Stacey Schmuhl came to South Forsyth this past fall to be an assistant coach for the War Eagles competition cheer program.
Despite plenty of experience as a head coach, Schmuhl knew how to lead from a secondary position, in part, from her gig as the vice president of the Georgia Cheerleading Coaches Association.
Now, the Appalachian State graduate will be taking on not one but two new leadership roles.
In January, Schmuhl was announced by South Forsyth as the next head competition cheer coach. In March, she'll rise to the rank of president in the GCCA.
“It was definitely a banner day,” Schmuhl said of being selected to replace longtime head coach Shayla Brawner. “I’m incredibly excited. South Forsyth is an incredible program and a great culture of expectations, working hard and doing things the right way. Even just being here as an assistant coach was an honor. To be able to take it over and follow in Shayla’s footsteps, I’m just really excited about it. It still hasn’t worn off.”
As for taking over as the cheer association president, Schmuhl said, “It’s been an honor, because it’s other coaches trusting in you to lead the organization and speak for the organization. Obviously, I’m nervous, because it’s president for the state of Georgia and the cheerleading coaches. But I’m really excited. The organization is growing, and it’s had such a big impact on cheerleading in Georgia.”
Schmuhl, a social studies teacher, certainly brings plenty of head-coaching experience with her, including a 13-year run at Ola and three seasons at Buford.
During her time at Ola, where she served as the school's first-ever competition cheer coach, Schmuhl led the Mustangs to the 2012 co-ed state championship. In 2019, while at Ola, she received the Ashley Taube GCCA Coach of the Year award.
That title-winning season also coincided with Forsyth County's resurgence in the sport. Beginning that fall, the county started a run that has included 10 championships in 11 years in the state's highest classification.
“If I could say one thing stuck out about the South program, it’s the genuine welcoming of parents and kids of me and my family,” Schmuhl said. “That has really been a big deal for me.
“The culture that exists here in Forsyth County with athletics, it’s just a pleasure to be a part of. It’s just been such a positive experience all the way around.”
Under Brawner, who spent 14 seasons in charge of the War Eagles program, South Forsyth captured three of those 10 championships. That boosted the school's overall number of cheer titles to nine, as the War Eagles previously won six in a seven-year span from 1996-2002.
“We had been colleagues and friends for years, so we had a relationship prior to me coming to South,” Schmuhl said of Brawner. “We know each other’s coaching styles.
“When she decided that she wanted to step down from coaching, the next week, Coach [Keith] Gravitt was reaching out to me to talk with him about the position.”
Even though there was no formal plan of succession entering the season, Schmuhl credits Brawner for helping prepare her to take on the challenge of leading one of the state's top programs.
“Coach Brawner did a really great job of making sure she included me in all of the decision-making,” Schmuhl said. “She copied me on emails, walked me through processes, paperwork, and the day-to-day stuff of facility requests and things like that.
“It allowed me to get to know the girls with a lot less stress as an assistant coach. The credit goes to her for making sure I was included in everything and helping me learn the ropes.”
While not knowing she would soon become the head coach, the reason Schmuhl came to South Forsyth in the first place was to join her son, Jackson, a sophomore who started at the school in the fall.
“It’s just all around a dream setup,” Schmuhl said. “I’ve got my child at a school he’s thriving in and that’s a really great experience for him. His first semester has been everything we wanted it to be, so to be a part of that, as a parent, is just phenomenal. Teaching-wise, it’s just been a wonderful experience. The support from the administration and other teachers has made a great teaching experience.
“To throw a wonderful coaching job on top of it, it’s just everything you can pray for as an educator, a coach and a parent and have it all come together.”