C.R. Drill Team coach/mentor retires

Error message

  • Warning: array_merge(): Expected parameter 1 to be an array, bool given in _simpleads_render_ajax_template() (line 133 of /home/pdccourier/www/www/sites/all/modules/simpleads/includes/simpleads.helper.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to get property 'settings' of non-object in _simpleads_adgroup_settings() (line 343 of /home/pdccourier/www/www/sites/all/modules/simpleads/includes/simpleads.helper.inc).
  • Warning: array_merge(): Expected parameter 1 to be an array, bool given in _simpleads_render_ajax_template() (line 157 of /home/pdccourier/www/www/sites/all/modules/simpleads/includes/simpleads.helper.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type null in include() (line 24 of /home/pdccourier/www/www/sites/all/modules/simpleads/templates/simpleads_ajax_call.tpl.php).

By Caroline Rosacker

Dedicated State Champion Clayton Ridge Drill Team coach and mentor Julie Rastetter will retire after 39 years of leadership. "I was offered a COVID-19 retirement package from my position as a Media Processing Clerk at Keystone Area Education Agency," said Rastetter. "I was ready to retire from that position, but because my coaching position and job at Keystone are IPERS jobs, I would be required to leave my coaching position for four months, which would have put me returning in November, right before state competition. I will fulfill my contract until June 30." 

Thirty-nine years ago, Rastetter received a hesitant green light for her program proposal. "I can still remember when I presented my idea to Mr. Whalen," she laughed. "He said, 'Give it a try, but it probably won't last.' Through the years – he has always been one of our best supporters!"

Rastetter and her husband, Thor, have three children, Logan (Brad) Nelson, who are serving in the U.S. Army in Japan; Kelsey, who lives in Cedar Rapids and is employed in the Linn-Mar School District, and Colten, who lives in Cedar Rapids and works for Phillips Trucking. The couple also has three grandsons, Carter, Quinn and Aiden Nelson.

The team name and vision have changed throughout the years. "We originally called ourselves the Guttenberg Pom-Pom Express," Rastetter commented. "We had huge teams of about 22 girls when the school's population was larger. Now we have, on average, approximately 12 -14 girls. In the beginning all teams were pom-poms across the state. Eventually schools began to find their niche and focus on what their teams were best at. Our strength and focus has been on drill, military and prop in the past several years, but a good coach will recognize their team members' capabilities and guide the team in the direction that best suits their talents such as lyrical, jazz, high kick, etc. 

Rastetter herself was a cheerleader for Regis High School in Cedar Rapids for three years and a cheerleader at Simpson College for four years. "When I moved to Guttenberg, I knew I needed something to do," she shared. "My nieces, nephews and cousins participated in dance in Cedar Rapids so I was familiar with the sport. Thor was coaching all the time, and my father suggested I find something and put my heart and soul into it and it would go well. I wish he could have seen it all. He passed away shortly after we started the program,but I always knew he was watching over me."

From what began as entertainment for halftime sporting events,  the team has progressed to become respected state champion athletes. Drill teams across the state of Iowa are recognized by the Iowa Girls Athletic Union as a sanctioned school sport. 

Since 1986, Clayton Ridge Drill Team members have earned 

26 first place trophies

21 second place trophies

13 third place trophies

2 fourth place trophies

1 fifth place trophy 

 "The team works very hard. It is not all about dancing around and looking pretty. They have been stigmatized throughout the years by their peers that they are not athletes. This is simply not true. I would invite anyone who thinks otherwise to attend a practice," she smiled.  

Rastetter put in a tremendous amount of time and effort in creating her award-winning team. "I started to go to more dance classes that were offered in the state of Iowa," she commented. "I started networking with other coaches, mentors and professionals. I attended clinics and met people in Texas who had a tremendous amount of experience. I willingly accepted critique that would help make our team better. I eventually earned my judging certificate and was able to bring ideas back to our team."

Coach Rastetter desired to create an indelible bond with her athletes. Her open door policy has been a benefit to many young girls coming up through the ranks. "I wanted to gel our unit like family – parents included," Rastetter commented. "That was how I was raised. We did a lot of bonding things to make us close. Our motto is: 'We are only stronger than our weakest link.' Our stronger members help those starting out to become stronger. We refer to our youngest members as 'babies' and bring them along. They learn from the girls who came up through the ranks before them."

