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Kim Kiser is retiring after three-plus decades as Windham's cheer coach.
Even so, some things never change.
"It's Windham all the way," Kiser said, as she munched on crepes at the Bob Evans in Streetsboro. "Any cliche that was ever written, I believe it in my heart."
That's a common sentiment in Windham, according to Heather Fall, Kiser's longtime assistant cheerleading coach and president of the Bombers' alumni association.
"Once a Bomber, you bleed black and gold," Fall said. "That's just how it is. I don't know what makes you so attached to it, but it's home."
As Kiser ends her decades-long tenure atop Windham cheerleading, she says, "Honestly, I can do it forever," and yet, she wants to spend more time with family so, "It's time."
Decisive in saying goodbye, a world away from Brett Favre, her hello came more randomly. Windham didn't have a cheerleading coach for the 1986 season, so Fall asked her mom, Lou Ann, to take over. Lou Ann said she would help but didn't want to coach the program on her own.
"She said, 'Only if you can find someone to help,'" said Fall, as she assisted the Bombers' baseball team in preparing for its annual golf tournament. "The only person I could think of was Kim Kiser."
"She believed in Windham, and she was there, she was always there," Fall said. "I knew she would be committed to us."
So began decades of coaching Bombers cheerleaders, 19 of those years with Heather Fall at her side -- often at the expense of sleep. After starting in the financial industry, Kiser went back to school to become a nurse when she was 50. The problem was nursing required plenty of late nights, so Kiser often found herself heading straight from a game to the hospital. With her husband of 43 years, Jerry, coaching as well, including Windham baseball and football, housework sometimes had to wait.
Soft in volume but clear in direction, Kiser wasn't just there to watch over Windham's cheerleaders.
Less than a decade into her 32-year coaching career, Kiser decided to switch the Bombers' system of selecting cheerleaders. Previously, a panel, including coaches of other sports, selected the cheerleading squad in the spring, which didn't make any sense to Kiser. After all, she wasn't helping basketball coach Marty Hill pick the starting point guard -- months before the season was set to begin. As cheerleading coach, she wanted to select her lineup -- and the ability to change it -- and she seized both.
"I felt very strongly that the cheer coach should get to pick," Kiser said. "Are you going to know who your starting quarterback is going to be in March? I personally feel that every practice and game is a tryout."
She also launched an annual cheer competition at Windham that continues to this day, drawing teams from all over Northeast Ohio, even stretching down to the Columbus area.
"It's one of Northeast Ohio's biggest and best individual cheer competitions," Kiser said.
Still, it's the day-to-day that gets Kiser talking with fervor. She talks eagerly about what makes a good cheerleader -- and is passionate about the field, whether it's her own longtime program or her colleagues from around the Portage Trail Conference, and now the Northeastern Athletic Conference. She noted with joy how Rootstown has incorporated stunting into its routine -- "I'm so thrilled to see (Rovers athletic director) Keith Waesch, who has embraced stunting, and Rootstown allowing them to do it" -- even making a note to herself to bring up Rootstown in case it didn't come up naturally.
"I think it's just phenomenal," Kiser said. "They do a great job. It's fun to watch."
Kiser was equally passionate about her own cheerleaders, and especially how they should behave, noting that she would tell her girls that "you are not cheerleaders, you are leaders who happen to cheer." That meant staying positive during a game, and always cheering for Windham, not against the opposition. Her program would be built on respect, no exceptions.
"Tumbling and splits do not a cheerleader make," Kiser said. "It's how well you control a crowd."
Outsiders always expect cheerleaders to be at their best, but in reality, Kiser said, cheerleading is just like any other sport, particularly at a small school. There were great years and all-time great cheerleaders -- and there were rebuilding years as well.
She recalled one cheerleader who "had it all," the "size, creativity, strength, gymnastics skills and the intellect," who happened to miss the advent of cheerleading scholarships in Ohio by a year or two. Now, the Bombers have Sabrina Garl, a "beast" on the volleyball court, as well as a "cheer gym rat since four or five years old" who "has the look, strength, creativity and choreography."
But it wasn't talent that was most important to Kiser, it was attitude.
"She taught us how to respect ourselves and to respect our community and just to respect the sport of cheerleading," said Fall, who cheered before and after Kiser took over, and then coached by her side. "We enjoyed doing what we were doing (before), but she taught us how to respect it and how to enjoy it even more and have other people respect us, and that was a key thing with Kim. She wanted other people to respect us and what we did."
Accomplishments like qualifying to cheer at the Pro Bowl helped gain respect, as did cheering at the Citrus Bowl and participating in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.
Not that the battle is over. Kiser noted that cheerleading still isn't a state-sanctioned high school sport, a chief regret of hers.
That battle, not to mention her girls, will not be easy to step away from, but Kiser said she will be fine, even when practice starts in July without her.
"It won't be hard because I have a full life," Kiser said, before adding, "there's no doubt I'll miss it."
Then again, Kiser isn't going anywhere. Windham simply doesn't work that way.
"I'm a Bomber," Kiser said. "I'll be there Friday night, but I'll sit at the other end. I don't want to be hovering, but I'll be looking at them with pride."