KEENE — The Keene State College cheerleading team lost its coach a week and a half before the season started.
Derry native Nicole Dick, a 2010 Keene State graduate, came to the rescue.
The former four-year Keene cheerleader, a two-year assistant coach at the University of New Hampshire, took over as Keene State’s head cheerleading coach earlier this month.
“I got a call from Keene State athletic director John Ratliff, asking me if I was interested coming back and coaching the team,” Dick said Dick. “I was a little apprehensive at first because of the long commute, but I decided to do it.”
She said she sympathized with the cheerleaders.
“I went thought a coaching transition when I was a Keene State, so I knew how they were feeling,” Dick said. “They wanted to go to nationals and be a team, especially the seniors. I wanted to help them and I’m so glad I did it. All day, I think about what we’re going to do at practice.”
Members of the team were relieved and appreciated Dick taking over on such short notice.
“It was very upsetting not knowing if we were going to get another coach,” said Brianna Vacca, a senior from Medway, Mass., “but thankfully we worked through it and they found another coach for us.”
But Dick is making her team work — hard.
“She’s hard on us, but it’s a good thing,” said Hayley Grove, a sophomore from Framingham, Mass. “We need the push.”
Dick has been cheerleading since the age of 6. A four-year member of the PinkertonAcademy cheerleading squad, Dick, who also competed on the Astros track team, served as team captain as a senior and was named the 2006 N.H. Cheerleader of the Year. Pinkerton won six state titles while she was there.
“I like performing in front of people and I love sports, so I got to go to all the games,” Dick said. “It was a lot of fun.”
Dick continued cheering at Keene State, where she was a three-year captain.
“We had great camaraderie on the team, especially my senior year when we placed seventh,” she said.
While at KSC, Dick was also a cheer instructor for the National Cheerleading Association, teaching middle school, high school and college kids at numerous camps. She received several honors from the NCA, including the top rookie instructor for the northeast region (2006), the top veteran instructor (2007), the top rookie head instructor (2008), and in 2009 was nominated for a leadership award.
Although Dick enjoyed her two years at UNH, especially the performances at Wildcats’ football games, she said she couldn’t say no when her alma mater came calling.
“The head coach at UNH went to school there and he told me how great it was to come back,” she said. “Now, I understand why he felt that way”
Dick has set realistic goals for her young 16-member squad.
“I want the team to improve every day,” she said. “Even though a lot of them don’t have a background in cheering, they’re like sponges. “I just have to tell them something once and they get it and fix it. The first couple of practices, they could barely hit a stunt and now they’re hitting them solid.”
Dick said she also understands the team’s strong desire to go to nationals Jan. 17-20 in Orlando, Fla.
“I’d just love them to go out there and hit their routine,” she said. “I want them to do well, but I also want them to have fun.”
Cheering at four basketball games so far this season, the team has gotten a very positive response.
“I came in a week and a half before the start of the season and after the first game I never got so many compliments,” Dick said. “I’m very proud of them.”