Times have changed at Federal Way High School for Savannah Williams.
When Williams was a student at Tyee High School six years ago, her athletic director was the Eagles’ current athletic director, John Yellam.
Now, the two are together again as employer and employee. When Toni Fall vacated the Eagles’ cheer and dance coaching position at the end of the year, Yellam knew his former student was perfect for the job. After a short phone call and interview process with Yellam, Williams was named the next cheer and dance coach in May.
The position with Federal Way marks William’s first high school head coaching position.
“When [Yellam] emailed me, I was really interested,” Williams said. “I wanted to get back into the dance and cheer scene, and I always liked Yellam’s approach to his job, so I knew working for him was going to be a good fit.”
Williams was placed into her first dance class at the age of 4. For the next 10 years, Williams split her time between two successful dance academies: Dance Unlimited and Max Dance Academy. She was also a natural as a cheerleader for the SeaTac Sharks.
Williams had so much success and drew so much attention as a youth dancer that she began teaching dance at 15.
When she came to Tyee as a high school freshman and met Yellam for the first time, the two initially got off to an awkward start.
Williams informed Yellam she was just a dancer, but Yellam was determined to get her to branch out and give other sports a try.
Williams inevitably listened to Yellam. Over the course of her four years at Tyee, in addition to dance and cheer, she dabbled in gymnastics, volleyball and tennis.
The tennis experiment came after she was dared by one of her closest friend to give it a try.
Williams said she enjoyed tennis, even though the friend who dared her to join, Angel Langley, never actually made the team.
She did so well that Yellam asked her to coach tennis at Federal Way in 2016, but Williams could not make the commitment work with her schedule at the time.
“Other than dance and cheer, tennis was my favorite, I think just because it was so new,” Williams said.
Williams continued cheer and dance at the University of Washington through the Hip Hop Association.
While at Washington, Williams discovered she enjoyed teaching, but by the time she finished with her undergraduate degree, she determined traditional teaching was not for her.
When she worked with high school students the following summer at Camp Waskowitz in North Bend, however, Williams found she had bonded with the teenagers and really enjoyed it.
Williams said she was taken by the teenage thought process. When she found herself captivated by it, Williams knew she was on to something.
“It’s was cool to watch them realize a decision can change their outcome,” Williams said. “They can go down one path or another, and I felt a connection with that.”
Because of that experience, Williams decided to enroll in law school at Seattle University in the fall of 2016. The experience at camp motivated her to focus on aspects of law, social work and juveniles.
Her experience from Camp Waskowitz also made it easy when the phone rang, and Yellam, her former athletic director, offered Williams another opportunity at Federal Way.
It was Williams’ love for students and cheering that made Yellam’s second major hire since 2016 a no-brainer.
“I love these girls,” Williams said. “I genuinely love them. Like, I know it’s hard [for them] transitioning into a new coach right before summer. They are absolutely fearless, and I’m beyond grateful for this opportunity.”