Although it has come and gone over the years, Clinton High School’s step team has been brought back to life and is now stepping stronger than ever, winning many of the competitions the team enters.
“I stepped during high school at Clinton High for two years, from 2002 to 2004,” recalled Angela Harding, now the coach of the CHS step team. “It became really strong in 2002; that’s when we really began to compete. A few years after I left, though, it kind of went away again. When I came back to Clinton High to teach, I was asked about it a lot, so last year we started it back.”
Since getting a fresh start, the team, which has nine members, has done very well. So far this school year, they have competed four times, earning first place twice and second place twice.
“We won the last step show that we competed in,” said Harding. “We won first place and an $800 prize.”
“We call that winning big,” added Pamela Marshall, also a coach for the CHS step team.
The team’s high scores and their first place trophies are the results of many hours of practice. “We try to practice everyday during the week for an hour and a half. We definitely practice everyday when we have a competition coming up,” noted Harding. “We have them run and do things like that because in step you use your whole body so they have to be in great shape.”
Marshall added that “when you’re up there stepping in competition, all the hard work pays off.”
“Most of the students on the step team don’t play sports or anything else like that,” continued Harding about the team’s rigorous schedule. “They’re dedicated to the step team. It’s their talent, what they choose to work at and display.”
Although the step team works hard to be competitive, winning competitions is not what the team is all about.
“We focus a lot on character building,” explained Harding. “For one, we instill in our team the importance of great academics; they know they need to be a student first. They also know that they are expected to represent Clinton High well. When we go to competitions, we expect them to dress appropriately and be respectful.”
“We instill good sportsmanship too,” Harding added. “Whenever we go to competitions and other teams are stepping, we make sure that we are respectful. For instance, we don’t talk or do anything like that during the other teams’ performances. Whenever our team loses, they don’t get mad at the other teams either. Instead, they go and congratulate them. Fortunately, we’ve got a good team. They’re very sweet.”
It is also important to Harding and Marshall that the team members have a good relationship with each other. “We make it more like a family,” explained Harding. “We instill in them the importance of sisterhood and brotherhood, and we enjoy doing things as a team that creates bonds. We want them to have bonds that are going to last way beyond their years on the step team.”
This emphasis on friendship also extends to their competition. “We also encourage the team to build relationships with other step teams when they see them at competitions,” noted Harding. “You never know, someone on another step team may end up going to college with you or even end up being your college roommate.”
Coaching the CHS step team and teaching them important life lessons is a joy, according to Harding, because the team is made up of such special people. “The best thing about coaching is getting to work with such great young people. You can just give them an idea and they’ll expand it and make it even bigger and better than you imagined.”
The step team is quick to return Harding’s kind words. “Our coaches do anything and everything for us,” said team member Atiya Muhammed. “We really appreciate that.”
As with anything in life, coaching the step team can also pose quite a few challenges. “I’d say that probably one of the most challenging parts of coaching the step team is making sure that we’re competitive,” said Harding. “You never know what you’re going to be up against in competition.”
“There are also the financial challenges,” Harding added. “Thankfully, we won that $800 at our last competition which has really helped out. We’ve been able to buy a tarp for the gym floor which is important since we step in tap shoes. Still, there are still a lot of other expenses though, like uniforms, t-shirts, props.”
Whatever the obstacles may be, the team members, with their enthusiasm and positive attitudes, prove that the challenges are well worth it.
Echoing her coaches’ desire for the team to feel like a family, step team member Nakyra Aycock shared that she enjoys the time spent bonding with her teammates.
Fellow team member Devin Smith remarked that he thinks being a part of the step team helps everyone learn leadership skills.
“There’s also a lot of creativity on the team,” said Muhammed who also described the step team as being an outlet for her. “You know, whenever you have something going on, you can just get out there, step it out and leave it on the floor. It just makes me happy; it’s enjoyable.”
CHS’ Step Team will be competing in a step show this Saturday, March 9 at Sampson Middle School. For more information, contact Harding at Sampson Middle School at 910-592-3327.
Lauren Williams can be reached at 910-592-8137, ext. 117 or via email at email@example.com.