Southwestern's Britani Shoemaker is one of the top high school cheerleading coaches in the country. She has helped build the school's cheerleading program from the ground up and has coached the Warriors to two UCA Small Varsity National Championships.
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Shoemaker began cheering at Southern Middle School in 7th grade.
"At that point I really didn't have much of an idea of what cheer was about," Shoemaker explained. "But I had danced and tumbled all of my life so I thought I would give it a try!"
She fell in love with school spirit and went on to cheer all four years at Southwestern High School in Somerset, Kentucky.
I loved cheering on my friends at their ballgames! I also loved being a part of a team and the idea of having a common goal and working together with a group of people to achieve it.
Britani Shoemaker poses for a picture at her high school football game with young girls who she would soon coach at SWHS.
When her senior year ended, she knew she wanted to become a coach and began assisting SWHS's current coach Mrs. Gover right away. Shoemaker danced at the University of Kentucky and drove home often to help with practices.
I took over way before I expected and became the head coach as a junior in college. I wanted Southwestern to be one of those Kentucky teams that everyone knew about. I knew we had the potential and I think just the chase of that dream got me hooked!However, not everyone understood Shoemaker's love and passion for cheer. She got married in June of 2009 -- but soon after that the happiness started to fade, and she eventually separated from her husband.
"I was very passionate about coaching cheer," she said. "It did take up a lot of my time and energy and it became and easy excuse to fight about. I think it is hard for people who aren't involved to understand how a group of people who aren't family by blood can mean so much to you! It's impossible to be successful in the cheer world and do it half way. I refused to give it my half effort. The time away from home and the passion that I had for cheerleading, my girls, and our program became a constant area of conflict in my marriage."
The 2011 SWHS seniors helped Shoemaker get through the hard times after her separation.
At one point during her separation, Shoemaker decided she wouldn't coach anymore.
"It didn't last long, because cheerleading wasn't really the root of the marriage problem but after that short time off, I knew that my faith and my girls were going to be what got me through that dark time," Shoemaker said.
I threw all of me into our Warrior Cheer program. My senior girls lived with me for about two weeks. They cooked dinner every night and made coming home to my new "husband-less house" doable.Shoemaker got he support from her athletes, physically and emotionally.
From that point on my determination to continue to take our program to the next level just exploded. And I was lucky enough to have a crew of girls that wanted that dream as bad as I did.In 2012, Shoemaker's first nationals post-divorce, the Warriors placed fourth in Small Varsity Division II.
"The team worked and worked and worked to put together a routine that was unbeatable," explained Shoemaker. "The team challenged me to really become a better coach and we pushed each other. It was a constant and mutual effort to be great."
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In 2013, SWHS nailed their routine at Finals to win their first ever national championship.
That hit and that win held so much more meaning for me than most people knew. It validated the time I had given and the sacrifices I had made and it helped me to believe in myself again. It made me believe in the power of cheer.
Shoemaker embraces former coach Mrs. Gover after winning first UCA National Championship.