Interview with a Cheer Coach
In 2007, Coach Jerry Spalti began his coaching career in Cheerleading. Since then he has coached at two high schools, coached 11 seasons, coached over 20 different teams and impacted the lives of countless athletes. In the past ten years his teams have held a team cumulative 3.0 GPA, placed at State and National competitions, and clocked hundreds of community service hours. Coach Jerry, or as his athletes call him ‘Coach J’, is not just building and producing a great cheer program. He has taken the pressure of winning and made it about building character and teaching athletes what it means to hold themselves to a higher standard.
Please take the time to read through this interview with Coach Jerry Spalti. You won’t regret it!
Why did you start coaching? I saw coaches who only cared about their own successes and not the successes of the kids and it made me realize that I wanted to step up and bring out the kid’s successes.
When did you start coaching? 2007, after my daughter graduated from High School.
How many teams have you coached? I have coached at two high schools, Tahoma Senior High School and Kent Meridian High School. I have coached 11 different teams in my 10 years of coaching.
Have you always wanted to be a cheerleading coach? No, I had never coached another sport and I didn’t know that coaching cheerleading was what I wanted to do until I started.
What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced so far in your coaching? Not becoming the better coach I dreamed of being. It is really easy to get into your own head and get into your own successes. The hardest thing about coaching, also, is understanding that sometimes there is going to be one kid you can’t reach no matter what you do – that has always been something I struggle with.
What has it been like coaching with your daughter? Awesome – on a regular basis it is the best part of my day. I don’t think I have ever walked out of any gym learning as much as I have taught. It can be infuriating at times which is part of the process, but I have never been so happy to be infuriated and I have never walked out of our gym mad at her.
What has been the significant change you’ve seen in your current program since coaching? Kids now have a genuine desire to be better students and to do better academically. Being involved in this, in something bigger than themselves, has made them better students – at least I think it has.
How did it feel qualifying for Nationals for the first time? Great. It felt like what I imagine success to feel like. Having the kids react and seeing them enjoy that victory and that success felt great. It felt good that we did it, but it felt really good to know that we did this together as a team. I enjoyed watching those kids celebrate that victory without worrying about anything else outside of the four walls of our gym.
How do you keep your athletes focused on grades? How did you push them to a 3.0? By making sure it is just as important to help them succeed as it is for them to succeed. Athletes need to understand that they need to be successful well rounded students before they can be successful athletes. They need to realize that it is more important to us as coaches that they succeed academically as it is for them to succeed athletically. When they see that academics is just as important, if not more important, to us (coaches) it pushes athletes to put in more effort to both aspects of their life. They need to know that we care about the development of the entire person not just the athlete.
What is the reasoning behind your quote of “fighting for athletes”? All athletes have limits. When they reach that first limit and they feel like they ‘can’t do it’, that is when we as coaches have to fight for them to believe. We need to help them discover what they are capable of and what they can achieve.
What is the most rewarding part about coaching? Seeing kids succeed. When they realize that they made it possible and seeing them realize and appreciate their success. It’s also rewarding seeing a kid 5 years later thanking me for some lesson they learned from me – that is what it’s about.