First year coach Ariana Wilkey feels she is ready to lead the Maplettes and hopes to bring a sense of family to the squad.

First year coach Ariana Wilkey feels she is ready to lead the Maplettes and hopes to bring a sense of family to the squad.

The 2011 Illinois Wesleyan grad, who is in her second year of teaching third grade at Southwest Elementary School, brings four years of high school dance experience to the team.

“I am excited to be the dance coach,” said Wilkey. “I am excited to be a part of the games instead of just watching.
“My dance experience is still fresh and the Maplettes are doing a lot of what I did in high school so I am not jumping into this blind. I feel like this is something I can handle.”

Wilkey being named the Maplettes’ coach is a fairly recent appointment and came from a need for a coach.

“Jessi Haars was going to be the coach, but she is pregnant and was put on bed rest,” said Wilkey. “So athletic director Travis Mackey called me with an emergency and said that they needed a coach. I had on my application that I had danced in high school.

“I like being a leader and want to bring those skills into something that I?don’t have a lot of experience in. It is also a great way to get involved in the community.”

Wilkey’s big expectation for her squad is for them to come together as a team.

With Wilkey jumping into her new role so quickly, she has relied on former coach Jenni Wyffels and the Maplette parents for support.

“Jenni told me to have fun and said being a coach is a good outlet to forget about school. She said it is a good way to back away from things and focus on something else,” said Wilkey. “The parents have been amazing and really welcoming and the girls have done the same. All of them are so friendly and welcoming.”

Wilkey had her first opportunity to meet with the girls and learn about them when she took them to camp this summer.

“I am so grateful I got to take them to camp,” she said. “I learned more about dance, went to coaches’ conferences and learned tips for coaching and techniques.

“It is also easy to relate to these girls because I can say I know how they feel when they get overwhelmed with the number of dances they have to learn because I have been there before.”

Wilkey, along with help from Haars, are planning on making some changes to what fans have been use to seeing from the Maplettes.

“Jessi and I are both advocates for more pom dances then hip hop and the parents also have said they want to see more kick lines,” said Wilkey. “We are really excited about bring back old school pom.”

A big challenge Wilkey says she will have to overcome is balancing teaching and coaching, but she says she likes a challenge.

Wilkey is most excited about bringing excitement to the Maplettes.

“I am excited and eager to be their coach and to see what magic we can put together,” she said. “These girls are such a good group of girls and are all very invested in the Maplettes.

“As I prepare for the season, I am doing a lot of the same things I did in high school. I don’t know if I always wanted to be a coach, but I love teaching and being in a leadership position. I love what I take away from it and what I can teach the girls.”