Talk about balance—Alicia Zito isn’t just 2015’s Eastern Cheer & Dance Association’s “Cheer Coach of the Year,” but also a choreographer, judge, mom and a full-time attorney. When not practicing law, Zito runs the Reading, PA-based gym Rebels Elite, which currently has just over 90 athletes. CheerProfessional caught up with Zito between the court and the competition mat for a candid Q&A session.
Monthly Archives: January 2016
After months of practice, “Heather” had mastered every skill in her routine and her timing was perfect. But once she hit the mat during competition, her face went blank and she froze mid-step. Although she’d been involved with cheer from the age of five, she still experienced periodic bouts of performance anxiety, especially at key moments.
Heather isn’t alone—the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) reports that about eight percent of teens age 13 to 18 have an anxiety disorder. In many cases, a certain amount of anxiety can be beneficial, providing an effective way to handle a difficult situation. But excessive anxiety can, in certain circumstances, become disabling, and for cheer teams, too much anxiety could spell serious trouble.
It’s every gym owner’s nightmare: put your trust in team moms, and then see that trust betrayed in a big way. Few know that better than the Ohio Pink Panthers, who made headlines in 2014 when a team mom allegedly collected $310 per cheerleader for new uniforms, then disappeared with $6,500 of gym parents’ money. More common are less extreme cases, which are often a matter of team moms being too opinionated or overstepping their boundaries—leading to drama, miscommunication and often one big headache for the gym staff.
Luckily, not all experiences with team moms turn out to be so devastating. In many cases, team moms become a coach’s right hand and trusted confidante. So what makes the difference? Choosing the right people.
“If you’re not prepared to put TEAM first, turn around.”
dworldfrontThis is the motto of ICE All-Stars, and a slogan that hangs on a banner in the windows of all three of Darlene Fanning’s Illinois- and Indiana-based gym locations. It’s a mentality that’s gotten the ICE program founder far since launching her first location in 1996. “Next year will be our 20th anniversary,” says Fanning, who got her start as a high school coach before making the transition to the all-star world.d
At Midwest Cheer Elite’s Lima, Ohio location, a cheer dad approaches a wall covered in Post-Its and takes one that says “Band-Aids.” When he goes to the store later that day, he’s not just buying the gym something they need, he’s earning an entry into Midwest Cheer Elite’s contest for a month of free tuition. Many gyms use contests like this one to engage athletes and their families and generate excitement—and, more often than not, it works.