If you’ve never seen the moms of the senior varsity football players, known as the Mama Dawgs, dance at a pep rally, well here is a look at the past ten years.
According to Krystal Martin, a cheer coach at Wylie High School, the Mama Dawgs have danced at the pep rallies at least since 2003. So, why point out the last ten years? It was ten years ago that Lin Thompson agreed to help and changed the Mama Dawg dance forever.
Most know Thompson as the director of Wylie High School’s Belles Drill Team. Many know her from Abilene’s Dancing with Stars where she was the dance pro (2004-2012) or coordinator (2012-2020). Others may recall her as the drill team director of the Cooper Cougarettes. Needless to say, she has quite the experience with dancing and teaching others to dance.
It was Melanie Reyes who thought to call Thompson to help her and the 2013 senior moms choreograph the dance they would be performing later in the football season to honor their sons and celebrate it being their senior year. Reyes has known Thompson since her daughter Chloe (now 29) was 3 years old. “Lin was Chloe’s dance teacher for many years,” said Reyes. “When my oldest son was a senior and it was time to do the Mama Dawg dance, I thought how helpful Lin would be for our group so I called her. Lin agreed to help and became the official, unofficial Mama Dawg dance teacher,” said Reyes. “I’m so proud of the fact I thought about calling her – the rest is history!”
BUILDING THE MAMA DAWGS
Other moms are thankful Reyes thought to call, too. While the dance seems like a blur to the moms who are dancing, the actual 5-to-6-minute performance takes way longer to create.
Thompson said the first year the dance basically evolved from what the moms had already been working on, which was a zombie theme. She said since then the themes stem from varying ideas the moms suggest.
“Sometimes the theme for the dance came from the football program,” said Mama Dawgs and the Amazing Mrs. T Thompson. “One year, the theme was Prince’s song “1999” because the majority of the football players were born in 1999.” Once the theme is set, Thompson works for a month planning, which consists of selecting and cutting music, editing, and choreographing. Then she starts meeting with the moms weekly for ten weeks to teach them a two-part dance.
“I truly believe everyone can dance,” said Thompson. Which is a great thing because in addition to working with the moms, Thompson works with the senior football players to teach them their part of the dance.
The thought of dancing in front of a large group of high schoolers can cause the nerves of the most seasoned dancers to stand on end. Thompson said there are always a couple of moms who are nervous about how they dance or hate being in front of a large group of people.
“Every year, I have to encourage some to dance,” said Thompson. “They never regret it though, especially when they get to dance with their sons, and the boys love it, too.”
Stephanie Cooper, who danced for the second and last time this year, said she was one of the ones who didn’t want to do it. “I’m not a dancer, but Lin makes you comfortable,” said Cooper.
Stephanie Garrison, who danced in the Mama Dawg dance in 2017, agreed with Cooper about Thompson’s ability to encourage moms to not miss this opportunity. “Lin has a way of teaching nervous mommas and making it fun,” said Garrison. “It’s a gift.”
The opportunity for a mom to dance with their son his senior year brings a tidal wave of emotions. “It’s bittersweet,” said Shelly Bowermaster. She danced in her final Mama Dawg dance with her youngest son Caden this year; he is the youngest of 3. Cooper said she “cherished” this opportunity dancing with her son Colson.
The feeling that the Mama Dawg dance is an opportunity worth not missing is mutual. Thompson said her favorite thing about working with the Mama Dawgs are meeting the moms. She has met more than 250 moms over the years. “They are so nice, so fun, and so appreciative,” she said.
This is Thompson’s final year volunteering in this capacity, and she feels she is ending on a high note. Norma Borho, who danced in her first Mama Dawg dance this year, is thankful Thompson waited for her son Reese’s senior year. Reese and Thompson’s daughter Ava have been friends since second grade, so not only does Thompson know Borho well, she is friends with many of the other moms and watched most of the boys grow up.
“I always have a connection with the moms, but this year is a great year to go out since I have known many of them since their sons have been in kindergarten,” said Thompson. She said she has always wanted to make the Mama Dawg dance “about the moms,” and not her.
Borho said she and Thompson have been “jokingly planning” the year she would be a Mama Dawg. “I would tease her that she better be saving the best for me, and I think she did,” said Borho. “Lin is so special and makes everyone feel like they can do this.”
Across the board, if you ask a Mama Dawg about Thompson and her heart to provide a fun, memorable opportunity that will always be cherished, they would agree with Borho.
“She puts so much creativity and love into these dances,” said Borho. “She’s the best!”
By Kristen Johnson
Photos By Kerr Broadstreet