LOXAHATCHEE, Fla. — You can't have a football game without cheerleaders, and at Seminole Ridge Community High School, they have an expert in uniform coaching on the sidelines.
You'll always see a school district police vehicle at all Seminole Ridge football games and cheerleading competitions, but not for the reason you may expect.
"When I’m watching you all, I’m only seeing everyone focus right here," said Sgt. Philip Salm of the School District of Palm Beach County's Police Department.
Salm isn't at Seminole Ridge to patrol cheerleading practice. He's there to coach.
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"No one ever expects it. That’s the funny part. They’re like, you’re a what?" Salm said.
For Salm, it started in college when his wrestling team dissolved and he needed a new sport to maintain his scholarship.
"I didn’t know what college cheerleading was. I came from a very small farming community where we wrestled and football," Salm said. "So sure enough, tried out and made the team and fell in love with it."
Salm learned to defy the stereotypes that can come with male cheerleaders.
"It shows your strength and your dynamics because you can’t just be one aspect of the sport. You have to be multiple. You have to have strength, balance, speed, technique," Salm said.
And that's exactly what the sergeant is instilling at Seminole Ridge High School with the Hawks.
"I wasn’t expecting a big cop to come in here and teach me cheerleading, but he sure did," cheerleader Austin Fulton said.
"I can go from literally teaching firearms to walking in here and yelling at them for dropping a stunt. It’s so neat. I live a good life," Salm said.
They call Salm "Coach Dad," a title this career law enforcement officer wears proudly.
"I love 'Coach Dad.' It’s personal. My daughter being here and the boys will reach out to me for dad advice," Salm said.
For Madelyn Salm, he's also real dad.
"The drive that he has, that’s the best because he really wants us to win," Madelyn Salm said. "It’s funny. After 20 years, he’s still in this."
And Salm doesn't take it easy on them.
"All the things I learned in the police academy and learned as a cop through everything, I expect that here," Salm said.
"He really changed me as a person and made me into a better person," Fulton said. "When you’re working so hard at a skill and you finally get it, nothing beats that feeling."
Teaching discipline, teamwork, life skills, and breaking down barriers.
"Do you feel like you are changing the perception of boys in cheerleading?" WPTV education reporter Stephanie Susskind asked Salm.
"100%," Salm answered.
The Seminole Ridge High School cheerleading team came in second place in the state competition last year, and the Hawks hope to bring it home this year.