As The Summit heads into its third year and large-scale end-of-year events continue to trend throughout the industry, gym owners and coaches are reflecting on its impact. Some gym owners have felt a ripple effect from this rising tide, saying that parents and lower-level athletes are now laser-focused on getting bids to the Summit—but not everyone views this development as a positive one. So what’s the true impact? We spoke with Bravo All Stars owner Adriane Callahan and Cheer Extreme Allstars owner Courtney Smith-Pope to explore various perspectives.
Since this Florida-based gym first launched in 2004, Ultimate Athletics has gone from 35 athletes to almost 200 in its Port St. Lucie location, and grown from 50 to 100+ in its second Vero Beach location (which opened in 2010). Successful recruitment and retention of male athletes has played a big part in the program’s growing success, thanks to a free tuition program and strong focus on mentorship. Hear from owner Bobby Gomez on how he brings in the boys!
For 20 years, Elaine Pascale and Joelle Antico, the mother-daughter juggernaut behind New Jersey-based World Cup All-Stars, have been churning out a steady stream of athletes—an admirable feat for anyone, let alone a one-time schoolteacher and an accountant.
Arguably one of the most recognized all-star programs in the nation, World Cup has amassed a trove of trophies and awards—including three Worlds championship titles, seven NCA national champion titles, and first place at The Majors 2014. And while Antico credits “karma and good business practices” for their two-decades long successful stretch in business, there’s also a collegial and harmonious relationship between the two women that keep the doors open and athletes clamoring for spots on their coveted teams.
At Avon, OH-based Tumbles & Cheers, the more coaches put into the program, the more they get out of it. Owner Heather Zidek offers her coaches a financial incentive based on their performance. “We have all sorts of different factors that go into the compensation they receive— everything from retention rates to how high enrollment is in their classes to how their teams perform,” shares Zidek. “For each of those factors, they would get a bonus.”
Talk about power in numbers—when the All-Star Gym Owners Association (ASGA) speaks, people listen. Whether it’s getting an event producer to reconsider its stance on stay-to-play, tracking down answers and assistance from a MIA vendor or righting an industry wrong, the ASGA is able to exert influence via its ever-growing Facebook group 3,000+ members strong.
Ever since The Aloha International Spirit Championships in Honolulu began requiring stay-to-play in 2005, event producers have been following suit. As more competition companies start to shift their policies toward stay-to-play, the industry has reached a heated crossroads. Gym owners are fighting for the right to reserve their own hotel rooms, while event producers maintain that it’s necessary that they require programs to book room blocks at designated hotels. As the new season takes shape, the question remains: how exactly will this growing practice affect the world of all-star cheer?
At Sebring, FL-based Edge Cheer, athletes and their families end the year with a formal banquet full of awards, trophies and certificates. Owner Jenny Rowe says, “In this particular industry where it’s all about the team—and sacrificing and doing what’s best for the team—it’s a really big deal to get to individually recognize the strengths of these kids. We give them an opportunity to stand up in front of their parents and peers, [so they can have] their own particular moment of glory.”
Your teams have the same skills as the competition, but your competitors are always getting higher scores. Is it time to hire a choreographer to work full-time at your gym? Or is it a smarter move financially to bring in an outside choreographer to craft one killer routine for the season? Each option has its pros and cons.
International cheer consultant and coach Debbie Love is famous in the industry for emphasizing the importance of psychology in sports, but she admits that while competing as a college gymnast she wasn’t always a perfect picture of focus and concentration. In fact, she can pinpoint a specific instance when she realized she was relying mentally on magical thinking: “I wouldn’t tumble until I did a little ritual before my pass,” she says. “I had to stand there and close my eyes and say, ‘Okay, Debbie, you can do this. Now go.’ And if I didn’t say it, I wouldn’t go.”
Love trained herself to execute her routine without the mantra and trust the mechanics of her routine by repeatedly assuring herself, “You’re confident; you can do this.” Now, more than 50 gyms per year—including teams in South America, New Zealand and Scotland, along with Louisville-based GymTyme (which she’s affiliated with)—seek out Love’s expertise on mental block, injury prevention and technique.
Got your blinders handy? Amy Faulkner’s dedication to the Northstar Studios community shines bright. As founder, owner and coach, she has grown the cheerleading studio to become a welcoming beacon in Sunbury, Ohio. Faulkner first started Northstar Studios in 2008 shortly after her husband returned from a military tour in Iraq. Since then, the business has outgrown two studios to become what it is today: an 8,000 sq.-ft. space that plays home to five teams, 80 competitive athletes, 150 recreational athletes and a lot of community spirit. That spirit has been kicked up a notch lately, thanks to Faulkner’s latest accomplishment: being named “2014 Coach of the Year” by AmeriCheer and CheerProfessional.
