Coach’s Corner: Christie McPherson
By: Kirstin Trouville
March 23, 2021
Last October Pirates’ Cheer Coach Christie McPherson spoke with masspiratesfootball.com about her new role and roster. I recently had the opportunity to interview McPherson to follow up on how the team has advanced. A native of Texas, McPherson has coached several recreational, collegiate, and now professional cheer and dance teams. In addition she has been a dance competition judge that has allowed her to travel across the country to experience numerous styles of dance. She began coaching and choreographing at eighteen years old with the help of great mentors who helped teach the fundamentals of being a leader.
After being hired in the middle of a pandemic last July, Coach McPherson has been working diligently to prepare her Cheerleaders for the upcoming football season. It has been a tough few months as the majority of 2020 was virtual for the team, including the audition process. Building the team virtually was a challenge as McPherson is focused on team bonding and creating a family environment. However she created a way to bring the team together during their virtual practices through an app. This process allowed team members to upload photographs and videos of their routines and ask questions or receive feedback from their peers. In addition she appointed Pirates cheerleader Megan to be the team connection captain, which means she works closely with the team to ensure everyone is feeling comfortable and able to confide any struggles with her. The two team captains Erin and Hannah also bring a level of trust to the team for members to go to. Now that McPherson has been with the team for almost nine months she has created a connection with each cheerleader, which is extremely important as they are all able to lean on each other.
Normally the team would work together on their health, however McPherson ensured that while conducting virtual practices the team stayed both physically and mentally healthy. Oftentimes the mental health of people gets pushed aside, but the last year has shown everyone that it is just as important as physical health. This led to McPherson doing check-ins with members to provide them an outlet to speak and express any struggles that they may have to keep mental health at the front of their minds. The team has a certified trainer who holds virtual classes for everyone to safely exercise and feel confident with their physical health.
There are many different ways to coach a professional team, but McPherson told me, “My personal approach to it has always been that they are humans first and cheerleaders and dancers second. This builds the foundation in trusting me as their coach.” After being isolated for months the team is finally able to practice in person once a week safely with masks and social distancing.
Motivating a team can be challenging, but McPherson gave her advice on what she tells her team when they feel anxious or nervous to perform. “Everyone who auditions for a team or sport is auditioning not because you have fear or anxiety, but because you are inherently drawn to performing. Go back to why you originally auditioned, and how you overcame the fear, because you cared enough and wanted it. Use that adrenaline rush to push through the nerves and see that you reached your goal.” For the Pirates cheerleaders, they have not performed in a public realm for almost a year, where additional layers of nerves will be piling up. McPherson is set on motivating her team to do the best they can and perform with confidence.
This cheer team is the largest in Pirates cheerleading history, meaning the performances will have great visual images and new experiences for the fans. The pregame dance will use the same song each game, in order to accustom the audience and tell everyone that the cheerleaders are entering the field. Halftimes are going to be exciting as the songs are structured to each theme night and will be performed to each side of the arena as a 360-degree view. Performances will be slightly different than ever before as additional elements are being incorporated, such as masks. The art of cheer and dance relies on emotion and expression, however wearing a mask is going to change the way they connect with the audience.
“So much will be in the eyes and relying on using that connection with the fans. The girls will be trained on how impactful their eyes are going to be in the performances.” The cheerleaders are continuing to work hard through all the challenges to keep a connection with fans and provide great entertainment.
Being a southern girl, McPherson has her own element of dance that she has brought to her team to give them a new experience and exposure to different styles. Additionally being a judge for numerous regions has taught her new skills within choreography. Though McPherson ensures that this does not overly influence her own style, instead incorporating an increased intensity of what she loves to do. This evolution of dance is being brought to her routines to add an additional factor of dance education. Being a coach does not mean that you are done learning, because there is always more to learn and educate yourself on. “You can either use your experience to help others or you can just hold onto the experience selfishly. To me, the greatest joy as a coach is teaching it to my dancers.”
Looking forward to this season the Pirates cheerleaders have just as many activities off the field as on it. Many people do not see behind the scenes such as charitable work, appearances, social media, working out, and their practices which all contribute to the Pirates brand. This team is about representing the brand and other women while heavily focusing on community outreach. With the season’s home games starting in May, the team has been preparing their halftime routines in accordance with theme nights. I asked McPherson which night they were most excited about, “That’s easy. Medical Heroes night!” McPherson is currently a nursing student with a future goal of working in this industry and is excited for the Pirates’ performance to honor and say thank you to them. “Watching over the last year the heroic actions of so many medical professionals on every level has been amazing.”
The Massachusetts Pirates are members of the Indoor Football League (IFL). The Pirates play all home games at the DCU Center located at 50 Foster St. Worcester, MA. 01608. For more information on the Massachusetts Pirates please call (508) 452-MASS (6277), email email@example.com or visit http://www.masspiratesfootball.com. Single-game tickets will be available soon at ticketmaster.com or the DCU Center Box Office. For season, half-season, luxury, or group ticket packages please call 508-452-MASS (6277). Follow the Pirates on Facebook via Facebook.com/MAPirates, Instagram @mass.pirates, and Twitter @mass_pirates. #GetHooked #AllAboard