UTPB dance team aims to create traditions

The UTPB cheer and dance teams practice together on a recent Wednesday in the gym. The dance team has eight members led by Coach Kyra Young. The team performs at football, basketball, volleyball games and any other sporting event. They also appear for special occasions. (Ruth Campbell|Odessa American)

For the first time in a while, University of Texas Permian Basin’s dance team is in a more solid form.

They have eight members led by Coach Kyra Young. The team performs at football, basketball, volleyball games and any other sporting event. They also appear for special occasions.

“We usually gather with the cheer team and do a united performance,” Young said.

The team was larger historically, but over the years it declined. Young volunteered last year, and at the time, the team was self-coached. The cheer team coach helped out when she could, but there was only so much she could do.

“When I hopped in, I took that weight off their shoulders for them and decided it was time to give the dance team a firm foundation. That’s our main goal this year is to just make it something that we can stand up,” Young said.

One way of attracting new members is going to competition. This year, the dance team will be heading to the NCA College Nationals.

“… That championship is for cheer and dance, so this year, we get to take dance with us. I’m hoping that whether or not we place, high or first … I hope that that puts it in people’s minds that dance is in another way that they get to go see the world, that they get to go make new friends, have new experiences, get to travel and just make those memories. I’m hoping that that’s a big point to draw people in. But also, we’re hosting a lot of recruitment clinics this year. We have been talking to seniors from other high schools. …,” Young said.

On game days, they usually have a team on the field with them during the third quarter.

“We use that as a good talking point. They get to experience a game day with us and get a good feel for it and what it’s like, hoping that they want that in their future,” Young said.

The team usually visits the high schools, talks to prospective members, watches them practice, or comes in with material prepared for them to learn. They are taught on the spot to see how easily they catch on. They don’t have a set date for their next recruiting event, but Young said it’s supposed to be in December.

Other than major holidays, the dance program is year-round. The team has to adjust its mindset depending on what sport their dancing for.

“When football season’s ending, I know that we’re just starting basketball but we’ve already been practicing for basketball to get into it. They’re always working on something,” Young said.

Young said she has been dancing since she was 13 and coaching since she was 15 at Legacy Elite Athletics. which is owned by Head UTPB Cheer Coach Terry Lynn Lane.

“… I grew up with her. She was my coach; a second mother figure. We’re super-close and to be working with her here again is a privilege … (I’m) still learning from her to this day. I knew that it would be a great partnership, especially because our goal is to unite cheer and dance. We’re a spirit squad. And so I figured (there’s) no way better than to do that than to have two coaches who are united and have the same beliefs and same ideologies and things of that nature,” Young said.

She added that Lane teaches her something every day.

“… Her philosophy is not to create just good athletes, but good humans. That is something that I try and instill in my athletes and just people I encounter in general but she’s got it. She’s just got a way of managing that I can’t comprehend quite yet, but I’m definitely grasping …,” Young said.

She had to learn to coach at the university level, which was a shift from the rec dancing she used to coach.

“… I’m grateful for her guidance because this is my … first year with the university and a lot of mistakes could be made but they’re avoided, thankfully, because she’s got it down,” Young said.

A Midland High School graduate, Young earned an associate degree from Midland College.

“I want to go back and (I’m) hoping to go back next year to get a degree in order to pursue personal training,” Young said.

Young has always been interested in dance.

“… Wherever we went, I was dancing and moving. I just knew that I had to do something with it. My mom always told me you’ve got too much talent to just waste it in our living room. One day my friend was like, hey, there’s this dance class do you want to come take it with me and the night that I took class was the same night that I signed up. (I) stuck with it for nine years and there was no turning back. As far as coaching, I’ve always had a natural leadership in me just like in school programs and in my friend groups. Whenever I watched other people coach dance, I was like this is something that I think I can do and I ended up being really young taking it on. I was 15 when I started, but it was just a natural thing,” Young said.

Freshman Helen Pasternak and sophomores Tasia Diggs and Kennedy Carrillo are all enjoying themselves on the team and feel like they are creating traditions.

Diggs said joining the squad helped open up more opportunities for her. She said she hadn’t been in dance for a while, so this has helped her grow and re-learn everything.

It was kind of hard to adjust at first, Diggs said.

“… But in all honesty, I am better now than I was. I definitely am,” she added.

Pasternak said she has always had a passion for dance, whether it was dancing on the sidelines, or on stage competitively.

“… The community around here at UTPB is just so amazing and deciding to join the dance team was one of the best things I could have done because it’s such a fun community, a fun group of people and it’s almost like a family,” Pasternak said.

Carrillo said she had danced on a community college team and loved it.

“… I just wanted to come to a university back in my hometown … My last two years, I’ve experienced amazing things and I got to meet amazing people,” Carrillo added.

All three said they might not have met the people on the team if they hadn’t joined the dance team.

“… It also helps having people around me that have similar schedules and who also have things in common with you other than just school and what your major is. You have that … fun community around you,” Pasternak said.

They also share the same experiences as college students.

“We all struggle; we all cry; we all go through the same thing, so just having people’s backs and going to someone can just be amazing for a college student,” Carrillo said.

Diggs said they have built up confidence as a team.

“The more we practice, the more confident I feel before I go on the field, or on the stage,” Pasternak said.

Pasternak said she is studying business management and hope to work for an oil company in an office.

Diggs said she is studying psychology and has a minor in criminal justice.

Carrillo is studying finance.

“I feel like it’s just a different kind of feeling knowing that we were here when it was barely building up and we’re a part of that. We’re the ones that … took that program and established it and … that’s a great feeling,” Diggs said.