Sports and Schools

Arnold ends 20-year cheer coaching career

Sylvia Arnold, center, sits among the senior cheerleaders at the final football game Nov. 8. - Jim Waller / Whidbey Examiner
Sylvia Arnold, center, sits among the senior cheerleaders at the final football game Nov. 8.
— image credit: Jim Waller / Whidbey Examiner

It began by helping her youngest sister; it ended by helping hundreds more.

Sylvia Arnold closed out her 20-year Coupeville High School cheer coaching career at the end of this football season.

When Arnold moved here with her husband Garrett in 1994, her youngest sister was a junior in high school and a member of the football cheer team that was without a coach.

Arnold said she was asked to “save the situation” and has guided the cheer squad since.

“I was actually pregnant with my youngest son, Brett, back in those early days of coaching,” Arnold said. “And that son is now graduating from CHS. I’m laying down the cheer hobby as he will be graduating, and it is just time for me to focus on other things at this time in my life.”

Arnold opened the door to the team to all, even those competing in other sports during the same season. This year’s squad included more than 40 girls.

“We have volleyball players, soccer players, band members, theater kids and Running Start students on our teams.  They start working out in the spring, learning all the material and then cheer for home football games in the fall,” she said.

The CHS trophy case is filled with first-place awards won by Arnold’s teams in local competitions, including a 2006 state title in the small novice division.

“Six a.m. practices were the only way to make competitions work since we had limited facilities where we could practice,” she said.

The success came from a philosophy centered around the idea of “family,” she said.

“It’s a lot like parenting,” Arnold said. “Tough love, boundaries and then setting them free. We’re strict in order to make them strong.”

Arnold pointed out that many young ladies need affirmation, and it is more than “telling them how wonderful they are (because) sometimes they are not.”

It’s about checking on grades and character with the girls’ teachers, benching the girls when needed, having chats with them about attitudes and emphasizing how they treat others, Arnold said.

“But in the long run, their self confidence increases. You see them standing taller. You see them smiling big and having a good time.

“How do I know they’re happy and enjoying this thing called cheer? Because they turn around and teach other little girls what their coaches have instilled in their lives,” Arnold said.

One of this year’s team’s final acts was typical of an Arnold group. The Father’s House thrift store in Oak Harbor was low on clothing for young ladies, so the team pulled together and helped.

The girls brought in their personal items on the cheer awards night and “carried out bag after bag of clothes to give away and bless the less fortunate,” Arnold said.

“This is ‘family’ in action,” Arnold said.

And that family touched the Whidbey community for 20 years.

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