,” she said in a later interview. “I graduated from Bethlehem Central 12 years ago, and when I was there, we went to nationals in Florida every year.”
Breen was a cheerleader in college also and became a certified cheerleading coach and trainer. For several years she has coached for the Bethlehem Pop Warner- Junior Midget Cheer squads and was the junior varsity coach for the high school for two years. When the JV squad was disbanded, she became an assistant coach with the varsity team. Last year she became the head cheerleading coach, or “advisor,” since the program is now a club.
The district switched the program to a club in the 2010-11 budget as a money-saving move. According to Breen, that switch has spawned a number of issues.