With years of experience as both a cheerleader herself and as a cheer coach, Rachel Carey hopes to push the Lions’ cheer teams to new heights.
Foundation Academy has been on a bit of a tear lately when it comes to growing its athletic department.
Last month, the school announced the arrival of several new sports, which Athletic Director Lisa Eaves said would also require top-notch coaches.
Although cheer is not a new sport for the school, the program does have a new coach in Rachel Carey — who joined in March.
“I’m excited — I’ve known about the program for a while, and I’ve always kind of wanted to get in there, because they have a lot of potential,” Carey said. “I see a really good opportunity to grow the program.”
Getting that chance to build up the school’s varsity sideline and competitive cheer teams was only one aspect of the job for Carey.
The other big thing, for her, was that it offered up a tight-knit community that supports its students on different levels.
“My husband and I moved out to Winter Garden, and I kind of always knew of the school because of the community,” Carey said. “I like that it’s a faith-based school, and bringing that into my coaching — I’m really excited about (that). I like the community aspect.”
Not only is Carey getting the perfect school, but also Foundation is getting a coach who brings years of experience.
Carey was first introduced to the sport when she was just 4 years old. Growing up, she made her way through the cheer gauntlet, taking part in competitive cheerleading in high school and All-Star cheerleading, before taking to the sidelines as a member of the University of Florida cheer team.
“I’m excited — I’ve known about the program for a while, and I’ve always kind of wanted to get in there, because they have a lot of potential. I see a really good opportunity to grow the program.”
— Rachel Carey
And when her cheer career came to an end, Carey transitioned into coaching. She led the Ocoee cheer program for five years and then spent two years at Wekiva before landing at Foundation.
Starting from the ground up with a program — like she did at Ocoee — wasn’t easy, Carey said. The tough love that comes with growing a program is necessary to help young athletes.
“It definitely takes a couple of years for people to realize what your expectations are and that you’re not going to budge, so there are growing pains,” Carey said. “At Ocoee the first two years, I lost a couple of girls, because they didn’t fit the bill for me or they didn’t meet my expectations. But then as you go further into the program … they know the expectations and the parents know what to expect, and it just becomes more consistent.”
Those expectations already have been communicated to the current crop of cheerleaders — as well as their parents. And that’s just the starting point for Carey, as she looks to prepare for the upcoming sideline cheer season in the fall and also co-coach the competitive team.
“I love sideline, because I love getting involved with the crowd and getting them engaged into football and basketball games — helping make the environment,” Carey said. “And then competitive cheer, I really just love the two minutes and 30 seconds of adrenaline rush, and putting all your skills on the mat and competing against other teams.”
Although she is just going into her first year, taking those teams to the next level is high on her list of goals.
For the sideline cheer squad, Carey hopes to increase its presence and involvement. She then will work to get the Foundation cheer team to states to take on the best that Florida has to offer.
“I’ve always been a competitive person, and that’s been there my whole life, so I kind of bring that into my coaching,” Carey said. “And I want to get girls to strive to be better. I’ve always wanted to be the best at my sport, so that’s what I try to push the girls to do.”