Leading thousands of Hokie fans in cheers at the first home game of a traditionally football fueled university may seem daunting to most, but Virginia Tech’s new head spirit coach has accepted the challenge.
With the help of her senior team members, Perren Young rushed into Blacksburg this summer and has lead a smooth transition for the cheer team as they prepare for the fall season.
Young has been particularly interested in focusing on the team’s strengths and preserving game day traditions with the kick-off of her new title.
“I’m just looking to take everything they have, because they have so many great traditions and try to step them up and see what areas we can engage the crowd more to make the best game-day experience,” Young said.
Although the teams have only practiced less than a month under Young’s leadership, she said their determined attitudes have been helpful in her transition.
“I’m not used to having to move quite as fast,” Young said. “I have a lot of upperclassmen and a lot of institutional knowledge by having a lot of returners on the squad.”
One of the returning leaders is Zack Fry, a senior sociology major, who said the seniors have already been set to work with this switch.
“The seniors were already prepared for this,” Fry said. “After Ricky left in the fall, the seniors stepped up with the assistant coach and worked as a unit. We know when to work and how to get everything done.”
This can-do attitude is balanced with light-heartedness amongst the team leaders, an aspect they immediately saw in Young at the end of try-outs when she asked the team to teach her the Hokie Pokie.
This also showed her willingness to preserve school traditions and previous ways of running the team even though she is coming in with her own coaching style, Fry said.
“My main goal really coming in as late as I am is to learn as much about Virginia Tech traditions,” Young said. “This is a very traditional school with an incredible fan base.”
Young is no newbie to loyal fans, however.
Even though the new coach had done gymnastics in her hometown, Memphis, Tenn. since the age of six and tumbled for an all-star squad in high school, it wasn’t until 2006 when she would hold her first pair of pompoms on the sidelines of the University of Mississippi, more famously known as Ole Miss.
“The competition aspect was nothing new to me, but the actual sideline and on-the-field Southeastern Conference game was definitely exciting,” Young said.
In her fifth year of college, with only one semester left on the squad, her coaches asked if she would be interested in joining the staff.
“I thought it was a great opportunity to transition out of being on the team while I was still in school,” Young said. “I decided to stick around and increase my skill set and knowledge in hopes that maybe something like Virginia Tech would happen.”
Although Ole Miss later offered her a head coach position, Young chose the position at Tech to branch out of the SEC and begin a new experience.
Young arrived at Tech on July 10, hosted tryouts July 26 and coached the first practice Aug. 18.
The willing collaboration between Young and the team has resulted in no dismantling of favored routines but instead an addition of more tumbling and stunts, which is Young’s specialty and a dynamic she is expanding the team’s experience with.
“We’re not changing our sidelines, because we have strong band dances, but we are learning new stunts and pyramids,” Fry said. “We will be doing two new pyramids at the game that we have just worked on.”
Work is a humble word choice for the team’s routines in preparation for the upcoming games, however.
Among the responsibilities are the direction of the cheer squad, dance team, mascots and rigorous training six days a week.
Fry is confident in the team to make a hit for the opener this weekend and for the games beyond, saying that while they will continue to focus on transitioning smoothly, they also plan to branch out with the help of their new coach.