From Spectator to Captain to Coach: Isa Quinteros and His Cheer Journey


Roisin Keogh, Contributor

During his freshman year at San Rafael High School, Isa Quinteros spent a lot of his time after school attending his friends’ cheerleading practices. He only attended practices to have more time with his friends when the head coach, Shawna Hoch, quickly jumped at the opportunity to recruit Isa for the team. After asking his parents, they agreed Isa would be able to try out for the team the following season. Much to his surprise, this was just the beginning of a journey that would take Isa, now an alum, to become the coach of the new All-Girls Competition Team.  

Once tryouts rolled around in April of 2016, Isa was finally able to try out for the team. Even though it was Isa’s first year doing cheer, he was still able to make the Varsity Coed Competition Team since Shawna was trying to increase the number of male athletes on the team.

This meant two-hour practices four to six times a week, every week, for the next ten months. This may seem like a lot to some, but it certainly didn’t bother Isa. Rather, he just enjoyed “having a group of people working towards the same goal.” As one would expect, spending this much time together causes the team to become extremely close, creating a second home for the athletes.

From the beginning, it was very clear that Isa had a true passion for the sport. Shawna Hoch explains that “Isa was always that athlete that wanted to succeed.” He was driven to do things right and refused to give up on himself or his teammates. If Isa did something wrong, rather than letting it drag him down, he used it as motivation to work harder and become a stronger athlete.

The hard work he put into improving his skills and the skills of his teammates paid off: that year, the competition team won the national championships for the first time ever.

The following year, Isa became the co-captain of the SRHS Varsity Co-ed Competition Team. Isa and co-caption Kellyn were responsible for leading the team through warm-ups, making sure everyone was on task and helping other team members when they were struggling.

Throughout his senior year, Isa took on an even stronger leadership role than before. He came in early every day to help Shawna coach the Game-Day Cheer Team. Not only was he leading warmups, but also teaching cheers, dances, and stunt techniques to new cheerleaders.  

With this added responsibility and leadership, “he became very helpful to the fellow boys on the team which stood out,” Shawna explained. She decided to offer Isa the opportunity to become coach of the new Junior Varsity All Girls Competition Team once he graduated. Shawna’s reason for this was simple: “it was clear [Isa] wasn’t done yet with cheerleading.”

To no surprise, Isa accepted Shawna’s offer. Isa even rejected the opportunity to become a coach for the United Spirit Association because he wanted to have more time coaching and focus on the opportunity to stay at SRHS.

“Being on the team I learned what needed to be done in a day, I understood our goals and now as a coach, I reinforce these things,” Isa explained. In his new role as coach of the competition team, Isa’s daily responsibilities include motivating the athletes to run a half-mile, warm-up, drill their motions and jumps, complete the routine full-out until it is perfect and then finish with conditioning. 

Although Isa understood the responsibilities of a coach before he accepted the role, he was unprepared for the amount of stress coaching can cause. Between running around trying to keep the girls on task to standing in the audience anxiously waiting to see if every stunt was hit, coaching is a lot of work. Isa has become significantly more appreciative of Shawna and the coach’s role now that he understands the amount of work required to be a good and effective coach.

Shawna has continued to sing praises for Isa as a coach. However, she is not the only one who can speak to Isa’s coaching success. Betsy Cifuentes, a Sophomore on the All-Girls Competition Team, remembered seeing Isa improve as a coach immensely throughout the 2019 competition season. At the beginning of last year, the team was brand new, none of the girls on the team had competed before, and it was Isa’s first year coaching. As a result, they faced multiple ups and downs throughout the season. 

Even with these challenges, the All-Girls Competition Team still brought a win home at the National Championships their first year. This is uncommon, and truly reflects Isa’s natural affinity for leadership and coaching. “He was able to relate more to us and understand the difficulties,” explained Sheila Reyes, a senior in her fourth year of cheerleading.

Isa’s passion for cheerleading has continued to grow throughout his time, both as an athlete and a coach. He values creating incredible bonds with the athletes on the team, inspiring them to work hard for the goals they desire to achieve. 

One of Isa’s closest friends, Kellyn Garcia, describes how, “whenever we are together, it’s constantly jokes… we are always laughing even about the dumbest things.” No matter what the situation is, Isa is always able to find some humor in it, making people laugh, but at the same time, he’s still incredibly responsible when he needs to be.

Over the past 5 years, Kellyn has been able to watch Isa grow up. First he was an awkward freshman who had no idea who he was, and now she’s watching him build a future for himself. “Isa has matured and become much more responsible now that he knows what he wants to do with his life,” says Kellyn. “But he [is] still the same funny person at the same time.”

Moving forward, Isa hopes to become a high school counselor.

“I want to be their shoulder to cry on when they’re having a bad day or whenever they go through a break-up,” says Isa. “I want to be the person to change their day and check up on them.”