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HYSL builds teamwork, sportsmanship

HYSL Sports

Higley Youth Sports League, part of Higley Unified School District’s Community Education Department, offers a growing program that allows young students to gain new skills, discover friendships and learn teamwork.

The largest program – cheer - launches after fall break for students in kindergarten through sixth grade. HYSL also plans to offer soccer, volleyball and basketball this year for fifth- and sixth-grade students.

Student-athletes who start cheer in elementary school are certainly at an advantage when they get to middle school and high school, said Higley High cheer coach Caitlin Large. They also have lasting friendships to lean in to.

“I've seen different girls come in each year and most of these girls have been doing cheer - whether it's at the elementary level or at the club level - since they were elementary age,” she said. “I think HYSL … gives them that basic platform of what they’re getting into and having that family feel and knowing that they can count on their teammates.”

As a judge for the end-of-the-season HYSL cheer competition, Large watched the program grow the past few years, with more than 200 students taking part in spring 2019. This year, she’ll supervise at Cortina Elementary School, with her veteran cheerleaders from Higley High – Lynance Acevedo and Ashley Dohlman – providing coaching.

“There was kind of always in the past maybe one or two standout programs, but this past year it seems like everybody is catching up and getting on the same page,” she said. “It's exciting seeing it grow as a whole and not just at the individual schools.”

Eda Kobci, a fifth-grade student at Gateway Pointe Elementary, started with HYSL cheer in second grade.

“I really liked it and I just kept on going in third grade and it was more challenging, but fun,” she said.

Her coach, Janelle Cota, jointed the team two years ago, when the program grew to more than 30 students.

“Not only were they wanted to be more involved, but they wanted to show that support and spirit for their school,” Cota said. “That was fun to watch and see.”

Cheer is a multi-quarter sport for Higley Youth Sports League, giving students an opportunity to learn routines for competition, as well as provide support for multiple other sports. It requires a great deal of practice and commitment, Cota said.

“I want to instill discipline … theming them know how to work as a team and work with girls that maybe they don’t always work with. I think those are the valuable skills you learn when being on a team.”

All sports coaches start with the basics and work to improve students’ skills, whether they’re not at the game or veterans. HYSL coach soccer Timothy Maijala said he also wants students to understand what it means to be a team.

“I want to instill in students sportsmanship, competition and leadership, understanding how as a student-athlete what happens in the classroom also needs to happen on the field,” he said. “I want the students to remember that no matter what your abilities are, you can come out and compete and have a good time.”

Sixth-grade student Marley Maez said she joined HYSL at Chaparral with Coach Maijala to improve her skills and play with friends.

"I joined Higley Youth Sports because I knew that I would get better and that I can show my peers how to grow,” she said. “When I’m in soccer practice, I try to review things, but a lot of times I’m learning new things. I continue to play soccer because it’s so much fun and I can learn new things and make new friends.”