ROAN MOUNTAIN, Tenn. (WJHL)- In our new digital series ‘High School Standouts,’ Digital Sports Reporter Michael Epps features local athletes with incredible talent, hoping to take that talent to the next level.
These are athletes that stand out both on and off the field.
This week’s High School Standout is Kenzie Birchfield, a girls basketball player and cheerleader at Cloudland High School.
When the clock hits zero, most high school girls basketball players head to the locker room. Maybe they’ll stick around and watch the boys game.
But for six players on the Cloudland girls team, they play a real doubleheader.
“I had some basketball players come to me and they said ‘Ms. Morgan, we’d like to do both’ and I thought ‘how could we make that work’ and so I kinda thought about it for one season and I talked to the coach at the time and said ‘can we work something out where they can do both’ and he said ‘well sure we’ll try our best to make it work’ and we made it work,” Cloudland cheerleading coach Aleta Morgan said.
Kenzie Birchfield, and five others play on the girls team. Then, once the game ends, change uniforms and cheer for the boys game.
“It’s kinda hard because you get so into the game and you wish you were out there playing sometimes, but it’s hard to get your adrenaline down and actually go to cheer and not just watch the game,” Kenzie Birchfield said.
“I didn’t think it would be possible at first because I thought ‘oh they’ll miss the boys game or maybe make it for halftime’ but the first time they came in I was shocked it was Kenzie and I turn around and I look and there she is tumbling on the floor and I didn’t even know she was there,” Morgan said.
There’s a sports cliche, the 24 hour rule; you get 24 hours to think about the last game, then move on to the next one.
That doesn’t quite work for these girls.
“We worry about those wins and losses about 24 hours and you gotta get ready the next day so but tonight for them they got about 10 minutes to get their uniform on and get back on the floor and be cheerleaders,” Cloudland girls basketball head coach Matt Birchfield said.
So they swap out basketballs for pom-poms, and Kenzie was the first one to try this out.
“Yeah it was a lot because usually you have basketball from 3-5 and then you have cheer from 5-7 every day so it’s just a lot sometimes but the coaches work around our practices and stuff,” Kenzie Birchfield said.
“It is tough especially off a big game like this a big emotion games and losses and stuff to try to put that behind you and go to the next sport and get out there and cheer and support the boys and what they do and what they represent to cheer them on and just have that good school spirit,” Matt Birchfield said.
And soon enough, she convinced five others to join the cheer squad.
“Her and my other friends were like ‘you should do it, it’s so fun’ so she’s the one that got us all to come on and do it,” Kenzie’s basketball and cheer teammate Kaylen Fields said.
“I tried to encourage them like during football season to try to get them to come out and some of them really wanted to and some were nervous about it but once they all tried out and they all made it they were excited,” Kenzie Birchfield said.
“This is my 2nd year doing it and it’s really tiring but I love it all so it’s worth it,” Kaylen Fields’ sister Karah said, who is also Kenzie’s teammate on both.
That turnaround is already tough, and it’s certainly not any easier after a tough loss.
“It’s pretty hard but we just support the boys and go out there and have fun still, we just gotta get dressed even if we lose we gotta still go out there and cheer,” Kenzie Birchfield said.
But that’s where the coach’s guidance comes in, to give them a quick postgame speech.
“They just gotta regroup and go back out and cheer and support the team so sometimes it’s tough off big losses like tonight,” Matt Birchfield said.
For Kenzie, it’s especially helpful to hear that from her coach; because he’s also her dad.
“I treat her the same, she is my daughter and there are times at home I’m dad but here you have to be a coach and I treat her just like the rest of them and just real proud of her as a dad,” Matt Birchfield said.
“It’s cool because we kinda think the same but it’s also different because he pushes me just as hard as everyone else,” Kenzie Birchfield said.
To do both at the same time shows the hard work and toughness these girls have.
“It’s just representative of what kind of kids we have and just fortunate here at Cloudland, I’ve been blessed with a lot of good players and just fortunate to have really good kids out there it makes coaching and your job a lot better,” Matt Birchfield said.
“Yeah it’s really nice to try to win on the court and then on the sidelines you can cheer to try and help others win too,” Karah Fields said.
Follow this series throughout the year as WJHL’s Michael Epps finds the High School Standout every week on WJHL.com.