By Tony Hooker
Since bursting onto the scene in 2013 with an IDTA state title in their first season, the Villa Grove Junior Devilettes have been nothing short of dynastic, bringing home eight titles in their nine seasons of competition. The one season they didn’t win? That would be 2020, when they finished second, a whisker behind Trimpe.
I recently sat down with the Jr. Devilettes head coach, Maddison Perkinson to ask about what it’s like to start her coaching career in the middle of a pandemic, how her team responded, and many other things.
Maddison, how long have you been coaching the junior devilettes?
This year is my first year.
You didn’t have anything else going on during the pandemic, right?
You just got married. Congratulations, by the way.
You graduated from Parkland, right? What are you doing?
I’m a surgical technologist, so I work in surgery at Carle Hospital.
So why did you decide to become a coach?
I’ve always loved dance, and I love the devilettes and I’ve always wanted to coach dance, especially junior high dance. I feel like those girls can use a positive role model in their lives more than anybody. I knew the job was open, and I thought, “Why not?”
The pandemic has caused stress everywhere. How did it impact how you could coach your team?
It impacted us very heavily. Over the summer, we first started practicing like normal, but we had to practice outside, with masks. Eventually we got to practice inside a little bit and then we had to start wearing masks indoors, which made it much harder for the girls to focus on their stamina. My whole team was quarantined right before our first competition, so we had to use our same video for the first three competitions. The only difference is that we had one video for our regional competition and we had a different video that we used for state. We really challenged ourselves to be confident with that video, and we had to keep working at home to make sure that we could provide a much better video for state.
It apparently worked, because you brought home a first-place trophy from IDTA state, so congratulations.
Yeah! Thank you.
Junior high girls aren’t necessarily known for being the most focused, so how did you get them to focus on their performance, even though there wasn’t a crowd, because I know they love performing to an audience?
What we were able to do was we were able to make it so I could cheer for them, because that’s what they’re used to. They’re used to those super loud fans. The devilette fan base is just so great and so loud and they always have been. They were missing that this year, so when we were recording our videos this year, I found a way to put our music over my voice so I just matched up our music to our video and then I just cheered and screamed for them and made a way for us to put our music over the dance so they couldn’t hear me yelling! <smiles>
Have you had tryouts?
No, we’re having tryouts mid-May, the week of May 16.
Do you have your eye on some of the younger talent?
Oh, yeah! The sixth through eighth grade has such a wide variety of ages. Getting little 11-year-old girls and watching them really grow and become confident in themselves is so awesome.
Are you already planning routines for next year?
I’ve already got my theme for next year. This year we did diamonds. It’s a secret for this year until we get started, but I’ve already got it planned out in my head.
Any changes that you can see on the horizon? Everything in the program going well?
Yes, everything has been going smoothly. The high school coach, Sarah, and I work really close together and we try to make sure that the junior high and high school girls have a close bond and can go to each other for help. It’s all about positivity. I think the culture of the program has changed since Sarah started coaching, and now with me coming in I think that we try to focus more on having fun and positivity and making sure that the girls know that they can always talk to each other and they can talk to us. We want them to come to dance and have fun, rather than coming to dance and getting stressed out. Of course, we love winning, and winning’s a bonus, but for us it’s really about the girls enjoying the experience.
Anything you would like to add? Anyone you wish to thank?
I definitely want to thank Sarah Bouton, the high school coach. She got me through my first season, a crazy one. There were a lot of hectic times and learning experiences, especially with the pandemic and having to go back and forth from virtual to in person, but she was my rock through the whole season, and of course we have the best parents and fans.