Tag Archives: Sports

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Exhale: The Romeo Era Has Begun In Bloomington

By Zach McCrite

Follow @BigEZ on Twitter

 

“I’ve long subscribed to the theory of ‘the lower the expectations, the happier you will be.’ ”

 

If we are fans of the same team – you and I – then, I am the fellow fan that you hate.

 

I am the fan that will temper all excitement and expectations when my team’s season starts or before they have a big game.

Why? Because I’ve long subscribed to the theory of “the lower the expectations, the happier you will be.”

But here I am, watching Indiana University men’s basketball (full disclosure: I’m a fan) … and I’m getting pumped.

I went to Assembly Hall for the season opener for the Hoosiers. Now, I’m well aware IU was going up against a completely undermanned, well-below-average opponent in Chicago State. It was also election night for, arguably, the most contentious midterm election cycle in our nation’s history. Needless to say, the Hall wasn’t sold out.

But, you could still feel an energy in the building not felt since Indiana hung a Big Ten championship banner after their last regular season game in 2016.

Stop me if you’ve heard this guy’s name before: Romeo Langford.

His 6-foot, 6-inch, 19-going-on-25 frame was the curiosity of almost every one of the 17,222 crimson-clad spectators. It was almost a nervous energy.

What will Romeo do? Will he dominate? Will he be a passive freshman? Will he still be the same hardly-stoppable force he was when he was hanging 30+ points per night down on Vincennes Street in New Albany the last four seasons?

For the first 7:42 of the game, he didn’t do much. He missed one field goal attempt and one free throw. He had one point.

Langford came off the court, got some instruction from Archie Miller, and gave the same stoic demeanor that New Albany head coach Jim Shannon knew well, even if the Hoosier diehards in attendance, and maybe even Miller himself, weren’t quite sure what the expression meant.

Because, let’s be honest, it was the same stoicism fans drooled over when he scored a NAHS record 63 points at Jennings County earlier this year, and the same stoicism we all experienced when Warren Central’s buzzer-beater in the IHSAA Final Four sent Romeo inside the locker room to tear off his now-retired No. 1 jersey for the last time as a Bulldog. Rarely had he worn his on-court emotions outwardly.

Surely, we weren’t going to see a passive Romeo Langford at the collegiate level, right? Nah. Expectations were a little higher this time around, remember?

And, it was at that moment, almost midway through his first half of basketball in an Indiana uniform that I remembered that Langford is a kid. A baby, even. It’s his first official collegiate basketball game. He’s eight months removed from playing in gyms as small as 2,100 (even if those gyms sold an amount of tickets that would make any fire marshal wince) and perhaps just eight months away from signing a contract that’ll have him playing basketball for $2,100 per minute.

Life comes at you fast. But maybe not any faster than it’s come at Romeo. It was at that moment I lowered my expectations for him and for the Hoosiers.

Not because I thought the season was going to be a failure. Just because we all forget that these are kids that were barely old enough to vote on the recent election night.

Perhaps something similar happened to Romeo during his brief respite from the game. Before you knew it, Langford had checked back in after a quick breather, and everyone who had seen him play on the red-glazed New Albany hardwood saw the same kid lighting up his new home floor – Branch McCracken Court at Simon Skojdt Assembly Hall, to be precise. Bulldog red traded in for Hoosier crimson.

A jumper from the baseline here. A slash-and-gash, coast-to-coast transition bucket there. Before you could blink, Romeo had 17 first half points.

And it was then that Southern Indiana fans who have hitched their wagon to Romeo after watching him in high school could release some of that nervousness.

Let’s be honest, for the diehard IU fans that live in the reach of this publication, there is a connection to the kid. He’s magnetic. He’s humble. It’s obvious his parents have done a superb job on him. And I’m sure his parents are also aware that most of Southern Indiana have adopted Romeo as their own, whether Sabrina and Tim like it or not.

So, like good parents, everyone held their breath a little as Romeo started his collegiate basketball career, however short it may be.

All for nothing. The jumpers. The slashing-and-gashing. The humility. The stoicism. It’s all still there. And so is his game even as his comfort in the college basketball world increases daily.

Exhale.

And, for the record, he’s changing me. With every subsequent game, win or lose, my usual expectation-limiting is starting to dissipate. My excitement beginning to percolate.

