Mikaela Naccarato reached a lifelong milestone Sunday, when the freshman competed with East Islip High School’s varsity kickline team for the first time.
Growing up, Mikaela had attended many of the team's practices and competitions with her mother, Denise, who has coached the team since 1998, and started bringing her daughter along when she was still in diapers. But Sunday's inaugural Long Island Kickline Association competition marked the first time they were in it together as coach and competitor.
“I remember saying hi to everyone and watching the girls do well and win,” said Mikaela, now 14, about her memories of visiting the team as a child.
Denise Naccarato, who has won 15 Long Island championships during her 17-year coaching tenure, started taking her teams to the nationals in Florida in 2004, with her daughter always in tow.
“My mother would come on the trips and take care of Mikaela because I had the girls to take care of,” she recalled.
“She always looked up to the girls on the team and she just wanted to be like them,” Naccarato added about her daughter.
Naccarato said her daughter, who enrolled in dance classes at 3 years old, had “always been dying” to dance with the kickline team because she had always followed them. But there is no one she followed more than her cousin, Katherine Naccarato, who is eight years older than her and competed on Naccarato’s team.
“Originally my cousin and I both followed my mom; then she was on the team,” Mikaela said. “I looked up to my cousin since I was so little. She was like my best friend and I talked to her all the time. I want to be just like her when I get older. She’s like my biggest role model still.”
The strength and focus of East Islip’s team is pom, which incorporates dance and pom motions. While Naccarato has coached teams with up to 42 dancers, this season’s team is among her smallest, with 12 girls competing — but it’s especially notable to her because one of them is her daughter.
“There’s no favoritism,” said Naccarato, a 1992 graduate of East Islip High School who competed on its kickline team, about Mikaela. “If anything, I’m harder on her. And I have that in the back of my head that that could be a problem. And so I’m harder on her because of it.”
On Sunday, the East Islip team competed against nine Long Island kickline teams. Mikaela said in addition to her mother coaching her on the sideline, the day was made more special with her grandmother, Phyllis Margarita, and her father, Mike, sitting in the stands.
“It’s a big deal,” Mikaela said as she prepared to step on the gym floor, “because my dad is here watching me finally be on varsity with my mom.”