First Person Singular: Cheerleading Coach Lucresha Murphy

Sunday, October 11, 2009

My younger brother played football on the freshman team at T.C. Williams, and I came to one of his games about four years ago. The team was 12-0, so I was pumped. Then I saw the cheerleaders down there, and as an alumnus of T.C., I was like, "Wow. Those girls need some help." I had to find out if they were hiring. I applied and told them, "We can't look like that. We can't represent like that."

I had always been a tomboy, but once my mom started putting me in pageants as a little girl, well, that's when I started to like being in front of the crowd. I started cheering as soon as I could. By the time I got to T.C., I was hooked. Our coach was hard-core. She was also the track coach, so she'd have us

run laps, do crunches, push-ups, all of that. I don't think anyone really recognized cheerleading as a sport -- definitely not the other teams or coaches -- but you could tell by all the running we did.

My [cheerleading] coach [at Virginia State] was amazing. She'd say, "You have to bubble," and by that she meant your whole personality just has to inflate. Your eyes have to pop. You have to smile with your cheeks and your eyes and eyebrows and every bit of your body. That bubble is where you go when you have to turn it on and light up. That has definitely stayed with me. I mean, it's all about being able to stay positive even when you might not feel like it. I tell my girls that it's all about the F and N: the friendly and the nice. When you're wearing that uniform and you've got T.C. splashed across your body in big letters, you are positive. You are friendly and you are always nice -- to everyone. It's not like [the cheerleading movie] "Bring It On," with all the attitude. It's hard for them sometimes. These are teenagers, and they don't always feel like being ambassadors.

They keep me young. Cheerleading has done a lot of things for me, so I feel like this is my chance to give it back. T.C. Williams is my school. I was voted "most friendly," and I was the homecoming queen. I owe this school, and this city, a lot. A City of Alexandria scholarship helped send me to college. It feels really good to be giving back by coaching these girls and watching them motivate themselves. Yes, I've spent a lot of weekend nights of my adult life at my high school, but why not? It's my home town. It's my team.

-- Interview by Amanda Long

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