Head spirit and STUNT coach Trish Thomas has dedicated two years to growing and leading the cheer and dance programs at The University of Olivet, but this spring, she will begin a new role helping citizens of Flint who have been impacted by the water crisis.
While she’s preparing for her transition, Coach Thomas is also ensuring her teams remain on the path to success. In just a month, the dance and STUNT teams will join forces on the tumbling mat for a combined performance at the National Cheer Association and National Dance Association Collegiate Cheer and Dance Championships.
Coach Thomas joined the OC staff in March 2016 to lead the cheer teams, both in the sideline and STUNT divisions. Tapping into her 18 years of classical training in various styles of dance and 12 years of experience teaching dance, she also was named coach of the competitive dance team the following year. Coach Thomas focused on recruiting and building relationships with young men and women, which helped her build a close-knit team with common goals and passion.
“It was a great opportunity to coach collegiate cheer and dance at The University of Olivet,” Coach Thomas explained. “That had been a goal of mine for a long time, and to see it come to fruition was amazing. Also, having the opportunity to get to know the young men and women and having a positive affect on their lives, even if only for a short time, was a blessing.”
Another large goal Coach Thomas helped her teams reach included competing at the national level. Last year, the STUNT team earned a bid to the National Cheer Association championships – a huge feat for a developing team. This season, both the cheer and STUNT teams earned bids to their respective national championships, but have chosen to compete together in a new division, representing the true atmosphere of a college game day. The performance is divided into three sections, which includes the The University of Olivet Fight Song, a chant and a band chant, all with tumbling and stunting.
Coach Thomas is turning over her primary duties to assistant coaches Aisha Davis and Mindy Otto, but she will continue to support the team and is even traveling to Daytona Beach, Florida for the national championships. “It means a lot for me to still be able to have this experience with my team,” Coach Thomas said. “Our hard work has really come full circle and this will be a solid ending for me.”
In her new role, Coach Thomas is serving AECOM, an international engineering firm overseeing Flint’s lead water pipe replacement. Named one of Fortune World’s Most Admired Companies in 2018, Coach Thomas will be joining AECOM’s project development team, specifically working to improve water quality in Flint.
“My brother is a firefighter in Flint, and I’ve even recruited members of my team from Flint. I live in the area now, too,” Coach Thomas explained. “After my brother shared his passion for the area and why he enjoyed working in Flint, paired with my desire to give back to the community I live in, it was easy to want to get involved in making it a better place myself.” Coach Thomas added that while strides have been made to improve the water quality in Flint, there is still much work to be done. She is most looking forward to making a personal impact on the lives of Flint residents. Her new role will also allow her to spend more time with her husband and two sons, Trae and Micah.
As Coach Thomas moves to a new opportunity, she wants to leave behind a legacy that emphasizes opportunity at its core. As a recruiter, Coach Thomas’s favorite part of building relationships with students was introducing young men and women to new opportunities and encouraging them to follow their dreams. “Many students I met with didn’t realize they had the chance to continue cheering, dancing or being able to do the thing they loved after high school,” Coach Thomas said. “I’ve always enjoyed connecting with young people and giving them hope to do what they love. I’ll be leaving my team with that advice, never stop doing what you love.”
For more information about The University of Olivet, contact the Office of Admissions at 800.456.7189 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Schedule a campus visit and request to learn more about opportunities for Comet cheerleaders and dancers, including talent scholarships!