Under the careful — and experienced leadership of Tammy Ensley, cheerleading has reached new heights at Pisgah High School.
Last year, PHS cheerleaders placed first in the prestate competition for the NCHSAA’s invitational meet and went on to claim the state title, which meant a trip to the nationals at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando. There the squad faced 953 of the best squads in the U.S. and Canada.
Two team members, Lilly Ensley and Callie Jorstad, cheered at the East-West basketball and football games.
With 12 returning seniors, Ensley is looking forward to the coming season —which will be her last.
During her 15-year tenure, Ensley has looked at cheerleading as far more than energizing fans during games. It is an opportunity to help the girls under her tutelage grow in ways that will help them succeed in life.
In addition to being the cheerleading coach, Ensley serves as the yearbook advisor and the online facilitator for electronic learning.
“I supervise kids all year long,” she said.
Ensley’s daughter, Lilly, is a senior this year, which partly prompted the decision to step down as the cheering coach.
“I probably wouldn’t have stayed this long if it weren’t for her,” she said.
As part of Ensley’s “everything is a teachable moment” philosophy, cheerleading tryouts are rigorous under her watch.
“We have two days of clinic, then a tryout,” she said. “They learn the material in small groups, and it’s like an audition they would do for a college or Broadway play.”
Potential cheerleaders try out before a panel of four coaches and judges.
“Everything is a teaching moment,” Ensley said. “It’s more work for me, but it is practice for them to learn skills they will need in real life.”
If students are nervous and uncomfortable before the tryouts, that’s part of the learning. There will be times in life when a person will face challenges — whether it be for a job interview, a performance they have practiced hours to accomplish flawlessly or a test where the stakes are high. Having experience at facing similar circumstances is a learning opportunity, Ensley said.
This year, the cheering squad has 22 varsity cheerleaders, plus mascot Hannah Brunck, who is also in color guard, and 18 junior varsity cheerleaders.
“The squad members for the coming school year all love cheerleading and all love Pisgah,” Ensley said, two vital components in the sport.
“We had a great season last year. There were great kids, and we were lucky because of no major injuries,” she said. “Everyone got along and we were very successful. With a lot of the same kids returning, I feel like we’ll be very successful.”