Julie Lebamoff, the state’s 2015 Cheer Coach of the Year, recently left a 15-year career at Woodlan High School to take over the cheering squad at IPFW.
Lebamoff, once a cheerleader at New Haven High School, uses a family approach in coaching. She comes to practice with her son Alex, 23. Her husband, Dr. James Lebamoff, an emergency room physician, serves as doctor for the squad and the football team.
"Cheerleading is very hard and dangerous," Julie Lebamoff said. "He’s had to stitch girls."
A 1982 graduate, Julie Lebamoff took over the New Haven cheer program 20 years ago and coaxed football players to serve as lifters for the cheerleaders during basketball season.
"We wanted to do big stunts," Lebamoff said.
At Woodlan, she worked with several male cheerleaders on the squad as well.
Principal Ron Kammeyer and his family regularly attend games and competitions.
"Julie talked me into doing a cartwheel at a pep session," said Kammeyer, a 1975 Woodlan graduate. "I never hurt so bad in all my life, and the kids got it all on tape," Kammeyer joked.
Senior Woodlan cheerleader Kira Tucker said Lebamoff goes the extra mile to make sure students achieve.
"She has never had a negative attitude – always motivating," Tucker wrote in a text message. "She is such a great coach because of her patience, passion and love for us.
"She doesn’t just focus on the sport. She focuses on teaching us life lessons."
But the cheerleading commitment is grueling.
"We get up at 5:30 in the morning and practice until 8 a.m.," Lebamoff said of the 24-member squad. "We stunt really hard."