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#ItHappened – Nikia and Giselle Hovey Are Golden Together
By Ashlee Buhler
You couldn’t write a better script. A mother-daughter duo, one last World Championship, golden together.
The moment the confetti came falling down – the gold medal draped around their necks – was a moment years in the making for coach Nikia Hovey and her daughter Giselle. It’s the kind of moment every All Star cheerleader and coach dreams of. And for The California Allstars Cali Coed, it’s a moment they had been fighting for for over a decade.
Where It All Began
Nikia didn’t always have her sights set on coaching. In fact, after graduating from the University of Virginia (where she was on the cheerleading team of course), Nikia intended to become a high school English teacher at her alma mater. However, everything changed when the athletic director reached out to ask if she wanted to coach the junior varsity team. Why not? Nikia thought.
That was the first step in her coaching career, which eventually led to a head coach position at a rival high school where her team won numerous district and regional titles, and qualified to the State Championship for six consecutive years. The only accolade missing from her resume was a win. “I got as close as second place, but never won a State Championship, so I always felt like I was missing something,” Nikia said.
That feeling propelled Nikia to the world of All Star cheer where she began coaching at Northern Virginia Tigers and then ultimately ended up at All Star Legacy (now Stingray All Stars). Often accompanying her mother to practice, Giselle couldn’t help bouncing off the walls and mimicking what she saw the older athletes doing. So at the age of five, she joined the PeeWee team at All Star Legacy. “Her athletes would put me up in stunts and stuff and I just fell in love with the sport,” Giselle said.
However it wasn’t until the Hovey’s moved to California that Nikia and Giselle began to work together. At first, Nikia planned to retire, but when she was asked to coach The California Allstars’ Senior Level 1 Team White Gold at The Summit, Nikia said why not? once more.
“I thought I was retired but it was easy because Giselle was already there cheering, so I was like, ‘I can either sit in the parent room, go to Target and spend unnecessary money, or do what I love to do and go back to coaching!’” Nikia said.
So that’s exactly what she did. In 2015, her second year with The California Allstars, Nikia was asked to coach the Lady Bullets. “Who says no to taking over one of the Premier Worlds teams in our gym and a beloved team in this industry?” Nikia said.
Three years later, at the age of 12, Giselle became age-eligible for the team, marking the beginning of a six year journey with her mother as her coach. Together they have made a lot of memories, including winning their first World medal together (bronze) in 2019. However, it’s the time they get to share together that means the most.
“My favorite part about working together is that we have a stronger bond,” Giselle said. “We’re really close and since we’re so comfortable with each other, we tell each other everything whether it’s cheerleading or not.”
Nikia concurred, stating that the sport has not only brought them closer together, but allows them to understand each other in a way no one else can.
“Of course there are times when I have to be professional and keep things confidential, because that’s my job, but at the same time, we both have the space where if I’m frustrated, I can vent to her and she can vent to me,” Nikia said. “We have an understanding that maybe my husband or her brother doesn’t understand.”
How It Ended
Fast forward to 2023. It’s Giselle’s senior year and Nikia’s final season as a coach. After 23 years of coaching, Nikia knew she wanted to end her career alongside her daughter. With Giselle about to head off to Hawaii Pacific University to continue her cheer career, and a son who is gearing up for his freshman year of high school as an athlete as well, the timing just felt right.
This season was about soaking in every moment. “It’s been bittersweet all season,” Nikia said. ‘Because it was Giselle’s senior year, it was a lot of “lasts” with her as her coach and as her mom. This whole season was about celebrating every moment.”
This season was also about leaving it all out on the mat and bringing home a World title. To ensure the team was as competitive as possible, the Lady Bullets and Cali Coed merged together for this season.
The last time Cali Coed won gold at Worlds was in 2011, but with fierce determination and focus, the team maintained the belief they could bring home the title for the first time in over a decade. The team’s mantra all season long was straightforward and simple: It’s Happening.
“That was something that this team held onto all season long … I know it’s just cheerleading, but for us and all these coaches it was so much deeper than that,” Nikia said. “This season was about keeping the faith and knowing that if you truly work together as a cohesive unit, you really can accomplish anything!”
The 2023 season was everything Nikia and Giselle could have dreamed of and more. The team went undefeated, won the NCA title, and secured a fully paid bid to Worlds – their final competition together. When all was said and done, Cali Coed was announced as World Champions – a feeling Giselle described as relief and redemption after coming so close year after year. Doing it with her mother was icing on the cake.
“We had a lot of opportunities where we could have brought in other athletes who had higher level skills, but this was the first season we didn’t rock the boat,” Nikia said. “We figured out the equation, we figured out the chemistry among the athletes and we did not change it. We chose to have faith that these kids are going to be successful and we continued to say, ‘It’s going to happen. It’s happening.’”
So as the confetti fell and the gold medal was placed around their neck, Nikia and Giselle soaked in every last moment. As the tears came flowing down their faces, there was only one thing left to say.
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