For the first time in 20 years, the Commerce Cheer Tigers will enter their season with a new head coach.
After a long and decorated career, Diane Cotrell announced her retirement at the end of last season. And while the squad will miss Cotrell’s presence, her replacement, Beverly Mansfield, is no stranger to the Commerce Cheer Tiger traditions.
Mansfield, a 2004 Commerce graduate, cheered on three of Cotrell’s seven state championship teams (2001-2004). She spent the past six years as the Cheer Tigers’ assistant coach and has developed a strong relationship with most of the current squad. She believes her time assisting Cotrell has been invaluable to her development as a coach and will make transitioning to the lead role seamless.
“Seeing the way (Cotrell) ran things really helps,” Mansfield said. “We’ve always had a great relationship. Even when I cheered for her, she’s always been like a second mom to me. Transitioning into coaching really wasn’t that hard. I felt like I’d always looked up to her in a lot of things. She made it easy for me. I feel like I’m ready to be in charge and I’m really excited. I think we are going to have a really good year.”
Mansfield has good reason to be enthusiastic heading into this season. She is returning a team coming fresh off a state championship run. The Tigers lost five members from last year’s squad, but their spots are being filled by one sophomore and four upcoming freshmen. Mansfield hopes the young talent will contribute and meld with a team that is a very cohesive unit.
“I think we are going to have a really good team,” said Mansfield. “They are very positive and they push each other. They hang out together and they are there for each other. We have amazing talent, so I’m really excited.”
The Cheer Tigers started summer workouts and conditioning in early July. The first day of the official GHSA competition season is Aug. 9, while state competition rolls around in November, when the Tigers will vie for their eighth state title.
Cotrell is confident that Mansfield and this year’s squad will carry on the Cheer Tigers’ long tradition of success and camaraderie.
“I’ve known (Mansfield) ever since she was little,” said Cotrell. “I know her family, and grew up with them. She knows what it takes to be successful in our program. I think she’ll do a great job."
Building A Legacy
For many Commerce denizens, the name Diane Cotrell has become synonymous with Commerce cheerleading. Cotrell took over the program back in the early 90s, after being approached by the administration.
Cotrell was a Commerce native and had already taught in the school system for nearly 20 years. She taught and mentored many of the girls on the squad, so naturally, she was a good fit as a coach.
For the first three years of her coaching tenure, Commerce only housed a spirit squad (football cheerleaders). But several parents of Cheer Tigers, whose daughters that trained at private organizations, pushed the school system to consider a competitive cheerleading team.
Cotrell took on the task to coach that team, and in just 17 years, she led the Cheer Tigers to seven state championships and seven runner-up finishes.
“I’m very proud of all the teams that I’ve had,” said Cotrell. “They worked hard and they were dedicated. I was fortunate enough to teach a lot of them in the elementary school. I kind of grew up with them. A lot of them, I went to school with their parents or I taught their parents.”
Cotrell had the opportunity to teach most of the girls she would eventually coach and developed a relationship outside of cheerleading. She believes the uniquely strong bonds she shared with her squads directly contributed to the success of the program.
“It was like a family,” Cotrell said. “It was unique and it felt like they belonged to me. The girls always worked hard and trained, and had the right motivation, attitude and wanted the program to be successful. We just all worked together. Knowing them as they grew up, I encouraged them to do other activities. I tried to be there for them outside of cheerleading.”
To this day, Cotrell still keeps in touch with many former members of her squad and alumni. She has attended weddings, family events and even ended up teaching some of her former students’ children. Cotrell believes that her past cheerleaders are all part of a large family, and alumni and new head coach Beverly Mansfield backs up that sentiment.
“Commerce cheerleading wouldn’t be where it is without ‘big D,’” said Mansfield. “She has been through so many groups of girls. I feel like we are all still very close to her. She was more than a cheerleading coach to us, she was helping us through life lessons. Not only do I want to carry on the tradition of winning, but I want to have a relationship with the cheerleaders like she had with us.”
And while Cotrell is passing the torch to Mansfield, she is still teaching at Commerce Elementary School and will likely still maintain an active role in supporting the Cheer Tigers.
“Diane has really helped me,” said Mansfield. I really cannot do what I’m doing without her. She’s still helping. She’s been at camp and I’m sure she’ll be around when I need to call her.”
“I really, really enjoyed my time (as Cheer Tiger coach),” said Cotrell. “It was a part of my life with very good memories. I love it and I’m going to miss it. But I know the girls and Coach Mansfield will carry on the tradition. That’s important to me.”
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