Cheerleading has almost been a given over the last 20-plus years for Kari Schott.
She ran the Upward cheer program at South Rock Christian Church for 15 years. The 1996 graduate returned as an assistant to Derby High School three years ago and she’ll now take over the program as its new head coach.
She’ll also be joined by 2015 graduate Makenna Allen as the new assistant coach.
Between her recent experience as an assistant and returning every cheerleader but one from last year, Schott said it’s been a smooth transition.
“I was with Debbie [Russell] for three years so I had good leadership to watch,” she said. “I know a lot of the girls and guys and have been coaching them … [the role] just comes with more responsibility.”
Schott said she credits her six seniors for stepping into a bigger leadership role as the 2019-20 school year opens.
This year’s graduating class of cheerleaders will include Bayley Johnson, Quinn Price, Alyssa Dooms, Alyssa Haney, Haley Nickel and Briley Dennison.
“It could be a lot crazier if nobody had ever cheered before, I lost a whole bunch of seniors and I didn’t have very good leadership,” Schott, who cheered at Southwestern University in college, said. “I really have a good group of seniors and they’ve done a really good job.”
The team also made a change for its annual summer camp and attended the National Cheerleaders Association (NCA) Camp on the Oklahoma State campus in Stillwater, Okla.
Schott said it was one day shorter and it was a week and a half earlier than the Emporia camp, but her team went prepared.
The camp included roughly 20-25 schools and 150 campers and Derby’s participants excelled.
The Panther cheerleaders participated in Top Team Chant and Top Team Cheer, winning the latter category. They also won the Spirit award for the camp and saw Jordan Parker named as the top All-American for the entire camp.
Every participating cheerleader was nominated to be an All-American and
of those who tried out, Parker was the lone participant given the accolade afterwards. Dennison got an offer to
be a part of an NCA staff, allowing
her to participate in a camp as a staff member next year.
“I was really happy with that,” Schott said. “We brought home a spirit stick as well … we were really successful at camp and they did a good job working through things and making any last-minute changes.”
Being a part of the team is a big time commitment, but Schott said she’s thrilled with how they’ve done in practice participation and in various team activities. That includes making the “run-through” banners every Wednesday that the football team runs through each Friday night.
“We participate in tailgate parties, pep assemblies and pregame activities with Pantherettes,” the Derby coach said. “Including events outside of Derby, honestly, we probably do something every single night … not only are they practicing, but they’re serving the community.”