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Thursday, July 15, 2021

New Highlands Cheerleading Coach Brings in New Perspective

McGaughey Hopes to Bring Continuity to Program

PHOTO: G. Michael Graham, Fort Thomas Matters. New Highlands Head Cheerleading Coach Alex McGaughey (left) hired 2016 Highlands graduate Sarah Hoffmann (right) to be the junior varsity coach.

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New Highlands cheerleading coach Alex McGaughey has been involved with cheerleading for more than 20 years.

The 26-year-old hopes that enthusiasm quickly catches on with the incoming classes as they prepare for the fall season. McGaughey previously led teams at Woodland Middle located right next to Scott High School and Camp Ernst Middle School in Burlington.

"(Alex) stood out from a host of qualified candidates due to her extreme positivity and forward thinking," said Wes Caldwell, Highlands Director of Athletics. "There's no doubt that will carry over to her team and we're excited to welcome her to the nest."

Prior to that, McGaughey cheered at Northern Kentucky University and West Jessamine. She graduated from NKU in 2016 and West Jessamine in 2012.

"I just know that Highlands is built on tradition," McGaughey said. "I love the idea of bringing back that classic cheerleading way of doing things supporting your school and your community, but also bringing in a new perspective."

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McGaughey is not far-removed from her cheerleading days in college. She knows that can help with the trust factor. 

"They still kind of see me as a peer even though I'm not," McGaughey said. "But I can relate to them because I'm not disconnected from pop culture or things they see as important. I learned so much from my cheerleading coaches in high school and college. A lot of how I run a practice and implement our skills and how we learn them are from my high school coach and she has gone on to do amazing things with cheerleading. I value those kinds of techniques. I worked with Debbie Love when I was in high school. She's a famous cheerleading instructor. I think that a lot of what I learned about the foundations of cheerleading will help us come together and build on that."

The Highlands High School and Middle School teams held clinics this week. Practices will be held in field house or the fitness center.

"Highlands definitely has some state of the art facilities and I'm very excited to get to work with the athletes in these facilities," McGaughey said. "It's really great to be part of a school that values their athletes and makes their needs a priority."

Highlands has done well at state and national competitions in the past. McGaughey described accomplishments like that as a cherry on top of the sundae.

"Right now, we're trying to establish a similar mindset among coaches, athletes and parents understanding that we are a game day program," McGaughey said. "We support our other sports teams in our community first and once we can successfully do that, then competition is the next thing on the list. Kentucky is known for having really top-notch cheerleading programs. Until we are around the same level as these other programs near us, we will be sticking around to local competitions. But when we are ready, we will go back down to Orlando as long as everyone is on the same page about the expectations and what needs to be done to get there."

McGaughey would like to bring continuity to the program. She will be the third head coach in three years. She currently resides in Fort Thomas with her family.

"I'm planting roots in Fort Thomas," McGaughey said. "Cheerleading is my greatest passion. Pending I don't mess anything up this year, I have no intentions of leaving for a long time. I want to instill a love of cheerleading in these athletes that I have and show them it's more than just short skirts and pony tails. It's a way to learn leadership and become part of your community. I have a lot of big plans. But they all don't happen in one year. We're going to have some wildly important goals."

McGaughey is looking forward to working with the athletes without the Coronavirus 2019 restrictions the school endured last year. The cheerleaders had to wear masks at games and cheered in front of a limited capacity.

"I'm very excited to come in when everyone is eager to participate,"
McGaughey said. "After a year down, I know everyone is itching to do everything. They just want to be back to normal and I'm ready to bring that back to them. It actually makes it a lot easier to cheer when you have someone to cheer to."
McGaughey is working on building a staff. Sarah Hoffmann, a 2016 Highlands graduate, will be the junior varsity coach.

"My cheer experience here was wonderful," Hoffmann said. "I gained a lot of leadership skills, valuable life lessons so I'm really excited to give that to the athletes that are going through the program now."

McGaughey is hoping to hire a tumbling coach for the high school level. The middle school staff consists of Ashley Kraus for eighth grade, Ashlee Duncan for the seventh grade and Brooke Riesenbeck for the sixth grade.

"Everyone that I've hired has ties to the community which I thought was a valuable component," McGaughey said. "They know Highlands. They know Fort Thomas and they know the people a little bit better than I do seeing that I've only lived here for two years. Where I can bring in a new perspective, they can bring in the tradition and community perspective."

McGaughey holds a bachelor's and master's degree from NKU and teaches third grade at Mary A. Goetz Elementary School in Ludlow. She just received another master's degree from the University of the Cumberlands (Kentucky) completing her Rank 1 Education Specialist Degree on July 1.

Tryouts for the team start July 15 along with the other fall sports. The fall sports will start on time in August this year.

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