She Has the Lily Spirit | Sports | coastalbreezenews.com

She Has the Lily Spirit | Sports | coastalbreezenews.com

Lely head coach Halley Kretschmer topped the cheerleading squad. Before settling in as Lely’s head cheerleading coach, Kretschmer was the pilot for the Miami Hurricanes cheerleading squad from 2009-2011. As a flyer, Kretschmer has seen some of America’s most famous football stadiums from some of the most interesting angles.

Cheerleaders are the ones you see flying high in the air, performing gymnastic feats, in huge stadiums, in front of thousands and thousands of enthusiastic fans.

During Kretschmer’s three-and-a-half-year career at UM, the Hurricanes traveled to Notre Dame and Ohio State at two of the game’s most storied venues. The diminutive Kretschmer vividly remembers being hoisted high into the air at historic Ohio Stadium and Chicago’s iconic Soldier Field.

Halley Kretschmer has returned to her cheerleading days at the University of Miami.

Head cheerleading coach Lely with (from left): Janaye Hall, Josie Torres, Cami Henell and Julysa Joseph.

“When I played Notre Dame at Soldier Field, it was so cold,” laughs Kretschmer. “We lost, but my family got to attend. Just to be in such a historic stadium was really great.”

Playing in Ohio State’s legendary horseshoe-shaped stadium, built in 1922, was a thrill for Kretschmer.

“That was the only time we played Ohio State,” she said, “we lost to them. I remember my coach had to talk to me because of the look on my face. That was the lesson. To put on a happy face no matter what is happening on the field. I definitely try to teach that to girls these days. Being at the Horseshoe, even though we lost, was a great experience.”

But as exciting as those two games were, what Kretschmer probably remembers most was her first game as a varsity cheerleader — both for the opponent and the excitement of the game itself.

Kretschmer’s first Florida State-Miami game couldn’t have gone better. It was 2009 and the Canes were on a roll. Doak Campbell Stadium was rocking as UM and FSU battled back and forth in a game that featured seven lead changes. Miami won that day, 38-34, in dramatic fashion.

“It was an unparalleled experience,” Kretschmer recalls fondly. “We won, so that made the experience better. To start my college career with that was amazing. Beating them at Florida State, on their home court. It came down to the last minute of the game when we took the lead. That was definitely important memory.”

Kretschmer still follows University of Miami football. However, she was not a huge football fan as a high school cheerleader at Lely. That changed when she was introduced to big-time college football.

“In high school,” she said, “I don’t think I was very interested in acting. Because I didn’t know the game. But when you get to college and the stakes are raised, you react to everything that’s happening on the field, you take part in the action that’s happening behind you. So I had to learn the game to know what to do on the court. Once I learned the game, I fell in love with it. For us, it’s a family event that we can attend or watch on TV.”

Kretschmer, whose parents Ellen and Bruce founded one of Marco Island’s favorite restaurants, Kretch’s, were staunch supporters of their cheerleader daughter.

“My parents,” Kretschmer said, “were at every game I cheered.”

As a cheerleader, Kretschmer and her teammates flew on the team plane with the players.

“We travel with the players and management,” she said, “usually on a private jet. They put you up in a hotel. When the game is over, they put you back on the plane no matter what time of night it is. That was interesting.”

Kretschmer cheered for Miami for three and a half years. In her senior year, she did not cheer for basketball. Cheerleading, which is recognized as a sport at UM, requires a lot of discipline. But I wouldn’t trade a minute of experience.

Fans Lely Leila Antoine and Kierstian Hays look professional even in the monsoon rain at Trojan Stadium.

“It was hard to handle,” Kretschmer said. “Every weekend I would travel and play a game. It was a lot with school, but it was a lot to look forward to. I kind of lived with every game. It was all week preparing for that game on Saturday. You’d have to plan for that and manage the schooling.”

There was nothing like the excitement of cheering in front of a full stadium.

“It never stopped being exciting,” Kretschmer said, “You feed off the energy of the crowd. There were jittery nerves. The more excited you are, the more excited they are and vice versa. The amount of people never got me extra excited. I just got into the whole the energy of it all.”

Kretschmer said that performing in front of large crowds has never bothered her, but speaking in front of a classroom is something else entirely.

“For me,” she said, “I could cheer in front of thousands of people, but giving a class presentation or public speaking scared me a lot.”

After graduating from UM, Kretschmer returned to Marco Island and was weighing her options when she saw Lely’s head cheerleading coach opening.

“When I got home from school,” she said, “I wasn’t sure what direction I wanted to go in. I checked the county job posting and saw the head coaching position at Lely.”

Kretschmer said it took some time for her program to gain traction at Lely. But now it sounds like he might be there for the long haul.

“At first it was difficult coming in as a new coach,” Kretschmer recalls. “Some of the upperclassmen were used to one way. But after seven years, I’ve kind of set my standard and they know what I expect. It’s gotten easier over time.”

Kretschmer’s standard is based on respect.

Halley Kretschmer would get a spectacular look cheering for the University of Miami.

“I value basic respect when communicating with me,” Kretschmer said, “when communicating with each other. I have zero tolerance for treating each other badly. I’m also kind of going back to what I was talked about in college. No Let it be written on your face when something excites you. Maybe it’s something outside of cheering, or maybe it’s the game itself that upsets you.”

He tells his team that wearing a Trojan cheerleader uniform comes with responsibility.

“I always tell them,” she said, “when you put on a uniform, you step into a role. You have to do a job. They’ve responded very well to that.”

She is aware that not everyone is ready for the dedication required to be a cheerleader at Lely.

“Cheering is a big and intense commitment,” Kretschmer said. “Not everyone can do that. I try to help them as much as I can. I want them to get the most out of it that they can.”

Kretschmer said that some of her Lely cheerleaders also perform in the marching band. She said they are usually pretty special individuals.

“I like it when someone plays in a cheer uniform at halftime,” Kretschmer said. “We work with the group as much as possible. Every year we have at least one person who is also in the group. It’s the ultimate school spirit. Intense dedication. Dedication to sports and activities and dedication to the Lely spirit.”

So what is Spirit of Lely? Kretschmer describes it as an immaterial thing.

“The spirit of Lely,” she said, “is the culture and the mindset. To have Lely as one of the oldest schools in the area, to have the history of those who came before you. The fans, players and management are all out there next week regardless of the outcome of the game. I think it’s a really strong group to be a part of. The fans can feel it.”

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