Brandywine cheerleading coach wins big at 2016 Neighborhood Awards
Christian reflects on Best High School Coach win
What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas — but that wasn’t the case at the 14th Annual 2016 State Farm Neighborhood Awards Weekend, a three-day, star-studded event held July 22- July 24 to recognize and celebrate men and women from all over the U.S. who have spotlighted their neighborhoods through their contributions and excellence as entrepreneurs, religious and community leaders, educators and more.
It was the night of Saturday, July 23, at the Mandalay Bay Events Center, inside the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino, where celebrities and nominees from 12 unique categories converged on the Las Vegas Strip, dressed to impress. The untelevised show, hosted by Steve Harvey, began at 7 p.m. with live performances from The O’Jays, Erykah Badu and Maxwell.
Kim Christian, a cheerleading coach from Gwynn Park High School in Brandywine, was among three other finalists nominated for Best High School Coach. And then it happened. Just after 8:30 p.m., the Neighborhood Awards officially announced
on Twitter that Christian had won in her category.
“It was amazing,” Christian recalls in a phone interview Aug. 2. “It was my first time going to Vegas so that was all exciting in itself and being a part of the activities, it just made me feel special. I felt like a star for a weekend. Everybody was so nice and pleasant and they congratulated me after I won the award.”
Christian, an alumna of Virginia State University, said her experience at the awards is one she will never forget. Being onstage, talking to everybody and letting the world know that cheerleading is a sport was her favorite part, she said.
“I was so surprised that I won and it just really, really made me happy,” said Christian who attended the awards with Carletta Marrow, former principal of Dr. Henry A. Wise Jr. High School in Upper Marlboro. “I was appreciative that so many people were supportive and voted for me to win. That was just so overwhelming. It was very touching and a very humbling experience.”
Having coached at Gwynn Park High for the past seven years, Christian knows a thing or two about winning and representing the best of the best.
Earlier this year, the school’s advanced varsity cheerleading team won top honors as champions of the 2016 U.S. Finals — an annual cheer and dance competition held in Virginia Beach. This year marks the fourth year in a row that the team has been recognized as the best in the country, according to Christian.
“It’s bigger than a national,” Christian said. “They’re the top team out of all the teams who won their nationals and compete at this event.”
Since Christian’s tenure as coach, the team has also won county championships every year and at least four or five state titles.
“Kim Christian deserves that title. She is a phenomenal coach,” said Tracie Miller, principal of Gwynn Park. “The techniques she uses with motivating the girls not only to be their best in their athletic skills, but also in the classroom because she is a classroom teacher as well. All of that makes me extremely proud of her.”
As for the school, Miller said Christian’s success is just another opportunity for others to see that Gwynn Park is an outstanding school with great teachers and coaches that help develop great students. What makes Christian stand out is her extremely high standards and expectations for excellence, she said.
“She demands compliance. She demands perfection,” Miller said. “Having those high standards make the girls want to do better; they won’t give up. Even if it’s very challenging or tiring, she will still spark something in them to make them get up and say, ‘Ok, I’m ready to do it again.’ … She has high expectations and there’s no option other than to meet them.”
“She’s a very good coach and she pushed me to do things that I didn’t think I could do myself,” said D’Naysha Butler, a senior at Gwynn Park and member of the advanced varsity cheerleading team. “She helped me improve my confidence in myself. I’m really happy for her and glad I came to this school.”
“She’s the best coach ever. She deserved it,” added Danielle Davis, a former team member who graduated from Morgan State University in May and now volunteers her time to assist Christian. “[Coach Christian taught me that] education is first. You have to have the grades in order to participate. You learn that cheerleading is more than just a sport. She teaches you how to live through day-to-day situations.”
Kayla Loynes, a senior now in her fourth year of cheering, said Christian is a dedicated coach who works hard and mo- tivates her teammates to strive for the best.
“For most people, education comes first but not everyone knows how to maintain [that and cheer] at the same time. But with being on this team, you have to learn time management and how to balance things out,” Loynes said. “I was able to manage a 3.6 cumulative GPA and do what I like to do at the same time.”
As far as next steps for Gwynn Park’s cheer team, Christian said the goal is to keep the spirit alive for their beloved teammate, Alexx Herndon, who lost her life to bone cancer last May.
“She’s with us in everything we do,” said Christian. “You will see ‘E4A’ [meaning Everything for Alex] in a lot of our hashtags [on Twitter]. The school loves Alexx. She was just so special to everybody.”
Christian said she hopes her spotlight will shed light on some of the positive things that are happening within Prince George’s County Public Schools.
“I think it lets the world know that we do exist,” said Christian, who also teaches social studies. “We’ve had some students with issues that cheerleading, as far as being a sport, has definitely helped them get ready for the future and go to the next level out of high school. … It just makes me feel good to know that they have enjoyed being a part of the program. It puts a real special place in their heart and it’s something they’ll never forget.”
Gwynn Park High School Principal Tracie Miller, far left, and members of the advanced varsity cheerleading team smile as they surround coach Kim Christian holding her 2016 State Farm Neighborhood Awards Best High School Coach plaque. Christian, a social studies teacher who has been at the school for seven years, helped lead the cheer team to win the U.S. Finals championship four years in a row. The team has also won seven county championships and at least four or five state titles in years past.
Christian holds a trophy her advanced varsity cheerleading team won this year as champions of the 2016 U.S. Finals, making it the fourth year in a row.