Dr. Linda McElroy was honored Saturday, Nov. 8, for 25 years as cheerleading coach at Oklahoma Baptist University. A reception was held in the Mabee Suite in the Noble Complex on the OBU campus in Shawnee, during homecoming festivities.
No amount of chants or cheers could fully capture Dr. Linda McElroy's enthusiasm for standing at the helm of OBU's Cheerleading Squad. This year is McElroy's 25th and final year of coaching the group. One of the longest tenured coaches in OBU's history fondly bids farewell to a coaching career of lasting impact on generations of Bison.
McElroy joined OBU in the spring of 1990 as a professor of kinesiology and leisure studies. With a long history of cheering, she was the obvious choice to coach OBU's cheerleaders.
"Cheerleading was a part of who I was," said McElroy. "Coaching OBU's squad was a continuation of what I'd done all my life."
In her first year as coach, McElroy transformed the squad by providing a new form of leadership. The group now had structure, guidelines and a defined mission; but more than that, they had a leader with vested interest and a commitment to be at every practice and game. Quickly, McElroy - affectionately known as "Coach Mac" - became the heart and soul of the team.
"She was determined the school and spectators would be proud of their cheerleaders," said Heather (Rhea) Streich, a 1993 OBU graduate. "She immediately began to change the standard from cheerleaders as performers for crowd entertainment to spirit leaders whose goal was to encourage crowd participation whether on the sidelines or at half court."
Throughout the years that high standard continues to hold, even as OBU added new athletic teams and by doing so increased the responsibilities of her cheerleaders. Ever faithful to the squad's mission to motivate fans and athletes, Coach Mac's leadership model and investment in her cheerleaders has paid off. When asked what her greatest achievement to date as coach has been, her response is simple: "For whatever reason, they tend to stay."
Third generation Bison cheerleader Becka (Weber) Pillmore, a 2008 OBU graduate, was one of many who cheered all four years, in part due to McElroy's influence. "Coach Mac was not just a cheerleading coach, she was my campus mom," said Pillmore. "She is responsible for some of my favorite college memories and supported me during some very hard times."
Countless other cheerleaders would quickly echo Pillmore's sentiments, and yet, those relationships were and continue to be just as meaningful to McElroy.
"All of those that took time to come and be a part of the squad were truly part of my life," said McElroy. "They're my kids - they know that."
McElroy has been and will continue to be a longstanding presence on Bison Hill. Although her coaching career comes to an end next spring, her stint in the classroom will continue. Those students who know her outside of cheerleading and class will still recognize her as faculty marshal, leading her colleagues at convocation and commencement ceremonies. She will also be present at plenty of basketball and football games, with one caveat. "I will always be more interested in the cheerleaders than the game," she said.