Psychotherapist by day, coach of Cal High’s song team by night.She created the nationally ranked dance team when she was 15 years old, and has been coaching ever since. There’s no stopping what song coach Toneka Webb can do.A born choreographer, Webb said she has been making up dances for as long as she can remember.“I think it’s something (choreographing) that I have to do, because my mind is constantly thinking of new routines,” she said.As a 15-year-old sophomore at Cal High and a member of the varsity cheerleading squad, Webb was approached by one of the girls of the “non-existent” dance team, a group of freshman basketball cheerleaders, to choreograph a routine for a competition.
After winning the competition with one of Webb’s stellar dances, the girls decided to pay her to be their coach.“As a person, I am lovely,” said Webb. “As a coach, I am strict, honest, to the point, fast, methodical, meticulous, organized, anal, and obsessive compulsive.”After many routines, competitions, and a couple of years, the dance team was no longer “non existent.” It was now known as the Cal High varsity song team. All of Webb’s time and hard work put into creating all star choreography has paid off for the song team. They are currently ranked in the top 20 song-pom and jazz teams in the nation, and have qualified for the Florida competition for the past 16 years, placing sixth out of 80 teams in 2007. Locally, the team has not lost a competition since 2000. The song team is currently in Orlando competing in the UDA National Dance Team Competition. The squad left Wednesday evening and will perform on Saturday and Sunday.
“Winning the National Championship is on my bucket list,” said Webb. “It would be like winning the gold medal in the Olympics, or even winning the lottery.”When her senior year at Cal came to an end, Webb was accepted at CSU Chico, but wasn’t ready to let go of her team. During her four years of studying to become a psychotherapist at Chico and throughout graduate school at CSU East Bay, she balanced school and coaching. Coming to San Ramon every two to three weeks to train during the school year and putting tireless hours into choreography during the summers really showed Webb’s love for dance and perseverance to succeed.
Now, as a licensed practicing psychotherapist for the past 10 years, Webb is working at the Athenian School in Danville and also works with a private practice when she isn’t coaching. Dealing with all sorts of people and situations, Webb has developed into a headstrong person who doesn’t break easily, which, in her opinion, helps her be an effective coach. “My job is to break their spirit,” Webb said of her coaching methods. “Their parents’ job is to make them feel better, not mine.”Coaching, which takes up much of Webb’s time, is something she considers more a public service than an actual job.
“Ninety percent of it is a serious pain in the (butt),” she said. “But I have to choreograph because this is the only time that I have more freedom with the routines. If I didn’t do it, it would throw everything off.” For Webb, a good day means having a solid practice. Practicing and coaching every day to the full potential is extremely important to qualify well during competitions. “She is really strict, so you better be on your game at practice, constantly going for it,” said senior co-captain Stacey Magdefrau. With absolutely no interest to be their friend or to be a cool, well-liked coach, Webb is known for her tough and seemingly uncaring methods of coaching. “She always tells us that she has to break us down before she builds us up,” said senior co-captain Kelly Raab. Coaching the girls to their top potential is her main goal, and she will do nearly anything to improve their dance.
“I would say that my coaching style is a combination of authoritative and authoritarian,” Webb said. “About 99 percent is a dictatorship and one percent is a democracy.” All this success requires some dedicated dancers and a very effective coaching staff. This “staff” for Cal’s song team is Webb, and Webb alone. “I personally have one individual award for dancers who impress me at practice,” Webb said. “I call it the Sharpness of the Day Award. “They earn it by going above and beyond what is expected of them,” she continued. “The winner gets to wear a silly little crown while they stretch at the next practice. But the real prize is that they don’t have to do push-ups or running during the next practice.”
Senior co-captain Jennifer Magdefrau considers Webb very intimidating, yet loving deep down.“(During practice) Hell is an understatement,” said Jennifer. “She (Webb) scares me.” Nevertheless, through all the pain, tears, and effort, the team loves to badger Webb, as if she was their friend. “She thinks we are the most annoying and lamest people ever, but we know that she loves us,” said Kelly. Webb disagrees with Kelly, saying the love is so deep inside that she isn’t able to appreciate them until after they graduate. “We have a love-hate relationship – they love me, I hate them,” she said. “When they graduate, I’ll definitely miss their parents.” With her tough nature, Webb thinks the girls consider her as evil. Although that may be true during practice, the team feels quite the opposite.
“Toneka is not the enemy, it is ourselves,” said Jennifer. “Without her, we would be nothing.” Her strict ways may have made her “evil” during practice, but Webb knows where she stands as a coach, and she definitely knows her team well.“I may be strict, but I deal with them in the way they need to be dealt with, because they are all different,” she said. “I never want to tell them anything to make them feel bad about who they are, and I always have to remind them that my criticism is never personal.”The whole team agrees that Webb is an inspiration to keep trying harder.
“I would never trade Toneka in for any other coach, ever,” said Stacey.