Cheerleading will remain in Dana Page’s blood, but it’s moving off her calendar.
Page, who has coached the State Fair Community College Spirit Squad since 2002, will retire from that position and from her role as coordinator of the college’s Fred E. Davis Multipurpose Center on June 30.
“I cheered in high school, my daughter cheered four years, and it has just been something that has always been a part of our lives,” she said. “I think it is just something that you get in your blood and I have really enjoyed doing it.”
Logging almost two decades as a coach, Page has seen plenty of changes, including cheer finally being recognized as a sport. As cheering and stunt work evolved, she changed along with her team members.
“I am always learning, and I learn with them,” she said. “It has come a long way. Back even when I was in school it was basically cheer and dance and now with the stunting involved, it is definitely more challenging and more challenging to coach.”
Memorizing cheers, synchronizing movements, learning to safely execute stunts and building up conditioning to handle it all with a smile takes more time and effort than most people realize.
“It is a lot of work; you don’t go out there and make up things as you go along,” Page said. “We practice six hours a week and we condition, as well. Most of those kids are in 15 or 16 credit hours at school and a lot of them work 20, 30, 40 hours a week. It teaches a lot about time management. What a lot of people don’t realize is how hard we work and when they … see that stunt hit, they don’t know how many times it didn’t hit before we got it.”
Balancing the time and physical demands is more than some students can manage, so each year Page sees a couple of them drop out. Others, however, thrive under the structure. This past semester, Page had four Spirit Squad members on the SFCC President’s List and eight others on the Dean’s List.
In recent years, Page has put greater emphasis on recruiting locally.
“We are a community college and we are here to serve people in our community. It is great to pull somebody in from another state but we have such great opportunity right here with the college and my thought has always been if we have local students here cheering and playing sports, then we will have more fans in the stands,” she said. “For us, it is a lot easier to recruit. We have 11 schools play in the Kaysinger (Conference) tournament in our building so my assistant coach and I were able to watch those girls right there on the court.”
Making those human connections, whether recruiting cheerleaders and dancers or working with community members on events at the multipurpose center like the annual Holiday Arts and Crafts Show has made Page’s time at the college even more valuable. Her husband, Jim, taught at the college for 22 years and now is on the board of trustees. Both of their children, James and Amanda, are graduates of SFCC and have gone on to have successful careers.
“State Fair has been a family to us,” Page said. “We have been through a lot there, a lot of changes.”
One constant has been her boss since Day One: SFCC Athletic Director Darren Pannier. He said Page is respected by the whole SFCC family and that she is always looking out for what is best for the college and its students.
“She has a great understanding of how to complete tasks and ensure that events run smoothly,” Pannier said. “She can troubleshoot a problem prior to it causing an issue.”
Page and her husband are watching some of their retirement ideas become events on calendars. They have four granddaughters who they want to spend more time with, and they would like to hit the road to do some traveling. Page also is a cancer survivor who has lost two siblings to the disease, so she expects to get more involved with Relay for Life again.
To do all that, she will have to break free from what Pannier called her workaholic tendencies. In detailing what he wants others to know about Page, Pannier cited her dedication to SFCC and her willingness “to make everything that she touches become the best,” including the Spirit Squad.
“It has been really rewarding,” Page said. “It is not always about the great performance. … Just making an impact in a young kid’s life is very rewarding. I’ve tried to be a good parent for them. Sometimes I’ve done laundry, cooked a hot meal, helped them out of bad relationships, been a shoulder to cry on. Mentor, parent, friend, there is a lot involved in it. It’s not all song and dance.”