The Waterloo cheerleading program has come a long way in five years. This weekend the program was solidified with its first state title at the ICCA Championships in Springfield.
“They are a great group of girls and you just feel happy that they get to experience that,” WHS cheer coach Amber Hensiek said. “People are finally starting to notice who we are.”
Going from just solely a sideline cheer squad at sporting events to state recognized athletes and a competitive team, much of the program’s recent success has come at the hands of Waterloo coaches and sisters Brittany Huelsman and Amber Huelsman Hensiek.
And its come in a short period of time. The high school cheerleaders first started competing last year. Before that, the junior high cheerleaders began competing three years ago when this year’s high school juniors were in eighth grade.
“Finally our program is carrying over from year to year,” Henseik said, explaining that the dedication in the past was just not where it needed to be. Now the girls are tumbling year round.
The flow of the two programs definitely shows in the girls’ attitudes.
“It builds a good relationship between the high school girls and the younger girls,” Huelsman said.
After WJHS won this past weekend, the high school cheerleaders were tweeting things like, “Congratulations girls, we are excited to work with you next year.”
The Huelsman sisters attribute that to the programs’ high expectations.
“We coach the same so they learn it right from the start,” Huelsman said.
They also say practicing together helps, as well as the fact that they are sisters and are always talking to each other. Even if their family gets tired of hearing about it.
“But for us its cool because we are always talking to each other,” Hensiek explained. “We are each other’s assistants.”
The sisters say its also great to experience the success together.
“It’s just exciting for her to have a good year,” Hensiek said. “I’m getting them next year so it will eventually be us. If not, we both work equally as hard with each other’s programs.”
But it does come with a bit of sibling rivalry, of course.
“I’m the older sister so of course everything comes from me,” Hensiek said with a laugh. But she does attribute her younger sister’s involvement with cheerleading at WHS and the collegiate level at McKendree with why she even became a coach in the first place. Hensiek herself was never a cheerleader but learned from watching and following Brittany’s development.
Sharing the evolution of cheerleading from sisters to coaches is also an asset to the program, a program that the Huelsmans are building from the ground up.
“It’s a little bit harder at the junior high level because I start fresh every year,” Huelsman explained. “But it’s nice to know they are going to a good program.”