Meet Dr. Karen Lew Feirman (DHSc, LAT, ATC) 

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Developing a passion for cheer and dance comes second nature to the coaches and athletes who participate every day, but the spirit world also captures the hearts of so many behind the scenes who see the hard work and effort these athletes invest.

Dr. Karen Lew Feirman (DHSc, LAT, ATC) is a decorated athletic trainer, Louisiana Athletic Trainers’ Association Hall of Fame inductee, and pioneer in cheerleading and dance safety. As a longtime Varsity Spirit employee and advocate for safety education, Karen developed her passion for spirit early in her athletic training and sports medicine career. A former tennis and softball player, she knew little about cheer and dance when she started working for the company. She first heard of Varsity Spirit when she saw a sign hanging in the athletic training clinic promoting Varsity Spirit summer camps and opportunities to travel. 

“I didn’t know much about cheerleading and dance at the time, but after working for just one summer, I realized the importance and need for safety, injury prevention, and access to athletic trainers for cheerleaders and dancers. Varsity Spirit has always supported the athletes, and I appreciated the opportunity to work with cheer and dance teams,” she said.

Karen’s first summer working Varsity Spirit camps was in 1993, and she’s been leading the way ever since – establishing new compliance requirements, developing the Protecting the Children and Preventing the Maltreatment of Children educational modules, and eventually helping to launch Varsity University conferences around the country. Karen’s expertise and focus on safety has led her to the role of Vice President of Varsity Camp Administration and Varsity University, where she continues to apply her expertise, equipping coaches and athletes with the proper training and safety standards. 

In charge of planning multiple Varsity University conferences each year, Karen is committed to continuous training and education opportunities for coaches. Much of the Varsity University curriculum is focused on teaching coaches how to be informed decision-makers and prioritizing the safety and well-being of their athletes. Other topics include structuring practices, strategies for season success, emergency action planning, and knowing how and when to push your team through a plateau.  

And Karen’s not the only expert involved in Varsity University. Other well-known industry professionals and coaches like Debbie Love, Tom Jensen, and Steve Wright lend their knowledge to the thousands of coaches who attend. 

But Varsity University is just one way that Varsity Spirit puts safety first. At thousands of summer camps each year, the 350,000 coaches and athletes in attendance learn proper safety techniques, skill progressions, and spirit-leading activities from the Varsity Spirit instructional staff, with the support of certified athletic trainers. Teams are also required to attend a safety awareness class. It was here where Karen first developed her connection with Varsity Spirit. 

“I could see their commitment to the athletes. In a society where cheer and dance were physically underserved, Varsity provided platforms to promote cheer and dance, emphasizing wellness, proper training, and safety education,” Fierman said. “The Varsity Spirit mission—to partner with educators, coaches and students to build school pride, student engagement and community spirit—truly sets the foundation for great opportunities. I’ve been with Varsity Spirit for 27 years and love the people I work with, the ongoing desire to be industry leaders, and the opportunity to create positive change. The need for safety has always existed, yet Varsity Spirit is one of the few companies that truly provides scalable solutions to industry needs. I’m so proud that my creativity within safety and education has been impactful in the training of coaches, athletes, and athletic trainers over the years.” 

The efforts of Karen’s team and other safety and education initiatives look to be making an impact. According to data over the last 5 years from the National Center for Catastrophic Sport Injury Research, cheerleading shows a major reduction in injuries, including zero catastrophic injuries reported in 2017-2018, and two in the past 5 years. This is in large part due to additional rules and restrictions, as well as improved coaches training. 

Varsity Spirit is committed to developing and progressing educational resources, training opportunities, and safety information available for coaches and athletes both in the scholastic and all star communities, with the help of dedicated professionals like Karen. 

Visit these links to learn more about cheerleading and dance safety, and to find a Varsity University conference near you. 

Stay Current with USA Cheer Safety Resources 

Take the #iCheerSafe Pledge 

Find a Varsity University Conference Near You 

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