Before too long, I might be the fellow IU fan you don’t hate anymore.

2

One Race, Many Reasons

1By Nicholas Siegel | Photos by Kentucky Derby Festival Official Photographer Jonathan Roberts

IF YOU’VE HAD THE OPPORTUNITY to attend The Kentucky Derby Festival Marathon in the past, you probably know that every participant has a unique reason for being there. Whether it be personal growth, community building or running for a cause they believe in, for these runners, it’s a lot more than just a race.

One of this year’s participants, Donna Giovenco, likes to run the marathon because it reminds her of this time of year. “There is something about this race that speaks spring to me,” Giovenco said. “There is something about seeing and feeling the quiet at (Churchill Downs) and the horses out for their morning workouts that keeps me coming back.”

For another participant, Heidi Seuling, running the race over the years has been a great way to explore her passion of running and to relieve stress. “It’s very inspiring to see your friends and fellow runners in the community supporting each other, supporting fitness, supporting a healthy lifestyle, supporting happiness and fun at the same time,” Seuling said. “You’re meeting new people along the way, you’re encouraging each other … all of those things together make it such a positive experience.”

Seuling also touched on the diversity of reasons for participating. “Someone may be in a time-period where they need to refocus and get back in shape. Someone may be in a period where they are really fast and they’re training to qualify for something,” she said. “One year, I used it as a qualifying race for Boston. It was my way of working up to personal goals.”

Both Giovenco and Seuling are also ambassadors for the marathon, which means they were chosen to help advocate for the race as past participants. For them, spreading the word has always been part of the process, but this gives them an organized way to sing its praises.

The marathon also gives participants the opportunity to run for a charity of their choice.

Lara MacGregor with Hope Scarves, a charity that sends scarves to women battling cancer, ran the marathon a few times before deciding to start her organization. “I loved the idea of combining health, wellness, facing challenges and supporting our nonprofit organization. After my cancer diagnosis, I shared pictures of runs around the world with the hashtag #outrunningcancer,” MacGregor said.

“As a long time runner, I simply love the energy of the race. The excitement at the start, the pushing through when your legs are heavy at mile 10, the last mile when you realize how strong you are. Every outrunning cancer race I run, I’ve cried because each step we take as a team is for something bigger than ourselves. We run for our friends, mothers, wives, sisters. We run for those who can’t and for those who have died of cancer. We run with the hope that the money we raise will lead to more treatment options for people like me living with a terminal illness. We run to feel our heart pound in our chest and feel how alive we truly are. We are outrunning cancer, one step at a time – miles to go, but closer with each step.”

2


Run for a Cause

For years, Kentucky Derby Festival Marathon

& miniMarathon runners have used the races

as vehicles to raise awareness and funds

for many local and national charities. The

Kentucky Derby Festival Foundation created a

committee to help oversee the efforts of the

Charity Program. Foundation board members

and volunteers are assigned as liaisons to

help coordinate the fund-raising efforts.

Since the online program was created in 2005,

more than $2 million has been raised for

participating local and national charities.


Benefiting Charities

ALSA C St. Jude

Alzheimer’s Association

American Printing House for the Blind

Bahkita Empowerment Initiative

Boys & Girls Clubs of Kentuckiana

Cure CF, Inc.

Cure SMA

Diamond Blackfan Anemia Foundation

Families for Effective Autism Treatment (FEAT )

Gilda’s Club

Girls Rock Louisville


Hope Scarves

House of Ruth

Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation

Kentucky Animal Relief Fund

Leukemia & Lymphoma Society

LoveMyJoey

Noah’s Styling

Parkinson Support Center

Rettsyndrome.org

Summit Academy

The Arrow Fund

The Lord’s Kitchen


The Molly Johnson Foundation

The Shamrock Pet Foundation

Twisted Pink

Uspiritus


Kentucky Derby Festival Marathon & miniMarathon

Presented by Walmart

and Humana

7:30 a.m. April 28

derbyfestivalmarathon.com

Photo by Jenny Branson

When Politics Get Personal (And Getting Fit Turns Political)

Photo by Jenny Branson

Photo by Jenny Branson

By Angie Fenton

This is not a political column.

That needs to be said upfront.

