(Cover photo and all story photos of Bullitt East Cheer, provided by Bullitt East Cheer)
By Hope Eaton
Nate Fulghum, Bullitt East High School (BEHS) head cheerleading coach for the 2014-2015 school year, has a lot to celebrate as he steps down from his position.
BEHS cheerleading has evolved over the past five years. It was back in 2010 when the program transitioned from an all-girl team to a co-ed team. That same year, the program decided to compete at the UCA National High School Cheerleading Championships. The team did not make it to the finals, but the experience was huge.
The next year proved monumental when the number of cheerleaders tripled and allowed the program to create an additional team. It was then that the co-ed team won at the UCA Championships. The program celebrated another triumph that day when the newly-created JV team placed second in the nation.
In 2013, the program decided the best way to continue to be competitive was to decrease its squad numbers and create two varsity teams. The succession path led to one small varsity co-ed team and one small varsity all-girl team. The vision was to have two highly competitive teams that could win at both the state and national level.
To start off the 2014-2015 season, BEHS won the Eastside Cheer Challenge, KHSAA State Region 6 title, Bluegrass Championship, and the UCA Bluegrass Challenge.
What an amazing feeling it must have been to see that vision come to fruition in 2015 when both the all-girl and co-ed teams brought home state titles in their respective divisions.
Fulghum stated, “It was so much fun getting to experience that with the kids.”
The strengths and perseverance that the skilled athletes of Bullitt East possess does not go unnoticed. They set high goals and daily expectations for one another in practice, in the classroom, and on the floor. Part of their strategy includes focus on attitude, team, work ethic and accountability.
This past season’s teams consisted of 25 co-ed team members and 12 all-girl team members. They both sacrifice eight to 11 hours per week in practice and games. This can vary depending on the time of year. The coaching staff also puts in long hours to develop the teams, oftentimes up to 15 hours a week preparing, mentoring, and leading the program.
When asked about tradition, Fulghum said with conviction, “We have built our program around one fundamental concept: Do work!”
Everything else is an extension of that fundamental concept. The goal is to come in every day and work your hardest no matter your skill level. “Do work” is the mental cornerstone for the program’s five-year success.
As Fulghum steps down by transitioning as an assistant coach, he will pass the spirit stick to choreographer Jeff Schaber, whose cheer career began in 1998 as a cheerleader at Southern High School.
After graduation, Schaber was named the assistant coach there. His career took him to Florida for a time which forged great relationships with cheer teams there. He continues to go back and choreograph routines for some of those teams.
Upon Schaber’s return to Kentucky, he continued to be involved in the cheer community, landing the choreographer position at BEHS in 2010. He has been present for the evolution of the program, which makes him the perfect candidate to escalate it to the next chapter.
During Schaber’s interview for the head coaching position, he expressed his passion and devotion to BEHS cheerleading and his genuine interest to continue the tradition. It is evident every competition season how much he truly loves the kids and the program that they have built together.
When asked what his goals are for this upcoming season, Schaber stated, “Increas[ing] school spirit throughout the school is top priority. Focus on our in-game performance and ensure that we are the best at both in-game and competition. Promote and live our motto: Be one! This coming season, we will be going from a co-ed and all-girl team to just one all-girl team. I chose to make our motto fit the change: Be one team with one dream to be number one!”
“Be one” is supported by assistant coaches Fulghum, Kristen DeWilde, and Amy Edwards. This dynamic team brings years of cheer experience, and since they have all worked together for the past several years, Schaber’s transition to lead the program shouldn’t be difficult.
In the community, BEHS cheer has seen success in coordinating time with the Firecrackers, a special needs team. The Firecrackers cheer a ball game each season and perform an exhibition at the Cheer Showcase.
BEHS cheer is also out in the community with the athletic booster club for fundraising efforts. The team started the year by selling cookie dough to afford new uniforms. Two of the big fundraisers are selling program ads for the athletic sports program book and working bingo for the athletic booster club. The club is the cheer program’s primary supporter.
New fundraisers this season will be “Trivia Night” at BEHS on September 19th and a BEHS cheer competition tentatively scheduled for December 5th. Schaber and his committee are still finalizing all of the details for these two new fundraisers. For more information on both, you can reach out to him directly at Jeffrey.email@example.com.
As the tradition continues, and with exciting, new things happening within the BEHS cheer program, there is much to look forward to this season. Congratulations to Fulghum for the impressive foundation built, and to new Schaber for his new role and great things to come!