Coaches’ Corner 1/19/17

The Art of the Cheer with Heather Altenhofen
By: 
GARRETT HARR
Outlook staff writer
Evelyn and Heather Altenhofen
The Laurel Outlook recently spoke to Laurel High School head cheerleader coach Heather Altenhofen about coffee, real estate and the cheers of a new generation. 
Heather Altenhofen is a member of the 2003 Laurel High School graduating class. She went on to graduate from the University of Montana with a BA in Political Science and History.
Upon completion of her degree she went into the Montana Army National Guard as a Second Lieutenant. She attended Quartermaster school in Virginia after which Altenhofen graduated with honors and returned to Montana.
She served as a battalion supply officer with the 190th CSSB for five years where she dealt with all the logistical needs of over 600 soldiers throughout Montana. Later, she returned to Virginia to become a qualified Logistics officer before returning, once again to Montana to earn her Master’s in Public Relations from MSUB in 2013, when she started a family and pursued a career in real estate. She completed the Connole Morton School of Real Estate in 2014 and received her license.  
Altenhofen now lives in Billings with her college sweetheart and husband, Luke Altenhofen and son, Connor, four, and daughter, Evelyn, two and their family dogs, Chloe and Gus.   
Honorably discharged from the Army in 2015, she now works side-by-side with her mother in their family real estate business,
1. What is your philosophy on coaching young student/athletes? “Shaping the whole person. I stress constantly the importance of academics first, athletics second. I also believe that cheerleaders should spread cheer both on and off the court. I want to help these kids learn the importance of being kind, and building one another up.”  
2. What is your guilty pleasure? “I’m a coffeeholic, I live for a good coffee frappe!” 
3. What do you think scares your student/athletes the most in life? “Failure. I’ve never met a group of kids so hard on themselves.” 
4. What are you most scared of? “Not improving. I don’t want to just settle for the same old things. I want to show these kids how cheer can truly be!” 
5. What or who got you into coaching? “I had great cheer coaches, Shawna Hopper and Lara Downam, when I was at Laurel High School and I always hoped I could make them proud by doing the same. I also loved track and again had great coaches. My first coaching experience was helping with track at Meadow Hill Middle School, in Missoula, while student teaching. I first coached cheerleading at Hamilton Middle School, during my first teaching assignment.” 
6. Why did you choose this sport specifically? Did you cheer growing up? “I first fell in love with cheerleading as a third grader. I loved watching the cheerleaders at my three older brother’s football games and wrestling matches, I knew I had to be one! Going to the pep assemblies and watching them perform was amazing. My brother, Jarret, went on to cheer at the United States Naval Academy and that furthered my love for the sport! Going into high school I decided to give up basketball and tryout for cheer. The coach at the time had been one of the cheerleaders I looked up to as a grade schooler. It was meant to be.” 
7. What professional athlete do you tell your athletes to look to as a positive ambassador for your sport? “I don’t use a professional athlete, but we had the opportunity to practice with two members of the official United States cheer team. They were a couple that cheered together, and were absolutely amazing and inspiring! We talk of them often, and still use the techniques that they showed us.” 
8. What quote do you live by? “‘Failure is not an option’”, “or the quote I was raised by,” ‘Cowboy up!’ “It’s important to never give up, there’s always another way to reach your goals.” 
9. How do you deal with the many different personalities on your team? “I respect that every kid is different and there is not one approach that will work for everyone. I try to listen to them, really listen. It’s important to know what these kids have going on in their lives and respect the modern challenges they face. I try to always be available and approachable. Luckily, I have a great group of athletes, and an assistant coach, Robin, that get along really well.”   
10. Why did you choose to coach in Laurel? “As a busy mom, and realtor, I wasn’t sure I had time to dedicate to coaching. But, an old teammate of mine, Robin (Lowell) Seymour, talked me into it when Laurel posted the positions! She agreed to apply with me.  She had been a mentor to me in high school, and had always been so kind and easy to work with. I knew together we could do good things for the program that we both cared so much about.” 
11. What are your hopes and aspirations for your squad this year? “The squad is continuing to grow and improve from when we took over a year ago. Last year we attended Cheer Fest for the first time, and took third. I would love to beat that this year! We are doing stunts we couldn’t do at this time last year, and the performance we are putting together for Divisonals is even better than last year. My goal is to just continue to grow and improve and show the community what an asset we can be to the athletic program.” 
12. What is on your bookshelf? “Currently finishing up, ‘The Guardian.’ I am hoping to read, ‘Go Set a Watchman,’ next. With a four-year-old, two-year-old, and one on the way, I don’t get as much time as I would like to read.” 
13. What song do you use to inspire and/or motivate your athletes? “We really only use music when we are getting ready for a performance. We don’t play music during practice, like other sports, because we are cheering or stunting. While stunting we like it quiet; it is very important to communicate and listen, so no one ends up injured. But, I do love to suggest some good old 90’s jams, or 80’s rock whenever I can!” 
14. What is the best advice you have ever been given? “It is better to aim high and miss, then aim low and make it!” 
15. What is the last movie you saw? “‘Passengers,’ it was a real treat. My husband and I don’t make it to many non-kid movies! But, ‘Sing,’ was also very good!” 
16. What is one thing people would be shocked to know about you? “Most people are surprised to know I was a Captain in the Army. I guess, most people don’t associate perky, cheer coach, and soldier. I’ve always felt you can be both feminine, and tough!” 
17. Who was your role model or a person you looked up to when you were growing up? “I always looked up to my brothers Marc and Jarret. They are a lot older than me, and as a little girl, they seemed like heroes. They were good athletes, worked hard in school, were kind to others, and became Marines. I always wanted to make them proud, and being in a very competitive family, maybe even beat them, lol!” 
18. What is the one perfect song to cheer too? “We love our new moves to the, ‘Hey Song!’ The cheerleaders love when the band plays, ‘Seven Nation Army.’ My personal favorite is ‘Land of 1000 Dances,’ but that’s only because I use to dance to it!” 
19. How do you decide the routines for your girls to perform? “It really is a group effort. We select two or three songs, and then vote as a squad which one we like best. Our current routine we are preparing was truly a collaborative effort from everyone. We all suggested one or two of our favorite moves and worked them into the dance. We very lucky to have a lot of dance experience on this squad. I’ve never seen a group of kids that can learn a routine so fast, they are naturals!” 
20. What is your favorite part of your job? “The kids! When I was first coaching, just out of college, I felt like a big sister. Now, as a mom, I see my role so differently. I love to build these kids up, I want to show them how much they can truly accomplish both in cheerleading, and in life!”
 

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