Lisa McNesby loves cheerleading.
She loves coaching young women.
And she loves St. Hubert High School.
She’s found the perfect way to do all three, and she’s done it pretty darn well.
McNesby, who grew up in Mayfair, was a cheerleader her entire life, and by the time she got to high school, she was fairly accomplished as both a cheerleader and a gymnast. And when she was cheering on the Father Judge squad during her high school days, she found a way to give back by helping the next generation of cheerleaders.
“I started when I was 14, I was a freshman in high school and they asked me to do the (5- and 6-year-old) team at Vogt and I started helping out with the St. Matt’s JV team the next year. I didn’t do any of the administrative stuff, but we made up the routine and the practice. I loved doing it. We had a lot of fun with it.”
And after going away to Penn State for college, she returned home and jumped right back into it.
McNesby, who graduated from St. Hubert in 1995, joined the Judge cheerleading coaching staff in 2000 and became head coach in 2001.
Since then, a lot has changed.
She got married, had three children, worked a few jobs, and moved from Judge to her alma mater, but the one thing that has remained constant has been coaching, and her teams have been quite successful.
And recently she was recognized for all her accomplishments.
McNesby was named Pennsylvania Coach of the Year for the 2019-20 season by the National Federation of State High School Associations. She was one of two local coaches to receive the honor.
Archbishop Ryan swimming coach Ed Macko also earned the award for his sport after leading the Ragdolls to the Catholic League championship and District 12 title last year.
The Bambies have been the best cheerleading program in the Catholic League. They’re also among the best in the state and have even made their mark as one of the tops in the nation.
Her programs have five junior varsity national championships and a pair of varsity championships, one at Judge and one at Hubert. Her Bambie teams have never placed lower than eighth in the national competition, which means her girls brought home a trophy every year.
At the state level, the Bambies have two state championships, in 2018 and 2019, have twice finished runners-up and have never placed lower than third.
But the success isn’t what McNesby preaches the most. Championships are nice, being considered one of the best in the country is obviously fun, but McNesby and the rest of the coaching staff preach being good people more than being good athletes.
And that delights St. Hubert President Lizanne Pando.
One year at nationals, Pando was watching her Bambies perform in the championship round, and what made her most proud wasn’t the spectacular performance.
The winners were announced and it turned out that her team finished runner-up. She couldn’t have been more impressed if the Bambies came home with the trophy.
“They were calling all of the winners, counting down going from fifth place, fourth place and called the winners last,” Pando recalled. “We took second, which is great. And as they’re handing them the huge trophy, the team that is winning it is going crazy. Everyone left the stage, but our girls didn’t. They stood there, waiting for the team to stop celebrating, then they walked up and congratulated them. Then they walked off stage and cried with their family because they wanted to win, but they first congratulated the winners. It shows that they’re women of integrity and faith.
“That’s why girls want to play for Lisa. She teaches them to be the best they can be in the sport, but also to be people of integrity and faith. Lisa McNesby emulates the mission of the school and she instills that in the cheerleaders every day. She inspires them to be the best they can be and the champions they become.”
McNesby is known for being a great teacher. She’s also known for pushing the girls to be the best they can be.
“I’ve known Lisa since 2008 when I was the AD at Father Judge and she was coaching the Judge cheerleaders,” said St. Hubert athletic director Ed Evanitsky. “My first impression was that this coach was crazy. She was always asking for more gym time for her girls to practice. I realized then how dedicated she was and it was proven in the number of championships that the cheerleaders have won at the Catholic League, state and national level.
“I also want to recognize the assistant coaches that Lisa has had through the years. I’m sure she feels that without them, she would not have been as successful.”
Actually, she gives them more credit than Evanitsky does.
McNesby never talks about her accomplishments. She’ll tell you how much fun she has, how proud she is of her players and how blessed she is to have her assistants, but that’s really the only time she’ll mention herself.
The staff includes her brother Paul Ballentine, Christa and Gina Mansi, Erin, Kelly and Colleen McShea, Kristen Mahon, Mary Kate Kenny, Caitlin Insetta, Chelsea Kerrigan, Mary-Kate Matozzo, Kristen Sheeron and Kristine Lemongelli. All but her brother and Insetta are Hubert graduates.
“This award was very special because it’s for all of us,” McNesby said. “The other coaches do so much. They’re out there, they’re working, they’re helping. It’s not about me, it’s about all of them and all of the girls. It means a lot because it’s an award for everyone. We all do this together.”
It goes far beyond the team, too.
To coach a successful cheerleading team, you need help, and she gets plenty of it.
Her husband, Chris, is a great cheer dad and the former coach of the basketball team at Roman Catholic. Not only does he support his wife, but he makes sure their kids, Allie, 13, Julia, 11, and Patrick, 9, get to their practices, competitions and games when mom is busy. Both girls are involved in cheerleading as well as other sports. Patrick is a willing participant in any sport he’s signed up for.
And when dad is busy, especially when he was coaching, it helps to have grandparents who are willing to step right in.
“We’re so fortunate to have them, they all help so much,” McNesby said. “It makes nationals a little less hectic because we have three teams and the girls are cheering. There were some years where Chris couldn’t go because basketball playoffs were going on, but usually we are all there.”
And as a parent of cheerleaders and a former cheerleader herself, McNesby knows how hard it is to compete at the level the Bambies do. She expects a lot of her charges and is quite impressed with the effort they put forth.
Without talented, dedicated cheerleaders, the Bambies wouldn’t be successful.
“I love doing this because of the school, the support of everyone at the school and the girls,” said McNesby, who works as an English as a second language teacher doing online classes. “Making all the relationships over the years. It’s so special to have gotten involved with the athletes, gotten to know the families and see the kids grow throughout high school. Watch them grow into young women. They grow up so much in those four years. Socially, they grow. They’re forced to run snackbar, registration, look people in the eye, be respectful. They’re forced to socially develop. It’s hard when you’re in high school, but they do it.
“It’s special because of everyone at the school. It’s such a special place. We have a great president, great administration, great athletic director, the teachers are so supportive, we have such great parents, great coaches and great athletes. It’s a fun place to be.”