Women’s History Month: Coach Spotlight

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Every March, we come together to celebrate Women’s History Month and the many contributions of women throughout history. This year, Varsity Spirit would like to recognize some of the most decorated female coaches in cheer and dance and celebrate their achievements.

Misty Hodges – Current Head Cheerleading Coach, University of Louisville All Girl & Co Owner GymTyme

Starting out as a gymnast at the age of 3, Misty transitioned to cheerleading during the 4th grade, continuing through high school and going on to cheer on the University of Louisville Large Coed Team (1990-1995). Following graduation, Misty stayed on with U of L Large Coed as an assistant coach, then started the University of Louisville All Girl team in 1998 and the Small Coed team in 2004. In addition to working with Louisville, Misty coached many local school programs as well as being a part of NCA staff. When GymTyme opened in 1991, Misty began coaching and has coached there for the last 30 years, becoming a part-owner in 2000. She has also had the opportunity to coach Team USA All Girl in 2012& 2013.

Notable Achievements:

  • 16x NCA College National Champion (All Girl Coach)
  • 10 ]x NCA College National Champion (Small Coed Coach)
  • 2x NCA College National Champion (Large Coed)
  • 20x World Champion (GymTyme)
  • 2x ICU World Champion (Team USA)
  • Coached multiple Summit Champion teams

Misty’s advice for young athletes: “Sports are a privilege. If you get the chance to be on any team, it comes with great responsibility. The lessons learned from team sports help develop life skills. Focus not only on the physical skills, but the vital life skills you are learning. Time management with school, work ethic, respecting teammates, winning, losing and being humble along the way. These are all lessons for life. Have fun, set achievable goals and celebrate each success along the way!”

Stephanie Manuel Former Coach, St. Thomas More Sparklers, Current Owner, The Dance Warehouse

From 1989 to 1991, Stephanie was a member of the nationally-ranked St. Thomas More Sparklers. Beginning in 1992, Stephanie began coaching and choreographing for the St. Thomas More Sparklers and continued for the next 23 years. In addition to coaching, Stephanie has worked and choreographed for nationally ranked college and high school dance teams across the country. Stephanie continued to share her love for dance by instructing and choreographing for UDA for 12 years, serving as the district representative for 6 years, and judging for UDA College Nationals and many other major competitions.  After graduating from The University of Southwestern, Stephanie opened The Dance Warehouse which she has been teaching and choreographing for over 3 decades.

Notable Achievements:

  • 16x UDA National Champion (Jazz & Pom – St. Thomas More)
  • Choreographed for multiple college and high national champions and nationally-ranked teams
  • ESPN commentator for the UDA College Dance Team Championship

Kim Gaskin – Current Head Coach, Burlington Township High School

Kim, a former BT cheerleader, began coaching at Burlington Township in 1989 and steps into every new season knowing not only can she help turn an athlete into a great cheerleader but into a great person. “I don’t just coach an athlete for a practice or a competition or a national championship. I coach an athlete for life. In this program, we care about you for life.” It’s this outlook that keeps Kim coaching. Over the years, she is grateful for her long time assistant, Coach Sorina and all her coaches who have made the program a success. TEAM Burlington, the program’s motto, represents the importance of diversity and inclusion- Together Everyone Achieves More.

Notable Achievements:

  • 3x UCA NSHCC Champion
  • 1x UCA Game Day National Champion
  • Over 20 State Championship Titles
  • Featured in the 2013 American Cheerleader the Movie
  • Long time President of the NJ Cheer and Dance Coaches Association

Kim’s advice for young coaches: Today, having the title ‘coach’ has such a bigger responsibility than it’s ever had before. The accountability and the empowerment you must demonstrate goes way beyond a competition or a trophy. It goes beyond the love of cheerleading. How you go about getting an athlete to success takes work. Skills and knowledge come easy to most coaches. It’s fostering the emotional intelligence in athletes that separates the good coaches from the great coaches.”

Elaine Pascale – Current Owner of World Cup All Stars in Freehold, NJ 

Elaine Pascale was first a basketball coach that took her girls high school team to win the New Jersey state championship. She turned down an opportunity to coach one of the very first women’s college basketball teams and instead enlisted the help of her daughter, Joelle Antico, to begin coaching Pop Warner cheerleaders. When the team aged out of Pop Warner, Joelle and Elaine took those same cheerleaders and established the Shooting Stars, their first all star cheer team. Shortly after, the Shooting Stars’ younger sisters wanted a team of their own, and the Starlights were created. In 2001, Elaine and Joelle decided to turn their hobby into a business. They took on the name of the gymnastics facility they rented space from and called themselves World Cup All Stars. Between then and now, Elaine has spoken to hundreds of coaches and gym owners, coached thousands of athletes, given back to countless charities in their Freehold community, and earned many titles. But the title she will always be most grateful for is mom to Joelle, Janee, & “T” and grandmother to Gianna and Mikey. These days, Elaine stills spends her days in the gym, coaching her coaches and mentoring her athletes, loving each of them like family. She travels a little less but stays very connected to kids who “keep her young at heart.” Elaine is truly a gift and inspiration to our all star cheer industry.

Notable Achievements:

  • USASF Hall Of Fame Member
  • USASF Pioneer Award Recipient
  • 6x World Champion (World Cup Shooting Stars – Large Senior L6)
  • 2x World Champion (World Cup Starlites – Large Junior L6)
  • Worlds Bronze Medalists (World Cup Odyssey – Large Senior Limited Co-ed)
  • Coaching Shooting Stars and awarding scholarships to her graduating athletes

Elaine’s advice for athletes: “If you define yourself by a trophy, then there can only be one winner. But we can all be champions in life, using cheerleading as our vehicle to influence and connect with people.”

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