By Brooklyn Toney and Abby Paterson--Eagle Staff Writers
When thinking of a student-athlete, most imagine a football player barreling across the field or a volleyball player diving for the ball. However, there is one unsung team that stands out among its peers: the Fly Girls Dance Team. The Fly Girls Team, while not technically a sport, is an athletic club at the school that performs at community and school events throughout the fall and winter sports seasons, namely football and basketball.
“What's interesting is that we kind of fall between what is considered a club and what is considered an athlete, because we’re not [part of] the Virginia High School League, so we’re not actually considered athletics,” head coach Megan Sawyers said. “It’s hard to try to navigate between being just a club and not being part of the athletics department,” Sawyers added.
Sawyers could not do this without the help of her peers within the school, particularly Marsha Lopez, the coach of the cheerleading team.
“I do look [to] Coach Lopez, I do rely on her a lot,” Sawyers said. “She’s been an awesome person to help me through learning how to be a coach.”
Students at FCHS often draw comparisons between the Fly Girls and the cheerleading team. Their skill sets do overlap, and they have similarities in their roles at the school, but there are distinct differences in what they do.
“There are things that both of our teams put into routines that are similar, but the main difference is our choreography is more focused on dance moves and cheer has more stunting in their routines,” freshman Kendall Cerebe said. “I think we are finding our own niche on campus."
Another stark difference between the two teams is the way that it is viewed on campus.
“We’re both a school spirit team,” team captain and sophomore Kyaria Mack said. “The difference I guess would be the way the school looks at us and the respect that the school gives each one of the teams.”
Since the team is not a major club nor technically a sport, the coaches often have to arrange secondary solutions.
“I’m the one setting up their practice schedules with the Essig Center because we can’t practice here on campus because there’s no space for us,” Sawyers said.
While they meet the team's immediate needs, these secondary solutions have some disadvantages when it comes to performances on the field, especially spacing.
"Nerves kind of take hold of them as they’re running out there,” Sawyers said. “Maybe if we can get more time to practice on the court or on the field, that would be great; that’s really hard to do.”
Because she is so busy making arrangements for the team, Sawyers gets further assistance from members of the team, particularly captains.
“I rely a lot on our captains too. They do a lot of decision-making,” Sawyers explained.
These skills in decision-making and leadership are important qualities in a captain, as they are the secondary leaders of the team.
“They’re always right there with us trying to figure out how to make it better, how to make our team time better, and how to work better,” Sawyers said. “[It takes] somebody that’s naturally going to do that with some charisma, because that’s a hard thing to do: look at your peers and be a leader, and say, ‘you’re wrong right now and you need to fix it.’ That’s a hard thing to do but that's what we're looking for.”
Mack went into greater depth about what it is like to be captain of the Fly Girls dance team.
“I have to run practice normally and I have to re-block numbers if a girl quits or is sick. I help enforce rules. I answer questions because most of the time they ask me stuff if they're not comfortable enough to ask the coach. So to answer questions to the best of my ability and help them,” explained Mack.
Sawyers reflected on the season from a coach's perspective.
“It would be so cool to have twenty people out there. I do say people because I would love to see a boy, and if a boy ever comes and can do what they do, we will totally put them on the team. We’re prepared to call ourselves the Fly Crew instead of the Fly Girls, because we just want it to be dance,” Sawyers explained. “If you can dance, we want you on the team. So I really hope that more people come to try out this year, I just hope that the school community can see what a fun thing this is and can be.”
Above all, participants say, the Fly Girls is another way students can show school spirit.
“I felt like Fly Girls encompassed all the things I loved about school spirit,” Cerebe added. “I was a cheerleader before and really enjoyed it but I was looking for something a little different. I loved the high energy and choreography and a chance to show school spirit in a different way.”
Sawyers hopes that the Fly Girl story is just beginning.
“I hope that it’s something that will stay at the school, because not everyone’s a football player or a lacrosse player or a swimmer. There’s other things that you can do to show your school spirit, and I really think that this is a great way to do it," Sawyers concluded.