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Sugar House Journal

5A Coach of the Year credits cheerleaders, school for program’s evolution

Mar 12, 2018 16h25 ● By Travis Barton

Ron Yates was named the 5A Coach of the Year at the Utah Cheer State Competition in January. (Photo/Jeff Kelsey)

Highland High senior Kimberly Warr was a freshman cheerleader when, along with four friends, they began working with a new tumbling coach. They heard good things about Ron Yates and hoped to improve their skills under his tutelage. 

“I was finding that I was doing so much better than (with) any other tumbling coach I’ve taken,” said the head cheerleader. 

Warr wasn’t the only one to notice his impact as Yates was awarded the 5A Coach of the Year at the Utah Cheer Club Sport State Competition in January. 

Yates said he was surprised to win the award, preferring to deflect any credit to the school and its cheerleaders. 

“The kids are fantastic, the other people I work with are terrific,” he said. “Without them there’s no award.”

When Yates first heard about the nomination, he wanted to decline it altogether. 

“I would rather stand behind the girls and have you clap for them,” he said. But at the urging of his family, he decided to accept. 

There are three goals the tumbling coach has: have fun, get better and don’t get hurt. Yates explained he doesn’t expect recognition for fulfilling those goals. 

“I just never thought I would be that type of candidate because (the cheerleaders) were just having fun and not getting hurt and getting better,” Yates said. It was his fellow coach Karrie Jarratt that nominated him. 

“He doesn’t like all the fanfare but we were really excited, we were really proud of him,” she said. 

For the girls Yates coaches, it was long overdue. 

“I was just like, ‘Finally someone is giving him recognition,’ because he doesn’t expect recognition at all,” Warr said. “He is such a giving person that it was just time he got something in return.” 

It was at the behest of Warr and the other cheerleaders, and a conversation on a bus with Jarratt, that brought Yates to Highland. He was coaching tumbling and stunting at East when he switched schools. 

“It’s turned out to be a very good fit,” Yates said. “Highland is a great school, great principal [Chris Jenson], kids there are great.” 

He added that as an Olympus High alum who competed against the Rams for years, “to become this comfortable with them kind of amazes me.” 

As a tumbling teacher, Yates is familiar with various schools being well-known in the cheer world. Recently, he helped the Brighton High cheer team with a pyramid stunt they were attempting and during summers he’ll help the Olympus boys basketball team when they go to Reno, Nevada. This in addition to his work at Elite Dance Studio in Holladay. 

Though it’s only been 15 years since he’s joined the dance, tumbling and cheer worlds, Yates said it was his daughter that wanted to take a tumbling class. 

“She said since I played basketball with her brothers, that I should tumble with her,” he recalled. 

Yates caught on so quickly that he was teaching the class by its end. Then after teaching gymnastics for a while, he ended up at the dance studio and it evolved into cheer. And Highland High is happy he did. 

“He’s been great for us, just been wonderful,” Jarratt said. 

It was five years ago that Jarratt, a school counselor with no cheerleading experience, was asked to be the coach. “I didn’t know what they heck I was doing,” she recalled. 

Until the competition in January, Highland had gone 12 years without competing at a regional or state tournament. 

But with Yates bringing his expertise in tumbling and stunting, it’s allowed them to compete at a higher level according to Jarratt. 

“When I took over I think I had one girl who tumbled, and now I would say on a varsity team of 26 girls, 20-22 tumble and next year I think they will all tumble,” she said. “He did that. He’s an amazing coach.” 

It’s something Warr can attest to. She said it took her three years to do a roundoff back handspring or a standing back handspring by herself. 

“I just always had the mind blockage that I could not do it and he helped me get over that in probably a month. It was just crazy,” said Warr, who was named academic all-state. 

She later added, “he has changed the face of Highland cheer. Without him we would not have gone to competition this year or taken third at state (in the Sideline/Timeout Dance category).” 

Yates refuses to accept credit, pointing out the quality of athletes found throughout the high school. 

“Kimberly (Warr) is a great example. One of the best kids I’ve ever worked with,” Yates said. “They listen, they want to get better, they have fun. She made me look pretty good.”

The tumbling coach enjoys working with kids. His favorite moments are when he takes his students, who may not have much confidence or never tumbled before, and sees “the first time they complete a simple standing back handspring, and the smile and the sense of accomplishment.” 

Known for his nurturing and loving coaching style, Jarratt said it’s obvious Yates wants the best for the kids. 

“Some people just have that extra something and the kids really read that,” she said. “We all know when someone really likes us and wants us to do our best.”

Warr, who will attend the University of Utah in the business scholars program and try out for the spirit and dance team, noticed that quality in Yates saying he knows how far to push them, but always having their safety at the forefront. 

“He’s definitely changed my experience and how I cheer,” she said. “I would not be the same cheerleader without him.”