I grew up in a household where

talking about politics was rarely, if

ever, a topic discussed out loud, and

I am still more comfortable listening

to political views as opposed to

divulging my own and engaging in

political talk. I often feel like that’s a

rarity – I mean, listening to someone

else’s opinion instead of exclaiming

my own – though if I said as much

on Facebook or Twitter, I’m sure

someone would attempt to shame

me for saying that, but whatever.

My husband, Jason Applegate,

spent e ight (long) months

researching a passion he’s held for

a very long time. Then, he officially

declared he is running for Floyd

County Commissioner. I fully

support him but am just that: his

support. Still, this is not a column

about him or politics (though I do

encourage you, wherever you’re

located and regardless of your

political affiliation, to exercise your

right to vote…and if I’m called to talk

politics, well, just know I’ve spent a

lifetime of listening and am ready to

stand up and speak if necessary).

But this is a column I wrote for

the now-tabled Extol Sports, Extol

Magazine’s sister publication, and

it is and will remain a column about

getting fit as it was in the other

publication. So…

What I didn’t realize until Jason’s

candidacy began was the role his

campaign would take in terms of

how we approach getting fit as a

family, which has been the focus of

this column since it first debuted in

Extol Sports, our (again) now-tabled

sister publication, in January 2017.

Suddenly , si n c e Jas on’s

announcement, work and life

responsibilities have included a

schedule requiring advanced

planning as well as a family

commitment to fitness and fun.

While social media and print, radio,

digital and television options to

spread the campaign word are vital,

nothing is more effective than inperson

interactions. And that means

hitting the streets on foot.

Over the past several weeks, we’ve

really benefited because family

walks – which include our 2-yearold

– have become a priority. So,

too, has meal planning. Stamina

and endurance are imperative on

this journey, and carving out time

together is important as well, now

more than ever.

Instead of flying into the start

of a new week without thinking

beyond Monday, we’ve made it a

point to plan out the week’s meals

and preparing what we can ahead of

time. We have to. That saves money,

of course, and also forces us to think

about what we’re putting into our

bodies. Garbage in, garbage out is a

cliche of the past, but when you make

it a point to ingest food intended to

fuel your body, you feel better. We

are proof of that.

While in the past it has been easy

to end the day by sitting on the couch

and watching yet another episode of

“Sesame Street” before our tot goes

to sleep and then staying up way too

late working on our computers, Jason

By Angie Fenton

and I have a newfound commitment

to getting outside before dinner

(weather permitting), walking our

four dogs with our young one and

talking about anything but work.

It’s funny how much happier that’s

made us. It’s wonderful how much

healthier it’s making us, physically,

spiritually and emotionally.

We still fail and falter. That’s just

life. We also refuse to give up.

This mama built a body who

has become an amazing little

person. And I’m still committed to

competing in another bodybuilder

competition one day soon like I did

years ago.

For now, though, I’m going to walk

and support those I love and have

fun with my family while focusing

not on politics but on this journey

we’re fortunate to call life.

Little Man in a Big Sports World Columnist Jim Biery.

Sports: The Mirror of Life

Little Man in a Big Sports World Columnist Jim Biery.

Little Man in a Big Sports World Columnist Jim Biery.

By Jim Biery

If you’re a sports fan already, you will completely

understand what I’m about to write. If you know

nothing about sports, please read on and maybe

I can explain why grown men wear other grown

men’s uniforms and jerseys during the big game.

I will admit that I don’t understand why wearing

your favorite player’s jersey with your last name

somehow gets you closer to the team and the

player you are cheering for. You may be a successful

business man, a well-respected lawyer, even a

project manager for a construction company. (That

being said has anyone seen an athlete showing

up at your office wearing a doctor’s uniform or

a hard hat? Point is, you should be proud and

confident of your last name and your abilities

in your chosen field and maybe realize that you

possess special talents that the best quarterback

or basketball superstar does not.)

Enough of the fashion part of this column.

What drives men and women to paint their

faces, wear lucky team sweatshirts and holler

profanities at a TV screen in hopes the referee

can hear them disagreeing with the holding call?

Sports offer a temporary escape from life’s

daily grind and ups and downs. It’s that simple.

For a couple of hours, you join other sports fans

watching and waiting for that one play, that one

shot that brings you to your feet, jumping and

cheering loudly. During this timeframe, people

are united for one cause: a team victory.

Regardless of your age, size, gender, religious

affiliation, and political views – nothing

else matters.