It’s Friday night at the Cheer Pride All-Stars gym in Whippany, NJ. Coach Erin Shane signals The Summit-bound Junior Level 1 team to enter the gym. Clad in fire-colored practice gear with bows neatly placed on their crowns, 15 female athletes quietly line up in four rows, hit a “T” and prepare to perform a timing drill for jumps.
Shane begins to clap to the rhythm of her counting to keep the team’s unified left kicks timed to her beat. The team doesn’t flinch as she pauses to hit a strong, poised “T” to demonstrate proper motion technique. The squad reaches 20 kicks smoothly and quickly, then Shane continues the process again on the opposite side.
It’s a question of objectivity—can judges “turn it off” when they take the stand? Some gym owners and coaches say “no,” taking issue with event producers who allow judges that have some form of past or current affiliation with programs on the competition roster. Others say that because of the prevalence of cheer gyms, it’s almost impossible to find a whole panel of judges that don’t have some sort of knowledge or background with at least one of the gyms involved; they also argue that judges should be trusted to be professional and impartial. So who’s right? We spoke with Ron Swanson of Kansas Gymnastics & Cheer and Becky Woodson of Daytona Xtreme to explore the issue.
Love the new USASF junior coaches’ training curriculum? Thank Courtney Kania-Young of Ohio Extreme All-Stars, whose idea sparked the initiative—with a little help from her mentor, Orson Sykes of Twist & Shout.
Hungry for better safety/emergency initiatives? You’ll be appreciative of the work being done by Houston Elite’s Joshua Johnson (mentored by Ann Lehrman) and Karrie Tumelson (mentored by Debbie Love). Johnson’s proposal for Standardized Emergency Action Plans and Tumelson’s recommendations for Universal Safety Standards for the warm-up room will soon be implemented at USASF events during the 2014-2015 season.
Many gym owners—and parents—have long appreciated the autonomy of making their own travel arrangements for competition, due to the flexibility and options afforded by this approach. However, more event producers are now requiring “stay to play” (requiring that teams stay in a designated room block set up by a third-party company in order to compete). The practice has sparked debate inside the industry: some gym owners are boycotting these types of events, on the grounds that rooms are being egregiously marked up and that it creates less choice for budget-conscious families. However, event producers maintain that stay-to-play is necessary in order to maintain ongoing relationships with the venues and cities their customers have come to love. See what Cheer Zone owner Tamara Reed and Cheer Power’s Regina Symons have to say on the topic.
One of the hottest topics at this year’s NACCC conference in Doral? The idea of a universal scoresheet. Cheer professionals Kristen Rosario and John Metz are among the industry’s outspoken advocates for this development, and the 22 member companies of IEP announced their collective endorsement of having a universal scoresheet back in 2010. However, respondents to a CheerProfessional survey in June were evenly split, with half for and half against (and one stipulating that she would support a universal rubric rather than scoresheet).
More teams than ever are making the annual pilgrimage to compete at the Cheerleading Worlds in Orlando, and the packed stands this year were a testament to its soaring popularity. Yet some cheer professionals are questioning whether too many at-large bids are being given out to the event—resulting in scheduling issues, overcrowded venues and a perceived loss of prestige. We spoke with Capital Elite’s Debbie Sprague and New Jersey Spirit Explosion’s Theapia Best to learn more about their opposing perspectives.
Has the quest to make cheerleading a sport finally hit its stride? With the formation of College STUNT Association and STUNT, USA Cheer’s answer is an emphatic “yes.” Designed to meet Title IX requirements, the sport of STUNT follows a four-quarter format focused strictly on athletic and technical skills including partner STUNTs, pyramids, basket tosses, group jumps and tumbling. All teams must perform the same choreography and technical sequences, and there is no crowd-leading element—differentiating STUNT from both school-based and all-star cheer.
Currently, USA Cheer is taking steps to secure STUNT as an NCAA emerging sport, but not everyone in the cheer industry believes that STUNT is a step forward. We spoke with Randy Dickey of ACX Cheer and Kim Gaskin, high school cheer coach and president of New Jersey State Coaches Association, to find out their perspectives.
CheerProfessional explores both sides of the debate on the USASF’s Athlete ID verification and membership system. With the USASF’s implementation of Athlete ID, this year marks the first season that gym owners can print and present a verified roster at USASF-sanctioned events rather than having to show birth certificates as proof of age. Along with more »
CheerProfessional explores both sides of the debate on the USASF’s new tumbling rules for the 2012-2013 season. In March, the USASF rocked the industry with an unexpected announcement of new rules for the 2012-2013 competition season—affecting areas ranging from the age grid to appropriate uniform coverage. Among the most controversial changes were those pertaining to standing more »