By Mac Hightower
Stuttgart Citizen volunteer
As a private with the military police, Imani Robinson found she had more free time than expected when she arrived in Stuttgart. Robinson sought out the head cheer coach at Stuttgart High School, Nicole King, to see if she could put that time to good use.
Cheerleading has been a long-time passion for Robinson, who recalls her first experience with the sport when she was five. As she grew as a person and evolved as an athlete, so too did her relationship with cheerleading. She began coaching when she was 18 in Boston and after enlisting with the Army last year, she brought her passion for the sport to U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart on August 12, 2019.
“When I’m coaching, I’m still a part of the team. I still get the same feelings as if I’m on the floor. I still get nervous. I still get excited,” Robinson said.
Together with Coach King, they lead a 24-person cheer team. But Robinson also influences other roles in the athletes’ lives. “I’m a coach, but the girls can also come to me as a big sister,” she explained. “They can talk to me about school, family problems, or anything else.”
Robinson’s commitment to the students she coaches earned her the Garrison’s 2019 Military Volunteer of the Year award after just a year in the community. Her “contagious mindset of wanting to improve herself every day” inspires athletes, Soldiers and families alike, according to those who nominated her for the honor.
Robinson enjoys when parents identify her as “Coach Mani,” and tell her that their daughter came home sweating and exhausted, and express gratitude for her pushing their kids to challenge themselves.
Although young herself, Robinson draws motivation to give back through growth she sees in her athletes every day.
She said, “There’s always instances that make it worth it: when they get a new skill and you can see their glowing smile. It’s the little pieces, every day.”