Many become one for a single cause.

Imagine if we could adopt this team mindset

and apply it to all the worthy causes and rallies

that lead off every newsfeed you watch nowadays.

(That’s enough of that also. If there is any

conversation I look to avoid, it would include

religion and politics.)

Another aspect of sports that is so special is that

nothing can be scripted. There are no re-runs,

and you can never know what the outcome will

be. Sometimes, it seems like everything else we

watch is predictable or repeated. Reality shows

basically follow the same script every year: Throw

strangers together in a somewhat cramped space,

add alcohol and Rednecks or steroid-loving males

with a few fiery females with daddy issues or “I’m

a Princess” mindset, and “suddenly” you have

every season of every reality show that has been

produced in the past 10 years.

Sporting events have the ability to take

you back to a certain place in time and the exact

location you witnessed something so special that

the stories of that event and that one unbelievable

play or catch comes up in conversations not only

between friends but has the ability to connect

generations.

For instance, on Feb. 3, 2008, I was at a lifelong

friend’s house watching my beloved New York

football Giants play the New England Patriots

in the Super Bowl. Late in the fourth quarter,

Eli Manning pulled off an escape from what

looked like a certain sack to throw a completion

to David Tyree, a little-known wide receiver from

Syracuse University.

That famous catch is considered by many to

be the greatest play in Super Bowl history. It was

one moment in time that I was lucky enough not

only to see live but also to experience with many

special friends. That reception lead to a miracle

victory over the previously undefeated Patriots,

who were looking to create history as being the

first team ever to go 19-0.

I’m not trying to change anyone’s view on

whether they like sports or not. Trust me, if any

of you readers would like to discuss cooking

techniques, gardening tips, or whether or not

you have ever spotted an Eastern Towhee (that’s

a bird, by the way), I am your man.

What I hope you take away from this column is

that what really matters in life – and sports – are

the moments you can’t script or even explain.

Those are the moments that you can recall and

lead to a shake of your head at how it happened or

maybe even a tear in your eye when you remember

where you were and who you were with.

Experiences like those are why I love sports

so much and appreciate the ongoing unwritten

drama that only a live sporting event can provide.

So, if want to spend your afternoons watching

“Keeping Up With The Kardashians,” I can’t stop

you. However, (spoiler alert ahead), I can tell you

the next episode will feature characters with low

self-esteem and high bank accounts who are willing

to convince you that their life is better than yours.

(Spoiler alert: Don’t believe them.)

1

UofL Hosts TYR Derby Pro Swim Meet

1The University of Louisville Swim and Dive Team hosts the

third annual TYR Derby Pro Swim Meet April 26 to 28. The

weekend will consist of a Drowning Prevention Clinic at Ralph

Wright Natatorium, a silent auction and dinner and the meet

itself. The emcee for the event this year is 6-time Olympic gold

medalist and 39-time World Champion Ryan Lochte.

On April 26, the UofL swimmers will host a Drowning

Prevention Clinic at Ralph Wright Natatorium from 4 to 5:30

p.m. On April 27, there will be a dinner and a silent and live

auction at the PNC Club at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium with

the pro athletes for sponsors and fans to attend. On April 28,

from 12 p.m. to 2:30 p.m., Lochte will host a swim clinic and

teach champion performance techniques, including water

instruction on strokes, starts, turns and streamline. After

the clinic, Lochte will host an autograph session and photo

session. The meet itself will start at 4:30 p.m. April 28 at Ralph

Wright Natatorium.

Tickets can be purchased at www.derbyproswim.com.

so-sharp-feature-image

SO SHARP.

by STACY THOMAS & photos by ANTONIO PANTOJA

Cover Vertical

Spend five minutes with Todd Sharp, and you’ll walk away knowing exactly who he is and where he stands.

“I’m an exacting coach,” said Sharp, head coach of the Floyd Central High School Dazzlers and University of Louisville Ladybirds, both national championship dance teams. “Some years are easier than others. There is no secret. There is absolutely nothing special. I decide to win. (And when it comes to being on his teams), it’s my way or the highway, but because we live in America, you are free to leave at any time.”

Yes, Sharp can be imposing and intimidating and demanding and – you get the idea.

But inside those first five minutes with him, you’ll also discover a wickedly funny and fiercely passionate person whose driving motivation is to help the young women he coaches excel in ways they’d never dreamed.

