By Alyssa Schnugg
While watching her son at a travel ball game about 10 years ago, Robyn Lyons overheard a conversation between a few other moms that caught her attention.
“They were talking about how the (Oxford) school board approved having a dance team and they were looking for a coach,” Lyons told Hotty Toddy News earlier this week while at the Universal Dance Association dance camp at Mississippi State University. “I scooted my chair and said, ‘What did you say about a dance team?’”
Lyons applied for the job and shortly after, became the first Oxford Chargerettes coach.
Originally from California, Lyons and her family moved to Oxford in 2012. A dancer most of her life, she was the cheer coach for several years for a high school in Acton, California.
“When I heard that conversation at the game, I thought, ‘That’s 100 percent me. That’s definitely where I need to be,’” Lyons said.
With nine seasons as coach under her belt, Lyons is retiring as of June 30.
“Truly, it was a really hard decision,” she said. “I love everything about the Oxford School District. I love the dance team. I love the parents, the dancers, everything. There is not one negative thing I can say. I just knew that it was time for me to have a little more time at home with my family and a more flexible schedule. I felt I was ready to hand it off to the next amazing coach.”
The new coach will be Caitrin Bellavance who will be assisted by assistant coach Jenna Antolik.
Coming into the new program, Lyons had a vision for the team – modeled similarly to the Ole Miss Rebelletea — to be a competitive dance team but also be a big part of the Chargers’ sports programs and be there on the sidelines.
“I wanted an actual dance team that is on the sidelines, performing at halftime, was at the football and basketball games,” she said. “We enjoy going to the pep rallies and being a part of the spirit side of it all. We’re kind of the whole package. When I first came in, I had to feel the team out and see what they wanted and we were all on the same page – we wanted the same thing. We wanted to compete at state and nationals, and also be a part of game days.”
After only a couple of months into the team’s start, they went to their first state competition in November 2013.
“The athletic director at the time told me, ‘Just don’t get last place,’” Lyons said. “So I called him after and said, ‘We didn’t get last … we got second to last.”
As the team found its groove under Lyons’ direction they continued to improve at competitions, eventually taking fourth place at the state competition and for the last two years, have placed second in the state.
The team made it to the national competition in March 2020 just before the pandemic hit the nation. They placed 18th out of about 75 teams.
“We were really excited about that,” Lyons said.
Ainsley Howell was on the team as an OHS student when it was first formed in 2013. She said being a Chargerette was one of the best times of her life and still keeps in touch with Lyons.
“Coach Lyons really cares about the team and cares about everyone on the team,” she said. “She was a great coach. When I became a captain, I got to work closely with her and really got to know her.”
Lyons said her time as the Chargerette’s coach will always remain special to her.
“What a blessing it has been to watch so many of these young ladies grow from freshman to seniors and beyond,” she said. “I still keep in touch with the majority of my dancers and I am so proud of their accomplishments.”
Lyons lives in Oxford with her husband, Donovan, a captain with the Oxford Police Department and their three children – Hunter, 21, Brianna, 17 and Casey, 8.