As has been documented in this column, I wore quite a few hats in my teaching/coaching career at Douglas County High School. Tennis and soccer coach, FCA and school newspaper sponsor, basketball and wrestling announcer were just a few of the roles I played.
But the strangest one happened my second year at DC (1976-77) when I was pressed into duty as the varsity football/basketball cheerleading sponsor. Now mind you, even though I was a half-marathoner in those days, I was about as coordinated and flexible as a pregnant elephant so the unusual request by then sophomore Angie Kirk caught me off guard.
Angie and most of the girls on the JV squad had been in my freshman economics class so we were all good friends. This was why she wasn’t shy when she showed up before homeroom one morning in August. She wanted me to sponsor the varsity cheerleaders.
The first words out of my mouth were “What?” and “Why?”
She smiled funnily and said. “Because Miss Smith (not her real name) quit as did almost all of the varsity cheerleaders.”
That just led to another question of “why”.
“She was getting so much grief from a bunch of parents over the tryout results, she quit. When she quit, most of the girls did too.”
I was puzzled and asked, “Well, who’s the varsity team now?”
Angie again smiled sheepishly and said, “We are, in addition to being JV. Two seniors also stayed and made the team too. So now will you help?”
When I protested my lack of expertise in gymnastics and such as well as my football duties with Coach McWhorter, Angie shook her head and answered my doubts with “Heavner, you said you were on the cheerleading squad in college.”
“Yes,” I replied. “I was the school mascot for two years, hardly a cheerleader.”
“It doesn’t matter because we know the routines and will practice on our own with parents as chaperones. You just need to ride to the games to ensure we hang our banners and lay out the run-through sign. We ride on the football team bus and so do you.”
I couldn’t argue with logic like that so after checking with the principal, I agreed to help the girls out. Things went very well, primarily because I had a great group of athletes that knew their craft well, in addition to wonderful support of the parents.
The only glitch happened the night of the Cherokee-DC football game at Tiger Stadium. It was bitterly cold so Coach Johnson had ordered portable heaters to keep the players feet warm. During the game one of my senior cheerleaders, Anne Popham, came over to me, almost in tears and said, “Heavner, my feet are frozen. I can hardly walk.”
I led her over behind the benches and told her to place her feet near the opening of a heater and hold them for a while. As I turned around to watch the action on the field, I suddenly heard Anne calling out, “Heavner, I don’t think I need my feet this close because I believe my shoes are melting.”
To my consternation, she was right. I helped her up and sure enough, the smell of smoldering rubber permeated the night air. I rubbed the soles and they were indeed melting. Fortunately after about ten minutes the rubber hardened again and Anne went back to the squad.
That was a running joke between Anne and me for many years. In fact, she kept those shoes for a long time as a reminder.