“I tell my girls: This is your time. You are not married, you are not yet mothers … you have this small window of time for yourself – to be an athlete and a performer. Seize this time for yourself and spend the rest of your life a champion.”

For the past 22 years, Sharp has been head coach of the Dazzlers. For the latter 15 of those 22 years, he has simultaneously served as head coach of the Ladybirds dance team as well as spirit coordinator for UofL. Under the guidance of Sharp, the Dazzlers have earned 24 state and national championships. In fact, his team of high school athletes have been both nationally and internationally recognized and televised more than any other high school team. The Ladybirds have earned 15 national championships, 13 of which have been under the reign of Coach Sharp.

“I find the process of coaching stressful, but I also love the process of coaching,” he said. “I have a competitive personality. I think I must be crazy to do it this long. The average career span for a coach is three seasons for high school and five years for college.”

While his career statistics alone prove him to be somewhat of an oddity in his field, his commitment and determination ensure he continues to remain on top.

“Todd didn’t just wake up one day as the most successful coach in his industry. He decided he was going to be the most successful coach in his industry,” said Patrick Mahoney, strength and conditioning coach for the Ladybirds and the Dazzlers, and a personal trainer at ProFormance Fitness in Louisville.

Mahoney met Sharp six years ago when the coach sought help getting in shape. Shortly after, Sharp asked Mahoney if he would start working with both of his teams on their strength and conditioning.

“We quickly became close friends. … He was actually the best man in my wedding,” Mahoney said. “Todd introduced me to my wife Rachel, who was a former Ladybird. He has become a big part of my life.”

Mahoney has witnessed Sharp’s continued success and credits some of it to his “ability to connect with each one of his athletes. … He genuinely cares and wants success for them. If you are able to make it through one of Todd’s programs, then you are that much more prepared for the real world. You should consider yourself lucky to be coached by Todd Sharp. For those of us fortunate enough to have him as a friend, we consider ourselves lucky too.”

 

‘A Gentle Tyrant’

Sharp, who is now 47, began his career at age 25. A native of Floyds Knobs, he graduated from Floyd Central, specializing – unsurprisingly – in musical theatre and was naturally drawn to the arts.

“I knew someone that helped coach the Dazzlers. I was approached to help them with a routine. This originally was supposed to be a one-time thing,” Sharp recalled. “Eventually, a position opened up, and it was suggested that I apply, and the rest is history. I thought maybe I would coach for a year or two. Twenty years later, this is one of the greatest things that has happened to me. I think it keeps me young,” he laughed.

It’s also allowed Sharp to finally find a place where he feels like he belongs.

“I have never quite fit in anywhere. Coaching became a home to me and my soul,” Sharp said. “It is the only thing in my life that I have felt that I’m good at. Coaching has been the greatest burden and one of the greatest joys in my life. … That moment in the Disney Fieldhouse in front of 20,000 people – televised to the nation and they announce our team as the National Champions – is a wonderful moment.”

That’s a moment Sharp has experienced multiple times, but he never forgets what the converse feels like.

In those sparse years when his teams have not won a title, the guilt he experiences is overwhelming. “It’s my biggest fear … that my team feels that all of the hard work they put in wasn’t worth it. For myself, it haunts me that I did not beat my own record.”

For others, Sharp’s successes remain at the forefront when they think of him.

“He’s the master. I can’t imagine a national championship under anyone else. He won 10 straight! That’s unheard of,” said Janie Whaley, Floyd Central High School principal. “If you watch the Dazzlers, you know why they are some of the best athletes in the school. Todd is a gentle tyrant, a perfectionist. He has a standard and sets the bar high. He works 12 months out of the year and never stops. His success is contagious. It has encouraged others to be more successful.” 

 

‘Success in Many Forms’

A9Roor40u_8rupkk_7dgIn those first few years of coaching the Dazzlers, Sharp opened Planet Dance Studio in Louisville, eventually relocating to its current location in Georgetown.

“Planet Dance was born out of necessity as a practice and training space,” said Sharp. “I needed consistent and frequent practice space for my team of athletes. My girls work and train hard. They are not merely dancers, they are athletes. I thought if the football and basketball teams had their own regular practice space, my team deserved one too.” (And practice they do, sometimes as much as five days per week, and in the summer months, too.)

