Rachel Rue named Minnesota rookie coach of the year

Rookie coach of the year Rachel Rue (below) gives a lift to assistant coach Ali Classen. (Photo courtesy of TLC Digital Images)
Rookie coach of the year Rachel Rue (below) gives a lift to assistant coach Ali Classen. (Photo courtesy of TLC Digital Images)

The Minnesota Association of Dance Teams has recognized Forest Lake’s Rachel Rue as its rookie coach of the year.

Under Rue’s leadership, the Forest Lake Dance Team won numerous invitational titles and swept the Suburban East Conference season, winning the two regular season meets and the finals in both jazz and kick.

“(Winning the award) is exciting and a huge honor, but I wouldn’t have been able to do it without the girls, and the accomplishments that the team made are so much bigger than this award,” Rue said. “This is just the icing on top of everything for me.”

The dance season came to an abrupt and bittersweet end: As hosts of the sectional championship, the Rangers finished fifth in both categories, missing trips to state by two places.

“The season went better than we could have ever expected,” Rue said. “It’s disappointing when you don’t make it to state, but it’s always tough to break through in our section. The girls gave the best performance they could have given and I couldn’t have been prouder.”

The sectional finishes were leaps ahead of the team’s 2016 placings (seventh in kick, 10th in jazz), which was a large factor in Rue’s winning rookie of the year.

When Rue took over as head coach this season, she was returning to the place where she starred for many years. Rue was a four-year member and two-year captain of FLDT before she graduated in 2014. The short gap in time allows for a rarity in the world of varsity coaching: Rue now leads many girls she danced beside when she was a Ranger, as well as her sister, junior Mikayla Rue.

“We’re both able to separate it,” Rue said. “At practice I’m the coach, she’s a dancer, and we’ve never had any issues with that. She knows I expect a lot from her because I know what she’s capable of, but then when we get home, we’re sisters. There’s never any drama.”

Rue began dancing when she was 3 years old and began competing when she was 6. Being a coach has only deepened her love of the sport.

“I wasn’t expecting to fall in love with (coaching) so much,” Rue said. “I really want to stick with it.”

Rue is currently a junior at the University of St. Thomas, majoring in marketing and business communications. She hopes to use the skills she is learning with a Fortune 500 company.

Rue will be able to continue as the coach next season but concedes that she may face challenges in scheduling dance practices around her work schedule after she graduates.

“I’m hoping that once I move on to the corporate world, I’m able to work with my schedule or work with the girls’ schedule to be the coach,” Rue said.

For now, however, Rue has already begun the process of leading the Rangers into her second season in charge. Tryouts for the 2017-18 squad have already completed, with 48 girls now preparing to lead young dancers at Kickers Camp during Lake Fest (June 3) and learning routines for halftime performances during the football season. All of this will eventually lead back into another competitive varsity season.

“I hope to win the conference again; that’s kind of a tradition,” Rue said. “And then I want to move up to at least fourth in the section, if not take a state berth.”