Torrington Warriors Cheer Squad to Compete at Nationals in Florida. By John Torsiello.
By, JOHN TORSIELLO
A dozen hard working, talented young ladies, their coaches, family and friends headed to the American Youth Cheer National competition in Kissimmee, Fl. this week.
The D14 Torrington Lady Warriors cheerleaders qualified for the prestigious competition at the AYC Regional Cheer Competition in Hartford in mid-November.
There, they competed against 12 other teams in their division and came in third, only 1.4 points from first place. The National competition will be held Saturday.
“We are so proud of their hard work and dedication that qualified them for this once in a lifetime opportunity,” said head coach Danielle Jolicoeur, who is in her sixth year as a volunteer coach for the Torrington Warriors. This is her second year coaching this team of 12 girls. “It was very tough competition in Hartford and coming in third place is a major accomplishment.”
Regional and National tournaments are only open to members of American Youth Football, which was established in 1996, as a support services organization, dedicated to giving back to communities by promoting the wholesome development of youth through their association with exemplary adult leaders in the sport of American football and cheer, according to the organization’s website.
Guidelines are established by the group to ensure that players play in an atmosphere of learning with a competitive balance between teams. Coaches are dedicated to teaching youth through positive role models. Emphasis is placed on learning, playing, and enjoying the sport, while instilling high moral standards by stressing the importance of academic achievement and community involvement.
Other goals are to help children become leaders and teammates, fostering confidence and a sense of self-worth in players that extends beyond the gridiron and into the school, family and community, and to prepare youngsters to face the future with sportsmanship, teamwork, honesty, responsibility, self-discipline, positive aspirations, academic preparedness and confidence.
AYF strives to make youth football and cheer all-inclusive by not excluding participants based on superficial factors (such as weight, finances or athletic ability).
The group encourages programs for special needs, at-risk, and anti-gang groups, as well as the international football community.
Under Jolicoeur, with the assistance of “team mom” Lisa Gay, cheer coordinator Kellie Banche, and junior demonstrators Lexi Reginatto and Emma Mercogliano, the girls “have achieved great success,” said Jolicouer. The squad practices three nights a week and cheered football games on the weekends through the season that started in August.
“Our Division 14 team consists of 12 very talented athletes; and for a majority of girls on the team this will be their last year competing at the youth level,” said Jolicouer, who lives in Torrington and is a 2007 graduate of Oliver Wolcott Technical School. ” The Lady Warriors are working hard and hope to bring the National title back to Torrington with them and represent their hometown.”
Members of the team are Shamai Morales, Mckenzie Parker, Gina Samok, Stephanie Upton, Jailyn Newell, Mckenzi Wheaton, Alyssa Foster, Ava McKinney, Samantha Spring, Kara Banche, Alyssa Blodgett, and Jayme Morse.
Jolicouer cheered in high school for four years and began coaching because her cousin was on the Torrington Warriors and they needed a coach. “My passion for cheerleading comes from coaching and being able to help teach the girls on my team the skills they need on and off the field and mat.”
The head coach said, “This team pulls it together when they need to. At competitions, they know what it takes for the routine to `hit’ and they haven't disappointed us yet. We've had our fair share of injuries, disagreements, challenges, and tears, but through it all they stick together and support each other.”
Jolicouer said the team’s goal at Nationals is to place among the top three teams in its division. “But we will be happy if we go out on the mat and do the absolute best we can and improve from our last performance.”
This is not Jolicoeur's or the Torrington Warriors cheerleaders’ first trip to the big dance. “I took my group of girls I coached for the Warriors in 2013 and 2014. They are now sophomores in high school and two are my junior demonstrators. Our best finish was sixth, but only points away from first.” There is a total of 14 teams in Torrington’s division at Nationals, the top three squads from each region.
The team will be practicing when it arrives in Florida, participating in team bonding activities, and will get to relax and have some fun at Universal Studios.
Donations from local businesses, a Carvel ice cream fundraiser, Scarpelli’s Restaurant pizza tickets, and a Go Fund Me Page have and continue to assist the team defray costs of the trip to Florida.