Meet coach Gina Regalado, the woman who is single handedly coaching the spirit of Linfield University


Anna Frazier

Dance Team performing at Linfield University’s freshman orientation Cat Camp.

Everything’s bigger in Texas, they say. However, according to coach Gina Regalado, the Linfield University dance team is about to get bigger as well – because now, it will include cheerleaders, too.

Born and raised in San Antonio, Regalado began dancing when she was 5 at a local recreation center. As a young girl, Regalado expressed herself in ways that were unusual for girls to do at the time. Dancing to songs like Salt and Pepa’s “Push It!,” Regalado was able to express herself physically and creatively in a way traditional sports could never. 

Now, in her fourth year coaching the Linfield dance team, Regaldo’s added even more to her plate: First, the dance team has shifted from a club to an officially school-sanctioned sport. Additionally, Regalado is now single-handedly coaching the spirit of Linfield University as she has taken on the role of interim cheer coach. 

“You didn’t see a whole lot of girls doing the pop and lock and break dancing when I was younger,” Regaldo said. “Now as I’m older, I understand that hip-hop is about being fierce. I grew up in the projects where you wanted to be tough, and hip hop allowed girls to do that.”

At the age of 15, Regalado decided to join her high school’s dance team. The Orange Jackets dance team, which at the time took huge influence from the state’s highly regarded Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders, taught Regalado the importance of being positive and giving back to your community. 

“Everybody wanted to be like them, ” Regalado said. “We wanted their precision and the cleanliness of their routines. They were America’s sweethearts and we wanted to be America’s sweethearts too.”

Similarly the OJ’s dance team introduced her to kick-line and military-style dance. Distinctly different from hip hop, this style of dance emphasizes precise motions, arm angles, symmetrical marching patterns, and creative formation changes. While at Luther Burbank High-School, Regalado met her highschool sweetheart and now husband, Rick Regalado. 

After living in Texas for several years with her husband and two boys, Rick Jr. and Rene, a job opened up for her husband at a Federal Correctional Institution in small town Oregon. So in the summer of 1992, her family packed their bags and moved across the country to McMinnville. 

In 2001, Regalado got called “coach” for the first time as she helped assist the Patton Middle School dance team. Three years later, her coaching career took her a little farther down the road: In 2004, Regalado became head dance coach for McMinnville High School, where she helped develop what is now the McMinnville Grizzlies dance team. It wasn’t for 15 years, however, when she began her coaching career at Linfield University as she took on the role of head coach for the Linfield dance team in the fall of 2019.

Because small college coaching salaries are not nearly enough to live off of, on top of coaching, Regalado maintains a full-time job on top of coaching to help support herself and her family. When she isn’t coaching her team in the Rutschman Fieldhouse, you can find Regalado in the basement of Melrose, working as Linfield’s Associate Director of Financial Aid IT Services. 

And while it may seem like a lot to juggle, Regalado says it is surprisingly manageable as she blocks out time specifically for work and dance. She is incredibly grateful that she gets to have a career where she can be intellectual during the day and creative in the evenings. 

“I feel Linfield, if anything, has promoted that dual involvement,” Regalado said. “Our employees here are very invested in our community. So a lot of people here know me as the dance coach as well as a member of the financial aid department.”

After coaching at McMinnville High for nearly 20 years, Regalado stepped down this season to focus solely on her work at Linfield. But she handed the reins to someone she knows well and who can easily come to Regalado if she needs help – Jacquelynn Bravo, a senior captain on Linfield’s team. 

“I felt very honored that she thought of me as someone that could take over something she loves so much.” Bravo said. “I learned lots from her as a dancer and now I am learning lots from her on how to coach.”

Regalado and Bravo’s close relationship isn’t unique to just them, though. According to members of the Linfield dance team, that special bond is in every relationship Regalado has on her team. 

To many, Regalado is a mother away from home. She once came to the rescue after a dancer’s car windows were destroyed on campus and helped another navigate communication with the school when a dancer needed to take a gap semester due to COVID-19.

“Coaching the dance team brings me a lot of fulfillment, not just in being a coach but having a relationship with girls that I normally didn’t get to have because I had three boys,” Regalado said.“What really does it for me at the end of the day is watching these young women gain not just the skill, but the confidence that they gain by becoming the dancer.”

Her athletes genuinely believe that Regalado is the best thing that has happened to the Linfield dance program. Regalado continually reminds and pushes them to be the best version of themselves both in and out of practice. In the future, she hopes to see her dancers compete at the UDA Nationals, the nation’s most coveted collegiate dance national championship, against schools like Oregon State and the University of Oregon. 

“She likes to remind us that there is no reason we can’t be as competitive as a Division I school,” said Ava Meade, junior from Juneau, Alaska. “She likes to bring the best out of us, and she’s not wrong. If we truly want it, with her by our side, there is no reason we can’t do it.”

While the structure of how the team is run has stayed relatively similar, Regalado notes that the main difference in moving from activity to athletics is her and her dancers’ validation. 

“As a dancer, sometimes you’re not looked at as an equal of a student-athlete,” Regalado said. “But now I feel like these girls are validated. People now see value in what they do and in their craft.”

This past month, Regalado was given a new challenge as the Linfield cheer coach, Carissa Collins, unexpectedly stepped down as a job opened up for her as a position was offered to her in Denver, Colo. Regalado explained that when she first heard that Collins had to step down from Linfield athletic director Garry Killgore, without hesitation, her instinct was to stand up and announce that she would fill her role. Similarly, Regalado currently holds the title of cheer and dance coach until Killgore can find a candidate to fill the position of cheer coach permanently.

“We’re very thankful for everything coach Regalado has done for us,” said McKenna Mills, captain of the Linfield cheer team. “Without her stepping up and helping our team, I have no idea where we’d be or what the future of our program would hold.”

Although her position as interim cheer coach is only temporary, the combined team of Linfield cheer and dance is here to stay. And even though there is uncertainty among students, including cheerleaders, dancers, and Regalado alike, at the end of the day, both the dancers and cheerleaders are rooting for coach Regalado—the woman who is now single-handedly coaching the spirit of Linfield University.