Of all of the organizations at Washburn, there are none as loud as the Washburn Cheer Squad, led by coach Taylor McKaig.
McKaig was born and raised in Topeka and attended Washburn Rural High School. From there, she went to Dodge City Community College in Dodge City, Kansas, to be a cheerleader. She then transferred to Kansas State University where she continued her collegiate career as a cheerleader.
McKaig has two sisters. One is a dental student at the University of Missouri at Kansas City while the other, Tateum, is a sophomore at Washburn and is on the cheer team. McKaig is married and has one son.
Not only is McKaig the coach of Washburn Cheer, she is also the coach of the Washburn Rural cheer team. Even though it may be a huge task, she loves every bit of her job.
“It’s so much different, coaching both collegiate and high school cheer. From making practice schedules and games, it is a huge task,” McKaig said. “There are lots of challenges that come with being the coach for Washburn and Washburn Rural. It is a challenge to have to set practice schedules, plus there are lots of games that I have to be at that chew up a lot of my time. But, I love every second of it.”
Not only does McKaig coach two cheer teams, but she also has to plan and prep the cheers for multiple sports.
“It is challenging for us to be working on football stuff and then we have basketball right after football. There is a little bit of overlap where we will be doing both football and basketball cheers,” McKaig said. “It is always a challenge, but the girls always handle the seasons very well.”
With all organizations and sports, the coaches or the heads of the organizations strive to make their athletes better. For McKaig, that is one of her favorite parts of the job.
“Some of the things I love about coaching are watching my athletes overcome challenges, getting better [becoming a better cheerleader] and becoming a better person,” McKaig said. “Seeing them overcome all of the challenges a season brings is amazing. They work so hard throughout the year and it is amazing to see them start the year and end the year so much better than how they came in.”
McKaig’s dreams of coaching started when she was still an athlete herself.
“I have always wanted to be a coach. I knew in high school that this is what I wanted to do. I have been lucky enough to travel around the world for coaching, and it has just made me want to coach,” McKaig said.
Not only does she love to coach, but her athletes love working with her and appreciate what she has done for the program.
“She has really turned around our program and given us something to believe in,” said sophomore Tateum Hughes. “She has given the team a high expectation and standard to live by.”
After spending her day coaching cheer, McKaig also likes to spend most of her time with her family. When she is not coaching for Washburn or Washburn Rural, she teaches young children ballet and dance at the Dance Factory in Topeka.
On top of all her responsibilities, McKaig likes to travel when she can find the time.
“Cheerleading is a sport that not a lot of people realize lasts all year long. Being able to keep people motivated is definitely a challenge. Making sure that they don’t lose attention, or energy, is always big,” McKaig said. “The girls always get excited for a new season or the start of a new year.”
This upcoming weekend is Homecoming, which is an event that the cheerleaders are always excited for. Yell Like Hell is their favorite event of the week. McKaig said that Yell Like Hell is always exciting because of what they get to do and the creativity that they are able to use.
“It is always an exciting time when we change seasons and we start working on newer cheers or dances. With Homecoming coming up, it is always an exciting time, especially being able to have fun with our routines that we will have,” McKaig said.
There are only three more home games scheduled this football season before McKaig and her cheerleaders start focusing on winter sports.