Planet Dance All-Stars is now a competition dance studio for students ages 3 years to collegiate. The studio also trains dancers for Highland Hills Middle School in Georgetown and is the permanent training home for the Dazzlers and the Ladybirds.

Charlotte Ipsan and her husband, Rob, are Sharp’s business partners at the studio. She met Sharp 13 years ago at Polly’s Freeze in Edwardsville.

“I was standing in line to get ice cream with my then 3-year-old, and Todd starts his pitch. He knew of me as a former Floyd Central Dazzler and asked where my daughter, Emrie, went to dance,” Ipsan recalled. Shortly thereafter, I found myself with Emrie registering for the Mini All-Star team at Planet Dance. I was mesmerized by Todd’s unprecedented passion and uncanny ability to create successful dancers with or without physical talent.”

A couple of years after their initial meeting, Sharp faced some tough business decisions, one of which was to potentially close Planet Dance. Sharp approached the Ipsans to brainstorm options. Less than 30 days later, they were business partners.

“People questioned our combination of amazing dance coach (Sharp) plus neonatal nurse practitioner and health care administrator (Ipsan), but Todd, my husband and I all agreed on one thing: success comes in many forms at Planet Dance. We recognize and stress the importance of teamwork, confidence and personal development.”

Ipsan’s daughter, Emrie, now 16, is in her third year as a Dazzler, and has been on the Planet Dance All-Star team since the age of 3. Sharp has been her coach for the last 13 years.

“Todd’s ability to take any dancer who has passion, drive and work ethic and transform them into a fierce competitor with the utmost regard for team dynamics and compassion is absolutely magical. He knows how hard to push, when to push, and exactly how to push individuals to get the absolute best out of each student,” Charlotte Ipsan said. “There is never a moment that you question his style. Plus, he is the funniest human being I know.”

Friendships with people like the Ipsans aren’t unusual for Sharp.

“Some of the greatest friendships I have are the parents of students I have coached through the years,” he said. “Some have multiple daughters come through my programs. As our relationships have developed, they have become more like a family to me. I’ve helped raise some of these kids. I’m often with them five days a week plus weekends.”

A third of the way through his career with the Dazzlers, Sharp was approached by the University of Louisville and asked to coach the Ladybirds.

“I was extremely blessed and lucky to have been offered a job at a university locally,” said Sharp. “Most of my counterparts moved to other states for collegiate positions. Some of them (are) my former students.”

In addition to his coaching duties, Sharp is also UofL’s spirit coordinator – he organizes games and schedules social appearances and monitors grades for the Ladybirds. (“Unlike other coaches, I do not have paid assistants,” said Sharp. Our schedule is crazy, but when someone calls who is batting leukemia and they want the Ladybirds to visit their hospital room, I can’t say no. I try not to ever say no.”)

“Todd’s love of UofL and our spirit teams transcends his career,” said Christine Simatacolos, senior associate athletic director.

“He is one of the most caring people I know. He is a coach and a friend 24/7. He is always working, thinking and dreaming about his program and how it can be the best,” Simatacolos said. He is also constantly developing relationships with his athletes, parents and administrators. He could not have accomplished what he has without the support system he has created. Todd works hard but makes it fun. Everyone around him senses his energy and spunk and wants to be a part of it. UofL is fortunate to have him as an ambassador of our athletic department and university.”

A9Rvyrl8g_8rupkn_7dg

‘More Rewards, Challenges’

So what does it take to be coached by Sharp?

Anyone can have an opportunity to make his teams, Sharp said, and rarely is anyone cut from tryouts. “We are hard enough on each other in this world, it is not hard to make my teams.”

But making a team and staying on a team are two different things.

If you want to learn, get coached and have the grades to make it, you will have no trouble in Coach Sharp’s program, but this does not mean it will be easy.

“I believe in accountability. If a girl does not look her best or perform her best, we all lose. There is no justice like team justice. I tell my team and their families in the very beginning, this will be the hardest thing you have ever done. This experience on my team will be physically, mentally, emotionally and financially hard,” he said. “I have zero tolerance for fighting – this goes for parents, too. The tail will not wag the dog. This team is not a democracy; it’s a dictatorship. I want girls on my teams that have the passion, raw talent and desire to be there.”