Drill Team Captain Kayla Kelly, commented, "Over the span of my four years, drill team hasn’t just been a sport to me. Drill team grew to be my safe house. When I went to practices, I felt like I was at home with my family. My teammates were my sisters. We shared bonds that I couldn’t form with other girls through different activities. Julie is not wrong when she says that drill team is a sisterhood because throughout my four years, I became closer with each of my teammates, and I will always have their backs. Having Julie Rastetter as my coach was like having a second mother. I knew she was always there for me, no matter what. Even though I am now an alumni member of the team, I still feel as though I can go to Julie for anything because her motherly instinct towards her members never goes away. I encourage every girl in high school or entering high school to audition for the team because the bonds you will make with your teammates are precious, and you will have the best four years of your life."

Reagan Brown added, "Being a member of the Clayton Ridge Drill Team has meant a lot to me over the past four years. It is a great way to get involved with the school and community. Not only have I become a better dancer over the years, my confidence has grown and I have made many new friendships. I owe all of my and the team’s success to Julie Rastetter. Julie truly believes in the program she created. She knows the team’s capabilities and pushes each individual to be their best. She supports each member of the team whether it be for dance, other school sports, activities, or academics. Julie has been an inspiration to me and many other girls and her love and care for the team is what has kept the program strong. The many dance and life lessons I have learned through being a member of the team will most definitely be a service to me as I continue my dance career in college.”

Video taping each performance offered a way to build up the team and make them stronger. “We critiqued each performance to build confidence not tear down,” Rastetter explained. “The judges look for conformity. Your team may include 10 or 20 girls, but they have to perform as a unit. They need to look exactly alike, and their movements must be perfectly synchronized.”

“The drill team members are so dedicated,” she said with admiration. “They often work on their performance at home when they are struggling at practice. It shows when they return, and they have the move perfected.”  

Rastetter, who is the Chief Financial Officer for the Iowa State Dance-Drill Team Association (ISDTA) for the past 20 years and is a lifetime member of the ISDTA, will volunteer later in the fall to offer assistance and to mentor incoming Drill Team Coach Kaitlyn Kuehl-Berns. “I want to be there for Kaitlyn and make sure she has everything she needs to run the program successfully, and guide her through the transition,” she assured. “I will continue to judge competitions if I am asked. My heart will always remain with Clayton Ridge. I will only critic teams that don’t compete against Clayton Ridge. Sorry, that is where my heart will be.”

The compassionate coach has remained in contact with many of her former team members. “One of the girls put her arms around me and asked if I would still come to practice,” she said with a smile. “I stress to my current and former members – my door is always open – I will always be there. I have been invited to many weddings and baby showers from past team members. It is important to me to stay in contact with the girls, and I often attend other activities that they are participating in to deepen the bond.”  

 Coach Rastetter spent many hours outside of practice ensuring drill team performances ran smoothly. “It’s a time-consuming job,” said Rastetter. “Not your typical eight to five. I am always doing something – ordering costumes, looking at possible music selections, checking on orders, networking with other coaches and watching other competitions so see how we could improve. You have to love it because the time commitment is endless.”

“I love to watch the girls grow and mature and gain confidence,” she proudly shared. “The transformation warms my heart because I can see how far they have come. We tell parents: When your daughter makes the drill team the parents make it as well. It is very heartwarming how families support the team. The loudest cheering crowd is Guttenberg at competitions – even louder than larger teams from bigger schools. The girls just glow when they hear the roar of the crowd.  Some drill team mothers are my close friends and I cherish that.”

Drill team parent Tina Brown told The Press, “Julie coached our daughter, Reagan, a senior, all four years of high school. Julie loves these girls like her own. They became a part of her family in and out of the gym.  She had great expectations of them (and their parents) and pushed them to be their best.  She was no-nonsense, strict, yet compassionate and encouraging to her dancers. She taught them great teamwork, self-discipline and confidence.  The Clayton Ridge Drill Team will not be the same without her!”

Drill team parent Christine Meier added, “Julie’s influence on Grace will always follow her. Julie’s guidance and expectations were monumental in taking Grace from her comfort zone to a world where she could and did become a champion, not only in drill team but in all aspects of her life. I knew Grace was in good hands when Julie was in charge.” 

The busy coach is looking forward to a little bit of free time to spend with her grandchildren. “Logan and her husband have been overseas for the past six years and are returning to the states, so it will be nice to visit and spend time with my grandchildren,” she noted. “I also plan to volunteer and give back to my community. The first 15 years I volunteered as drill team coach, but that was okay because I was paid back tremendously by the girls and the program.” 

Five, six, seven, eight – keep smiling. We are the Clayton Ridge Drill Team!

Rate this article: 
Average: 4.3 (6 votes)