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Casey Heinritz is a sophomore at Palatine High School. Besides writing and taking photos for Cutlass, Heinritz is a tennis player and yearbook photographer. Some of Heinritz's favorite activities are biking,...

An inside glance into the cheer coaching life of Lester Malanowski

Lester Malanowski via Instagram
After a zero deduction routine at a competition, Les gives a thumbs up of approval to the competition season cheerleading team.

Lester Malanowski was a junior at Palatine High School when he first tried cheerleading. He cheered his junior year and senior year and he planned on ending it there. However, in an urge to follow a girl he liked, he ended up cheering at the University of Iowa, from there he continued his cheer career, ultimately coaching many teams throughout the Chicagoland area. 

Malanowski has been one of the assistant coaches  for six years at Palatine High School for the varsity cheerleading team, and has made a significant impact on many athletes that have come and gone throughout his tenure. 

“I feel a responsibility to be another solid foundation or another adult in your lives to keep showing up to show you that one, we share a common passion for the sport of cheerleading,” Malanowski said. “I’m another person in your lives that cares about you and will be there to support you in line with your teachers, admin, and your parents to just hopefully provide a positive perspective and motivate you to hit your goals and aspirations as student athletes.”

To say he just does his job to lead by example would be an understatement, as a Palatine High School cheer alumni and University of Iowa cheer alumni, Malanowski works to push athletes to be better people, and prepare them for life outside of high school, and to set any student, regardless of status, for a positive and successful future. As a coach also at Venture Athletics in Mundelein, he has been able to spread his passion to athletes from all over northern Illinois. 

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Les M (@coachles_) • Instagram photos and videos

“It really opened the door in my eyes to see that my reach can be a lot further than just the team,” Malanowski said. “Obviously they already have great coaches on their teams but I think for me, I try to be as authentic and transparent as possible with them on their skills and goals. Having real inclusive conversations and constructive dialogue is what has led to success when coaching athletes from other programs.”

Malanowski doesn’t just promote positivity in athletics, he makes it a priority to be open and honest with his followers on his coaching Instagram page. He openly talks about the importance of mental health and well-being as an athlete and human. 

“I’ve struggled with anxiety, and with some OCD behaviors and I’m okay now communicating and talking about that,” Malanowski said. “The cheerleading community is small and has allowed me to try contribute to being a safe place and resource for any athletes that are struggling to have someone to listen to them, and or someone to share their own experiences with them to help them know that they’re not alone in their struggles mentally, and to be another resource to get any help that is potentially needed to support.”

It’s rare to find a coach like Lester Malanowski. His work ethic and genuine love for the sport has been such a privilege to experience as an athlete and person. He didn’t expect to be a cheerleader when he ended up joining the Palatine cheerleading team. However, he has pioneered the act of authenticity and “the why” behind the decisions he makes as a coach and mentor.

Cheerleaders at Palatine High School agree. 

“Coach Les knows what to say [to me] to help me feel more confident in a skill,” Freshman Trinity Veenendaal said. “He helps me feel like I’m strong enough to do anything.”

“He helped me get better at my coeds and always helped me when I messed up on a skill,” Junior Nesar Ahadi said. “He always helped me be the best person I could be and do my best.”

Coaches are part of the foundation of growth for student athletes, and to have one like Lester Malanowski has been a privilege. I think to myself often how lucky I am that I go to Palatine and get to have him as my cheerleading coach. 

Once a pirate, always a pirate. 

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About the Contributor
Lindsey Christopher
Lindsey Christopher, A&E Editor
Lindsey Christopher is a senior at Palatine High School. This is her first year on PHS Cutlass as an editor. Along with being involved in journalism, Christopher is also an athlete, having done cheer for the past 10 years. She is very passionate about her sport, as well as reading, exercise and wellness. Christopher has also been involved in tennis, freshman and sophomore class, and the principal advisory board. She is also a very independent person and always strives for perfection. In her free time, she enjoys baking sourdough bread, spending time with friends, and watching movies with her family. She hopes to attend NYU to study law.

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  • J

    Judy CarlsonNov 3, 2023 at 8:35 pm

    This is absolutely beautiful and I couldn’t agree more as his Mom. Thank you for recognizing the true meaning of dedication and love Lester has for his teammates, coaching staff and parents of the cheer team. This makes me so proud to read this amazing story you shared. Thank you