Lewiston High School cheering coach Matt Hanley with his team at practice earlier this week at the Multi-Purpose Center. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

Matt Hanley and Brandon Ouellette are bring their expertise from the all-star cheering world to the high school cheering world.

Hanley, a 2004 graduate of Gardiner Area High School, is the new coach of the powerful Lewiston program. Hanley has been at Andy Valley Gymnastics in Lewiston as it head tumbling instructor and has been a coach with the Planet Cheer Galaxy All-Star Cheering program.

Ouellette, meanwhile, is Monmouth’s new coach after being out of coaching for most of this decade. Previously, Ouellette was the head instructor for the National Cheerleaders Association from 2001-2011.

Monmouth Academy cheering coach Brandon Ouellette with his team Tuesday, December 4, 2019, during practice in the school’s cafeteria. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

Both Hanley and Ouellette are excited for the opportunity to coach at the high school level.

Hanley has been coaching in the area since 2003 and knows a lot about the program that the Blue Devils have built in the past 16 years, which includes nine state championships and six this decade.

“I have worked with former coaches with the Lewiston program since 2008,” Hanley said. “I have worked with athletes from Lewiston for years and years. I know what Maine high school cheering is all about because I work with kids all over the state to prepare them for their own high school teams.”

Hanley has been with the team since the fall. He also was the coach for the fall cheering team, which he said was different because he hadn’t coached sideline cheering for football and soccer games before.

Ouellette, a 2001 Jay High School graduate, has been involved in the sport through judging competitions throughout the country. He cheered for the University of Massachusetts-Amherst in 2007 and 2008, and is excited to bring his college experience to the high school level.

“Coming from a college cheer team and going to (coaching) a high school (team), I expect more from them from being (a) college (cheerleader),” Ouellette said. “I am going to treat them like college cheerleaders and expect the same skills at the college level.”

Oullette and Hanley have coached against each other at the all-star level. Hanley said the two have been in contact this fall to help each other in the transition to the high school level as there currently aren’t too many male coaches.

“I know with my own personal coaching (background), I am usually the only male in the room,” Hanley said. “A lot of times, when I travel to school or go to meetings, it’s usually me and maybe one or two other males. It is different to have a male at head coach.”

Hanley isn’t the first male coach to coach Lewiston; Justin Wing was head coach for the 2006-07 season and guided the Blue Devils to a state championship. In addition to Wing, other men who have coached in in Maine include David Mannette at Scarborough, Shawn Leighton at South Portland and Kyle Whittington at Thornton Academy.

Hanley and Ouellette hope they can start a trend of more men being involved in cheering, not only as coaches but as athletes as well.

“In the state of Maine, there isn’t that many male cheerleaders that really come up through or actually coached,” Hanley said “There’s probably 10 in my 16 years of coaching that I have had (males). Coaching isn’t for everybody, so it’s hard to answer that question.”

Ouellette believes if promoted the right way, more boys might want to try cheering, and maybe down the line get into coaching. Ouellette has two males on his team this year, Jacob Umberhind and Daan Overbeek, an exchange student from the Netherlands.

“It takes one or two games for maybe a little boy to see how cool it is to be a male cheerleader, or even being a high school kid seeing how cool it can be,” Ouellette said. “Seeing the skills they do at a basketball game in cheering or a competition, that’s all it takes to see how much fun it is.”

Umberhind uses cheering to stay in shape for football season, while Overbeek is a trampoline gymnast.

Hanley has already coached many of the Lewiston cheer team members throughout the years, including Katelyn Ingerson, whose first coach was Hanley when she was 3 years old. That familiarity has helped make the transition from Lysa McLemore to Hanley a smooth one.

“There has been nothing but (open) arms, everyone was super excited when our past coach, before she got her other job, she knew Matt was going to be the person in our hands,” Ingerson said. “There’s no one better that can be better than Matt.”

Hanley has also coached a few Monmouth Academy girls, such as Kyleigh Gowell, who has learned a lot from both coaches.

Gowell sees each as just another coach becaause Ouellette and Hanley know a lot about cheering.

“I don’t think gender plays a role in it, I think it’s knowledge on the sport,” Gowell said. “I think males are more to the point, where females are softer.”

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