Although the Dazzlers and the Ladybirds are both iconic programs, “Every year the dynamic changes,” Sharp said. “I set my intentions and standards high and build it from the ground up – every year. But, I do not ask of my team more than I am willing to do myself.”

Over the last decade, Sharp has felt a shift in his coaching. “When I was 25, I felt it was easier for the team to relate to me. We were closer in age. Every year, this job becomes more rewarding and more challenging. I have a coach and a trainer now. Working out has definitely raised both my credibility and my expectations. I think I am a better coach now at 47 than I was at 27. I love coaching, and the kids crave having a coach.”

They also appreciate Sharp’s willingness to go to the mat for each and every one of them, provided they respond by working hard.

“I am a champion of women,” he said. “I make the girls train in strength and conditioning. I am very controlling about their personal appearance. These girls are beautiful inside and out. People are quick to diminish them because of their appearance. My girls are very smart, good girls who graduate with phenomenal GPAs.”

Sharp continued, “Here we are in this small pocket of Indiana, we are perennial champions. No one is more athletic than this team. No one can out jump this team. This team from Southern Indiana won in the hip-hop division. It’s pretty incredible to think about, really. People that say we are just dancers and not athletes have never watched us, either one of my teams. The Ladybirds have been on ESPN. They have the stamina and speed of any sport. We are the perfect combination of art and sport.”

 

‘Personal Toll, Gain’

In the last two years, his spirit program has not been the only thing Sharp has re-built from the ground up. After 24 years of marriage and two sons (Cameron, 22; Colin, 19), he and his wife Lisa divorced.

“I don’t know a head coach whose personal relationships have not been incredibly challenging,” said Sharp. “This is a lifestyle-driven profession that can be detrimental to personal relationships. … This lifestyle is not for everyone.”

Now single, Sharp describes himself as affectionate, emotional and co-dependent and said his biggest fear is not meeting someone, although he’s still not quite ready to do so yet.

“I not dating anyone exclusively. I don’t want to be disrespectful to Lisa, my children or my 24 years and seven months of marriage,” said Sharp. “In fact, I did not even consider dating sooner than two years after the divorce. In this community, I think the same is expected of me. Lisa and I still make decisions about everything together, and I’m not doing that to my kids. I’m a work in progress. I have a lot to offer. I hope to find love in the future. It sounds cliché, but life has a way of going where it is supposed to go.”

Sharp is a grandfather now to Chase, 22 months, and Charlotte, who’s 1 month old. “Being a grandfather has changed me a lot. The girls probably say I’m still rough, but I think the experience has made me more compassionate. I’m pretty happy now.”

While dating is on the backburner, Sharp has recently started a love affair of sorts with the city of New Albany. “It has been a slow movement, but I am excited about the changes and new businesses. I love River City Winery, The Exchange Pub + Kitchen and Dress & Dwell.”

A Southern Indiana boy at heart, Sharp also frequents the Frankfort Avenue/Crescent Hill neighborhood in Louisville. A self-proclaimed foodie who loves to cook, Sharp enjoys strolling the neighborhood for coffee or new restaurants with friends.

He also spends his down time with his grandkids and dog.  And, Sharp finds solace in working out. “Don’t get me wrong, I still like my Mellow Mushroom pizza and beer, but if I go one day without my workout, I feel off.”

Sharp used to focus on the negative and found himself unable to let go of things easily. He has since learned that letting go is one thing that you can control.

 

‘A Forest of Supporters’

A9R3dtet5_8rupkq_7dgMale dance and spirit coaches are rare in Southern Indiana, but they’re common on the west coast. In fact, the two national dance coaches with the most wins are both male (one of those being Sharp). But his success hasn’t always shut down naysayers.

“I used to let negative comments about my team of myself bother me,” Sharp said. “I simply re-focused my energy. I was looking past a forest of supporters to get to the few negative people in the back. I’ve heard it all. So have my sons when they were in school and Dad was a spirit coach.

“I’m driven hard enough that I’m not looking for respect or acceptance,” Sharp said. “I’ve learned that surrounding yourself with the right people is everything.”

For many, one of those right people continues to be Sharp.

“Todd has reached the peak of Everest in his profession, but still coaches with a chip on his shoulder” like he has something to prove, said Floyd Central High School Athletic Director Jeff Cerqueira. “He is supportive of other coaches, even when they are not always supportive of his program. That’s impressive and humbling.”

