Two years ago, Stephanie Wright closed her eyes, not knowing if she’d still have her left arm when she opened them. Then a Gloucester High School senior, it was the day Wright had her second surgery on the arm she badly damaged in a cheerleading practice.
Two years ago, Stephanie Wright closed her eyes, not knowing if she’d still have her left arm when she opened them.
Then a Gloucester High School senior, it was the day Wright had her second surgery on the arm she badly damaged in a cheerleading practice.
“They told me I may not wake up with an arm,” Wright recalled. “I woke up, and luckily I had my arm still. But I was scared. It was kind of surreal.”
Reality was frightening, too. Wright had to miss three months of her senior year, underwent a year’s worth of intense physical therapy, and could not for a good year-and-a-half do one her favorite things -— cheerleading.
A spot on a college team, a dream of hers, seemed out of the question.
“She maintained a positive attitude through the entire ordeal,” said Eric Bichao, Wright’s coach at Gloucester High School. “She was convinced that she would be able to cheer again, and was even holding out hope that she would be back in time for our trip to Nationals. At first I thought she was in denial, since she was lucky that she didn’t end up losing her arm after injury and infection. But as time passed, her arm healed, and she regained some strength and mobility.”
And two years later, she puts that arm to good use.
Wright joined Bichao this season as a member of the Boston Celtics' “Green Team,” a crew that is a “high-energy, stunting-based cheerleading team that executes all ... on-court promotions and in-arena contests and fires up the Celtics fans at all home games,” according to Sean P. Sullivan, Boston Celtics director of game presentation and special events.
Bichao encouraged Wright to try out, and Wright impressed the Green Team brass at the two-day tryout that included tests in physical prowess and energy level, and a sit-down interview.
“Stephanie has been a very positive addition to the team this year, and her reliability, personality and positive energy on the court have made her a fan favorite along with her fellow Green Team members,” Sullivan said. “You’ll never see Stephanie out there without a smile on her face, and, as a teammate, she fits in well with team members and fans alike.”
Wright said the Boston Sports Club tryout last fall in Waltham included a test in how they would handle themselves in front of thousands of fans.
From there, the Green Team called her back for an interview as she sat in a class at UMass Lowell, where she is a sophomore studying international relations and French. They told her she earned the interview at the Green Team’s Causeway Street office across from the TD Garden.
There, she impressed them enough to earn a spot on the roster of 10, including men and women. The Green Team helps the Celtics with promotions, such as halftime shooting contests sponsored by corporations.
They shoot T-shirts into the crowd and generally are there to amp up the fans via trips through the stands and on the court.
“There’s never really a down moment,” Wright said. “You’re always on your toes.” You have to be. After all, more than 18,000 fans count on it.
“I love being in front of big crowds,” Wright said. “It isn’t a lot of stress. I enjoy myself and do what I need to do. I love being out there, being a part of the show and part of the Celtics.”
Wright has always performed well under pressure, Bichao said.
She made the Gloucester High School varsity as a freshman, and through her “hard work and commitment, she quickly became one of our better flyers by the end of her freshman season,” Bichao said. (A flyer is a girl who is lifted in the air by her teammates.)
Gloucester had her compete in the partner stunt competition at a national competition. Her team had very little practice time but still finished a close second.
“To me, this showed the resilience of her character and how she would never quit or give up,” Bichao said. “The big stage of a national competition did not frighten this little freshman.”
The prospect of losing her arm certainly did. But Wright said she came out of the healing process stronger and a lot wiser.
“It made me stronger as a person,” said Wright, who when not in school lives with mother Karen (Olson) and brother Jared Wright, a GHS senior. “I know what I am capable of — being capable of pulling through when faced with a difficult situation. I know I’ll always have my family there. I realized who my true friends are. People were constantly caring for me and calling me. Other than some physical scarring, I’m right back into cheerleading.”
Bichao was one of those who were instrumental in Wright reaching this point.
“I wouldn’t be where I am now if it weren’t for him,” said Wright.
Wright also cheers with the East Elite Cheer Gym out of Tewksbury with Bichao, and fellow Gloucester products Lauren Sutherland, a 2008 GHS graduate, Patrick Dennen (2006) and TJ Marshall (2007).
And with the Green Team gig and school, she’s one busy woman — though it looks like the Green Team will be a one-year gig. She’s transferring colleges and will end up either in South Carolina or Pennsylvania.
Wherever she lands, Bichao said she’ll be in good hands because of her will to overcome adversity. Not to mention her humble personality.
“A fellow coworker described her as confident and genuine,” Bichao said. “I am ecstatic that she has gotten this opportunity after everything that has happened to her. I admire her for what she went through, and we now maintain a close friendship because of it.”