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Sherri Andrzejewski named National Cheer Coach of the Year

Developing Character Under Less-Than-Ideal Circumstances



By Brett Hart

Dec. 15, 2017 -- Sherri Andrzejewski is used to giving, but in October and November of this year she received a big surprise as the 39-year-old cheerleading coach from Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, was nominated for and named the 2017 Greatmats National Cheer Coach of the Year Award.

''My whole team kept it (the nomination) from me,'' Sherri said. ''I didn't know they were writing in... and saying all of these wonderful things about me. It felt very accomplishing, but at the same time, I was just very proud that the girls on my team actually took the time to write some things in to show me how much they appreciate me.''

That extra effort didn't stop at the nomination either, as Sherri's community rallied around her to tally more than 700 votes, earning her a spot as a finalist for the award.

''It was insane,'' Sherri said. ''It was so overwhelming because, in my community, cheerleading is a very highly competitive event. Just in our town, we have about five teams so for the other teams in my town to support me and back me up they way that the did was just very overwhelming and such an awesome feeling of support. ... At the end of the day when you get that support when you win from other teams; when they tell you how great you were and you see the girls from other teams hugging each other and embracing each other, it's very positive and eye opening thing. ... It speaks volumes to the sport of cheerleading, how far we've actually come in competing and how it's being respected. These girls aren't just being looked at as cheerleaders now. They're being looked at as athletes.''

In addition to promoting the sport and sportsmanship, Sherri and her squad also volunteer in the community in anything from the Tim Tebow Foundation's Night to Shine to canned food drives. The Wilkes-Barre Bears recently won the local Charity Cup Award for collecting 2,000 cans of food in an event that gathered a total of 1,500 cans among all participating teams the year before.

''We live in an economically low functioning town,'' Sherri said, noting that she wants to do what she can to give local kids something to look forward to do that they can do safely. As part of that effort, Sherri plans to take the mats she will receive as winner of the Greatmats National Cheerleader of the Year Award offer her kids a free and safer place to train.

''It's just not feasibly financially possible for these girls to go to gymnastics to learn any type of tumbling so they're all pretty much self taught in their backyards or practice or whatever,'' she said. ''I want to thank the community for supporting me and our organization.''

The contest also opened her eyes to some of the good things other coaches around the country have been doing. She says she'd love to meet runner up Shawna Dole of Charlestown, Massachusetts.

''I think that we're two of the same kind of person - to go out there and do that for other peoples's kids every day.'' Sherri said. ''We're developing their characters. The kids on my team - they don't get suspended anymore. They don't get in fights anymore. They all get good grades. They're positive.''

Runner Up Shawna Dole
In the parallel universe in which Shawna lives, her cheerleaders also disguised their plans for propelling her towards this award for months.

''I cried,'' Shawna said after learning of the nomination. ''Coaching is a thankless job. They remember you forever, but they don't thank you in the moment. It was very flattering.''

Shawna runs several fundraisers throughout the year for anything from local politics, to disorder research, to scholarships and local sports with focus on youth, such as softball, basketball and corn hole.

''We take a lot of pride in where we're from,'' Shawna said, but with a lot of negativity in the region, she has taken it upon herself to keep positivity front and center. ''This is a program that keeps the positive on the map.''

A 20-year veteran of coaching cheer, this 36-year-old is thankful for her pupils and looks forward to seeing their future successes.

''They're going to make our future bright, and some of them don't even get that their future is bright,'' she said.

She's also thankful to be included in a contest that reaches the forgotten areas.

''We're the ones in the background molding all sorts of people and sometimes we do get forgotten about,'' she said. But that doesn't stop her from helping so many below the poverty line kids looking for a way to get out of the rut that they live in by teaching them discipline, respect, know how, responsibility, and they'll have continuous support throughout the duration of their lives.

Sherri and Shawna garnered nearly half of the approximately 3,000 votes cast in the second year of the annual contest.

Learn more about Greatmats National Cheerleading Coach of the Year Award or 3rd Annual National Award Series.

Sherri Andrzejewski
Wilkes-Barre Bears
Wilkes-Barre PA
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