Kelsey Freidel Nelson

As the first head coach of Mount Marty College’s Competitive Cheer and Dance program, Kelsey Freidel Nelson is enjoying building it her way — from the ground up.

Neither the collegiate environment nor that of competitive Dance and Cheer are new to Mount Marty College’s (MMC) new Executive Director of Marketing/Cheer and Dance Head Coach Kelsey Freidel Nelson. However, MMC is new to competitive cheer and dance, so Freidel Nelson has her work cut out for her.

Freidel Nelson was hired to the marketing directorship last November and was also asked to lead the new cheer and dance program. One could say that the Hartford native has a family history of work in higher education and coaching, which should serve her well in her new position. Her father, Mike Freidel, coached college football at Augustana and University of South Dakota, and her mother, Joni, worked at MMC in the 1980s and is now at the University of South Dakota.

Freidel Nelson took some time out last week to talk to the Press & Dakotan about the program and her background in cheer and dance.

Which came first: the marketing job or the coaching job?

It was a simultaneous hire. They said “We want you to be our marketing director— oh, and, we want you to be our cheer and dance coach.” The athletic director currently at Mount Mary (Chris Kassin), I’ve known for many, many years. So, he knew I was coming to interview for the marketing job and I think a light went off in his head that this might be a good combo.

So MMC has never had a cheer and dance coach before?

They’ve had cheer and dance coaches, but they haven’t had them in a long time, and this is the first time they’ve had a program that is actually scholarshipped and sanctioned with the NAIA (National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics). The cheer and dancers at Mount Marty are athletes and they get scholarships to participate in the sport. The GPAC (Great Plains Athletic Conference), which is the conference that Mount Marty is in, is really competitive; the NAIA is the only major college program that has cheer and dance as a sport (and) we are the only college in South Dakota that offers scholarships in cheer and dance.

Did the creation of this program go hand in hand with creating MMC’s new football program?

No. I don’t think it was, “We’re having a football program, so we need a cheer program.” Technically, these athletes that I am coaching are not sideline, game-day athletes; they do competitions. The sideline piece is just a byproduct. I think they knew they needed some more offerings, some sport offerings because of Title IX. So, decision-wise, I think they were simultaneous, but I don’t think one, necessarily, had a major effect on the other.

What cheer and dance experience do you have?

Currently, I am a member of a professional dance company in Sioux Falls, called LiRa. I’m a fourth-year company member and we’re the first adult dance company in South Dakota. We are heavy in rehearsals for our show at the beginning of August. So, I do that, I’ve taught at studios — most recently, I was teaching at Balleraena Dance Studio in Sioux Falls — I’ve coached high school cheer and dance programs before and I’ve coached All Stars, so I’ve done a lot in the coaching realm. I am also a judge for the (South Dakota) State High School Activities Association (SDHSAA). It has cheer and dance as a sport. I have been an official for them for seven years.

Where are you starting with the cheer and dance program at MMC?

From scratch. We don’t have a single uniform; we don’t have a single pompom; we (didn’t) have a single dancer or cheerleader. So, we had auditions in April and we have a team now, and I actually ordered uniforms this week. It’s both satisfying and challenging. I get to build my program how I want it, from scratch: my rules, my schedule and you don’t have the residual of an old coach that would affect how your athletes think about you.

The other side of that is that it would have been nice to have had a little bit more of a developed talent pool, a little bit more of a base, but I am really enjoying making it my own.

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