Poms: Dance Revolution Featured
If it was pom pon season, Morgan Kozinski would have little time to sit down for an interview.
This is fairly easy to understand considering her activity of choice spans an extensive 10-month season and requires 16 hours of practice per week.
Strangely enough, what Morgan and all other dedicated poms athletes do is not considered a fully recognized sport by the Illinois High School Association (IHSA). Poms is still considered an emerging sport, a classification that fails to recognize the full dedication, enthusiasm and commitment exhibited by countless dancers throughout McHenry County-area high schools.
Those not involved in poms programs simply see a fraction of the time and effort that these athletes dedicate to their sport. Students may see basketball and football game performances, perhaps a weekend competition or two, and only prospective poms attend summer camps. However, it is the work that goes on behind closed doors that is severely underestimated.
“Most people think poms is easy,” Kozinski said. “If you tried it, you would know it was challenging.”
As a junior at Prairie Ridge High School, with her second year participating in the program completed, it is evident she understands the sentiments expressed by her peers in regard to poms, more specifically how unappreciated the program is. “It takes a lot of endurance — many people don’t get that,” she added.
Prairie Ridge poms coach Lana Torres agrees with Kozinski that the girls participating are “absolutely underestimated.”
A Fulfilling Sport
Torres has a history as a poms coach (she was recently promoted to head coach) and says she is a lifelong dancer.
“Being a coach is incredibly fulfilling,” she declared through a radiant smile. “When you see such a strong rapport between the girls and see a fantastic dance after hours of practice, it’s so gratifying.”
Completing the most successful year in Prairie Ridge pom history was undeniably satisfying as well, an accomplishment she said had everything to do with hard work, “making changes, and making progression from the beginning to the end of the year.”
Almost every question asked of the coach leads her back to the important connection between teammates because a cohesive team of high school-aged girls is not guaranteed. She also cites “determination, dedication and commitment” as keys to success.
She understands how important those three components are to a successful season, commencing with summer camp and concluding with the state tournament, a lengthy and difficult season that “is challenging, but if you like who you’re with it’s not work anymore.”
Crystal Lake Central (CLC) High School has won 15 state championships since 1997. This past year was no different as it was the AA Pom State Champions. Head coach Caroline Christensen reflects similar sentiments that in poms, as in all sports, hard work and team companionship are absolutely key.
“We were all really dedicated, and it kept paying off,” she said.
The team’s success was evident in increasing scores throughout the season, cultivating in a fantastic performance at state. The squad’s achievements are far from finished — next year the Crystal Lake Central squad looks to just keep improving, perhaps improving their way to a finish at nationals, led by their coach who graduated from University of Illinois and rejoined her old Central squad, only in a different role.
“My love was for CLC poms,” Christensen said. “It’s nice to be back here to support such a talented team of dancers.”
Dancers for Life
It seems for all who get involved in a poms programs, dance follows them the rest of their lives.
“I danced from fourth through seventh grade,” Kozinski recalls. “I’m planning on dancing in college whether it is on the dance team or maybe minoring in dance.”
Torres felt the same way. “Ever since high school, I wanted to be a Spanish teacher and a poms coach,” she said.
Her love for dance encouraged her to return to coach at her high school alma mater.
CLC’s present pom squad captain Emily Coffey “encourages her teammates to dance at the college level,” and is currently considering colleges with dance teams, as she “wants to have the dancing experience at a higher level.”
Although IHSA disagrees at this time, anyone who appreciates poms knows it is no mere extracurricular activity and will tirelessly argue its merits deserving of the designation of sport.
Sidebar: McHenry County Poms Stats
Poms Class AA:
CL Central - 1st
CL South - 2nd
Cary-Grove - 3rd
Poms Class AAA
Open Pom Class A
Johnsburg - 5th
Open Pom Class AA
CL Central - 3rd
Huntley - 9th
Open Pom Class AAA
Harry D. Jacobs - 2nd
Open Dance Class AA
Prairie Ridge - 5th
Hip Hop Class A
Johnsburg - 4th
Hip Hop AA
Prairie Ridge - 2nd
Huntley - 7th
Woodstock - 8th
Hip Hop Class AAA
Harry D. Jacbos - 2nd
Kick Class AA
CL South 1st place