Inclusivity. Diversity. Welcome for all.
That’s the message head coach and Athletic Director Amanda Rothier wants others to know about the Los Gatos-Campbell Pop Warner Cheerleading program. The Los Gatos resident is in her first full season running the show and has placed a heavy emphasis on including special-needs kids with the ultimate goal of forming a thriving Challenger team.
“I really want more diversity on the team and include everyone from all abilities and [ethnic] backgrounds,” said Routhier, who was an assistant coach in the organization last year. “I want our cheer program to be a place where everyone will feel welcomed and to have diversity in all aspects. I’m all about having diversity within this team.”
Los Gatos-Campbell Cheer has three teams: Tiny Mites (5-7 year olds), Mighty Mites (7-9) and Junior Pee Wee (8-11). Routhier said there are a solid 27 girls in the program and three more that could be joining soon.
Overall, it’s been a boost from last year, when 23 girls started out in the program but only 18 were remaining by the end of the season, Routhier said. Her goal is to boost the roster to 40 within the next couple of years.
“Forty would be amazing,” said Routhier, who also serves as the coach of the Junior Pee Wee team.
Routhier said there are two special-needs girls—Joy and Avery—who have been a tremendously positive addition to the program. Joy is a 10-year-old on the Junior Pee Wee squad and Avery is an 8-year-old on the Mighty Mites. Joy’s mom, Michele Wymer, posted a heartfelt message on Instagram expressing gratitude for how the LGC cheerleaders and Megan Wilson welcomed Joy with open arms and made her feel loved and a part of something special.
“The girls are so patient and even though Joy doesn’t get all the moves, no one bats an eye,” Michele said in the post. “They just dance around her and celebrate her every move. They have encouraged her on every level and she has thrived. … I can’t even type this without tears streaming. I’m just so thankful—for sweet girls who are patient and kind, for an amazing coach who has encouraged Joy (and her mama) every single week and was not even slightly daunted by coaching 30 little girls, two with Down Syndrome.”
Even though some special-needs kids are more functional than others, Routhier said there’s a place for everyone to make an impact. For athletes who are less functional, sideline cheer can be a great option. For the special-needs kids on the higher functional end, they can learn stunts and dances and take part in the routines that involve a greater level of athleticism.
Elba Navarro is the mom of Luna, a 4-year-old who is one of the youngest girls in the LGC cheer program. Elba said she was considering two other organizations but was blown away by LGC and Routhier’s transparency and heart for her Luna, who suffers from occasional seizures.
But LGC made Luna feel welcome and accepted immediately.
“When I was considering which organization for Luna specifically, one of the concerns for me obviously was the demographics because my child is bi-racial,” Elba said. “And not that the other places weren’t welcoming, but I chose the Los Gatos Longhorns and Amanda specifically because she was very responsive and everyone on the team was very, very sweet.
“Amanda held cheer clinics and was very attentive, very warm, very sweet, very responsive, so there was a lot of great communication. She made Luna feel really safe which I appreciated so it felt like a home environment, which sold me to sign up with the Longhorns. I wanted to make sure my daughter felt safe whenever she cheered.”
Routhier’s daughter, Everleigh, is on the Junior Pee Wee squad and an incoming third-grader at Campbell Innovation School. Routhier has another goal to diversify her recruiting area, and wants to to attract more cheerleaders from the Campbell-Willow Glen area in addition to the members in the program who are from Los Gatos.
Routhier said she moved practices from Los Gatos High School to the Campbell Community Center “to make it more accessible for more people.”
“Living next to the high school, I could’ve walked to practice but I put our practice location so it’s more central to everybody,” she said. The season starts Aug. 1 but summer conditioning begins June 21. For information, contact Routhier at [email protected] or 408.630.1574.