EARLY — Kim Sandford loves her 16 girls.

They’re not hers literally but are the members of the 2019 Early High School Belles dance squad, of which Sandford is the director.

The Belles started their summer practice season Wednesday, which will continue through until the school year starts, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. five days a week.

For the third consecutive summer, the Belles have started off their summer practice with what they’re calling a three-day team camp. Two young women who previously danced with the Cisco College Wranger Belles — Sydney Tapia and Chelseay Green, both 21 — are the instructors.

The two women’s roles in the team camp include choreographing dances, fostering team bonding and developing the girls’ leadership skills.

Sandford said the presence of Tapia and Green makes her job easier. “It’s more like one-on-one instruction,” Sandford said. “I can say the same things they’re saying and it’s kind of like hearing it from Mom — in one ear and out the other.

“They don’t know (Tapia and Green) as well so they pay attention.”

But don’t take that as complaining from Sandford, whose affection for the Belles is obvious. “We will spend nine-to-four together for three weeks straight, and then after that, we spend probably 20 hours together during the school week,” Sandford said.

“So we are a big family for sure. I love my girls. They’re very sweet — very sweet girls.”

Green, who is from The Colony, is a senior at the University of North Texas, where she is majoring in English and minoring in dance. Green wants to become a dance instructor.

Tapia, who is from Fort Worth, will attend Tarrant County College in the fall and said she’ll probably end up at the University of North Texas. She plans on earning a business degree.

The two have also started a dance company called Dance Dynamics, which offers services including private camps, private workshops, judging and choreography.

Green and Tapia became involved with the Belles after Green served on the judging panel for Belles tryouts while Green attended Cisco College. Green later contacted Sandford and asked if she could be helpful. Sandford asked Green if she could put on a camp, and Green enlisted Tapia to help her.

The two women are being paid for instructing at the camp, and Sandford said they’re worth it.

“They meet our team right where they are,” Sandford said. “They just make (the Belles) feel comfortable exactly where they are. It just helps them gain confidence in themselves.”

Sandford, who is in her 19th year at Early High School, teaches technology, which consists of digital media, graphic design and video production. Her husband, Blake, is the Early High School athletic director and head football coach.

Sandford, a Bangs High School graduate, was on the Bangs school’s dance squad, which is no longer active. “I was a Bangs Dragons Flame,” Sandford said. “When I think about my days in drill team, those are my favorite memories because you just have that family — that built-in family.”