Additionally, “Todd’s devotion to his athletes and programs is commendable. He has had several opportunities to take other positions for more money but has chosen to stay home,” Cerqueira said. “Todd is a lot like Geno Auriemma, (head coach of the University of Connecticut women’s basketball team). Not all of the coaches like him, but they respect him. The only difference is that Geno gets the best talent in the country, but Todd just outcoaches everyone.”

 

BONUS COVERAGE:

Brittany Wright danced under Coach Sharp for five years. She is still very involved in his programs.

“Todd is unique, not because he is a 40-something-year-old man who coaches a high school pom team in the middle of a cornfield town. He is unique because he is honest. He doesn’t sugar coat anything – EVER. He sets expectations and sticks to them. He is insanely consistent and the parents and dancers know the standard that Todd will hold them to.

He will not hesitate to scream in your face and tell you how it is or what you are doing wrong, but he will also never hesitate to be there for you when you need him – not just in a coaching aspect.

Todd will come and pick you up if you have a flat tire, pay to get it fixed if you can’t afford it and make sure you get home safe. He’s the guy you can talk to when you have just had a bad break up. He knows when to turn the switch on and off. The girls have a HEALTHY fear of Todd. He can make you bawl your eyes out and have you laughing in the next 5 minutes. I have seen him turn a not-so-great dancer into a front row, front and center girl.

Todd has a drive as a coach that goes beyond what I have ever witnessed in our industry. He is able to pull the best out of his girls. I think it’s safe to say that they live to make him proud.”

Lauren Strobel danced under Coach Sharp all through high school as a Floyd Central Dazzler and through college as a University of Louisville Ladybird. She hails from Southern Indiana and is now a dental hygienist.

“Todd is fiercely loyal. I have known him for 8 years and he always puts in 110 percent. Todd has been my coach since I was a skinny, scared, naïve, sophomore in high school. I walked into the Dazzler tryouts with my hair in a tight bun and worn-down ballet shoes. I was intimidated and ill-prepared to say the least, but I had a strong background in ballet. I had heard stories about the world famous Dazzler coach and his pom and hip hop team. I was interested in being involved. After the tryouts, I remember my parents being supportive but worried that I would not make the team. However, Todd saw something in me. I felt extremely fortunate to be asked to be a part of Todd’s JV pom team. Less than a year later, I was a national champion.

Todd made us believe in ourselves. He inspired us to be better, jump higher, turn tighter and stay in sync. It was a full-time job, but very rewarding. In high school we would practice daily for 3 to 4 hours a day. In college as a Ladybird, we practiced late night – 8:30 to 11 p.m. 3 to 4 times per week. On the weekends we would go to competitions; during the summer we would go to dance camp.

Todd taught us that nothing worth having comes easy, and this still comes to mind daily. ‘Faith without work is dead.’ – James 2:17

Todd talked about this Bible verse at practice one afternoon. You can talk the talk, but can you walk the walk? You can say that you are good, but are you really going to work towards it? This will always be my favorite.

At UofL I was taking 18 to 20 hours in the dental hygiene program. I spent many late nights studying and going to practice. There were many times I felt like giving up and changing my major. Todd was always supportive. On many occasions I called him just to vent and he was always willing to listen. He allowed me to miss an occasional practice so I could study, for which I am forever grateful. At the end of my senior year, I was unable to dance at the national competition because I had to take my dental hygiene board exam. I was heartbroken. It was very tough for me to sit out at practice. At the end of the semester, I received an award at the University Athletic Department Awards program. Todd presented the award to me and I was extremely honored. I have since graduated from dental hygiene school and now work full-time. Todd has taught me so much about life, dance, happiness and working towards a common goal. It was a privilege to be one of his Ladybirds. I was lucky enough to travel all over the country to dance at games and tournaments. Together, (we) won five 5 National Championships along the way.

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Episode 1: Off The Page with Extol featuring Todd Sharp

What happens when you’re featured on the cover of a magazine and have no idea what people will say about you? Todd Sharp, the subject of Extol’s latest cover story, gets candid with us off the page. Trust us, you want to hear what he says. 

 There’s always more to the story. Find out more when you listen to Off The Page with Extol Magazine. 

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Extol’s Todd Sharp Cover Story | So Sharp

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Extol’s August/September Digital Edition