Naugy step team earns its varsity stripes

Two years ago senior Jada Brown got together with some friends and started a club that attended Naugatuck games and the step team came to life, and so did the Greyhound fans.
This year, some of the girls approached health education teacher Shannon Shea-Lyons to ask if she would be a coach or an advisor. Shea-Lyons then went to athletic director Brian Mariano and found out if it could become a varsity sport.
“I figured of they are going to invest their time and effort in practicing the routines then they should be recognized as a varsity sport,” said Shea-Lyons. “Now that we are a varsity sport, there are rules and regulations to follow, and it became much more than I expected. Their grades had to be passing, there couldn’t be any disciplinary issues, and they had to be at every practice and every game, so the numbers did drop from 29 original members to 15 currently.
Added Shea-Lyons: “I’m only acting as the advisor. It’s the girls 100 percent, especially Saniya that watch the You Tube and Tik-Tok videos and perfect their routines. These girls are amazing, the work they put into this.”
It’s been a few years since Naugatuck last had a cheerleading squad or dance team so this is a welcome addition for the school and the Greyhound fan base.
“There was some interest in cheer and dance over the past few years but not enough to have a team,” said Mariano. “Our coach had stepped away a couple of years ago. In the meantime we had some students who formed a step club. They began attending games and we got very positive feedback from the community. So this year they became our official varsity dance team.
“We do have someone who is going through the process of becoming our next cheer coach but they still need to present it to the board of education. So we will have cheer again we just haven’t finalized anything yet.”
The seniors; captain Saniya Wright, Kailannie Santana and Ni’Asia Anderson, and juniors Kaitlynn Kelly, Xahiri Mejia Villa and Aniyah Martinez, have teamed up to help bring the younger girls up to speed. Sophomores Brianna Andoh and Jada Cabazo, along with freshmen Alisha Rosa, Alia Dosmas, Tailya Diaz and A’Niiya Bland, are forming the sturdy foundation of this team for the future.
“Jada started this and after she graduated I picked it up and sought out the help of our coach,” said Wright. “It’s been really a team effort, studying the routines and then practicing them to get them down.
“I think as a club team we weren’t taken as serious and we weren’t serious in practicing and putting the commitment into it. I think it also helps us in the classroom, keeping up our grades helping us all the way around. We do all the home basketball games and only did one football game this year for senior night but we are planning more for next season as the team grows. We will be going to all the schools in town to do a Step Around The Town program to generate interest for kids entering high school next year.”
The step team is gaining notice in the community and at games. They were even at the Greyhound Nation presentation in December and one of the elementary students from Cross Street School, fifth grader McKenzie Miller, has been joining the step team at games learning the routines.
Beyond high school, step teams are recognized even on the college front with Southern Connecticut State University having a step team. Currently, step teams representing high schools are on the rise in Connecticut and throughout the country and there is even a national step team competition in Orlando, Fla.
“I will be attending college but I’m more into the dance team aspect,” added Wright. “My family actually has a background in dancing, but if I do stay in the area I would like to come back and help the Naugatuck team as they continue to grow.”