In addition to all the great content we bring cheer professionals in our quarterly print issue, you’ll find plenty of original exclusive content right here at TheCheerProfessional.com.
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 »
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!
In recent years, there’s been a major trend in the all-star cheer industry of large gyms either buying out or lending the use of their name to smaller gyms. In many instances, it appears to be a win-win situation: the larger gym is able to expand to more cities and grow its brand, while the smaller gym receives more credibility and business support. CheerProfessional talked to the owners of three cheer gyms who are giving franchising a try—and reaping the benefits. See what CNY Storm owner Kathy Penree has to say.
For years, cheer professionals have made the call for a massive scoring overhaul—and this season, the event producers have answered. This year, two brand-new scoring systems will be introduced to meet the need for a new approach at events. “Recently, there has been a push from coaches to unify scoring across the industry,” explains JAM Brands co-owner Dan Kessler. “For many years, scoring was different between event producers, and coaches were having to change their choreography and routines throughout the season.”
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 ACE Cheer Company, the colors of choice are bold reds and blacks, the teams have names like “Comanches” and “Warriors,” and the music is carefully chosen to appeal to both sexes—all part of a finely honed marketing strategy to attract male athletes. “Our marketing and imagery for the coed program is masculine,” says ACE’s J.R. Zeringue. The approach continues on the mat as well: “We always offer high fives and change our verbiage to ‘dog,’ ‘dude,’ or ‘man’” to make male athletes feel more comfortable.”
Platinum Athletics doesn’t mess around. The small Midwest gym represents its region with steely resolve—and the industry is taking notice. The 2013-2014 season was the emerging program’s best one yet, thanks to coach Kyle Gadke being nominated for USASF’s “Choreographer of the Year” award, its Level 2 team placing eighth at the Summit, and the gym’s second full paid bid to Worlds in three years. (To date, Platinum Athletics is the only coed team from Missouri to receive a fully paid bid.)
In recent years, there’s been a major trend in the all-star cheer industry of large gyms either buying out or lending the use of their name to smaller gyms. In many instances, it appears to be a win-win situation: the larger gym is able to expand to more cities and grow its brand, while the smaller gym receives more credibility and business support. CheerProfessional talked to the owners of three cheer gyms who are giving franchising a try—and reaping the benefits. See what Midwest Cheer Elite owner Tanya Roesel has to say.
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.”
When Shiela Hajjar Perry, owner of Saucier, MS-based Cheer Zone Athletics, saw an opportunity to bring cheerlebrities Gabi Butler (California All Stars) and Kiara Nowlin (Baylor University) into her gym, she jumped at it. “Gabi posted on social media that they were going through Interstate 10 and hosting some clinics,” she says. “One of our kids tagged me in the post and said we should get them to come. I thought it sounded like a great idea.
Her instincts were right—the clinic ended up being a fantastic revenue booster for the gym, and a great PR tactic.
Between long practices and mounting anticipation, the months leading up to a big competition can often be riddled with stress—especially for younger athletes who are new to the sport. That’s a big part of the reason Cody Woodfell decided to introduce a “Big Sister” program at his Sunrise, FL-based gym, Cheer Factory. “The payoff is so late in the season, and the older girls really help the younger ones through that,” said Woodfell, who pairs more seasoned senior athletes with Level 1 newbies. “It’s all about encouragement and camaraderie, and [the program] works really well.”
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.
“If you switch to our gym, we’ll make you a flyer.”
“If you switch to our gym, we’ll give you free tuition.”
If these promises sound familiar, you’re not alone—many gym owners have lost athletes to other gyms practicing questionable recruiting techniques. Some people will say anything to convince an athlete to switch to their program, and the offers can be hard to resist. Though healthy competition among businesses is normal, the desire to attract new athletes by any means possible can sometimes cross the line into inappropriate behavior.r
For Forestville, MD-based gym Crimson Heat, “spirit” has more meanings than one. The faith-based gym builds both moral foundation and athleticism, with Jon Rolle acting as both Travel Cheer Program Director and head coach of its Worlds team. Calling on more than 15 years of experience, Rolle has taken Crimson Heat to Worlds for the past four years—reaching a peak of ninth place in 2012. Recognizing the spirited approach Rolle embodies as a coach and encourages in his athletes, Rolle was nominated by USASF for 2014 Coach of the Year.
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?
The lights dim, as a local gym’s newest squad takes the floor to show off their newly acquired tumbling skills, jumps and stunts. An MC introduces the group as AC/DC’s “Back in Black” begins to rail from the auditorium speakers. A crowd of teenage athletes holds up signs and begins to cheer wildly for individual members of the squad. Someone proudly yells out, “That’s my mom!” and a team of parent cheerleaders begins to perform.
Anyone who’s read our “Starting a Gym 101” series on theCheerProfessional website knows that launching a new all-star program can be a massive undertaking—from setting up the logistics to securing the right insurance to attracting clients. To find out what it really takes for a successful start-up, we spoke with three cheer professionals who’ve just completed their first year at the helm. See how TNT Cheer’s first season went…and what they learned.
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.”
We have been doing charitable work since the day our doors opened. At Cheer World, we are a family and we believe in being life coaches first and cheer coaches second. To that end, we band together as a family and get involved in our community in any way we can. Anyone can coach a back handspring. We pride ourselves on working on many other aspects of the kids, not just the athlete. We do it because it’s the right thing to do—both for our involved gym families and the community. Does volunteering at a festival bring attention to our program? Of course.
8:00 am: I do a devotional every day when I wake up; that’s really important to my life, because I’ve been given all these gifts. Everything I do, I want people to see Christ in me.
8:15 am: One of the first things I do is take care of social media stuff: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram. Messenger is a new one that’s kind of nice. I’m pretty active on social media, especially for my age! About three years ago I decided to post a tweet once a day, either inspirational or informational, about a skill. I’ve been doing that for three years—it’s called #debtips.
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.
Anyone who’s read our “Starting a Gym 101” series on the CheerProfessional website knows that launching a new all-star program can be a massive undertaking—from setting up the logistics to securing the right insurance to attracting clients. To find out what it really takes for a successful start-up, we spoke with three cheer professionals who’ve just completed their first year at the helm. See how Ideal Cheer Elite’s first season went…and what they learned.
“If you haven’t got any charity in your heart, you have the worst kind of heart trouble,” funnyman Bob Hope once quipped. It feels good to give back, but that might seem like a tall order if your weeks are filled with classes, meetings and competitions. Still, finding time to do philanthropic work can benefit your gym and, most importantly, your athletes.
Many gyms realize this and manage to make giving back a priority. In fact, according to Cheerleading.org, more than half of all cheer teams currently participate in community charity events.
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.
Anyone who’s read our “Starting a Gym 101” series on the CheerProfessional website knows that launching a new all-star program can be a massive undertaking—from setting up the logistics to securing the right insurance to attracting clients. To find out what it really takes for a successful start-up, we spoke with three cheer professionals who’ve just completed their first year at the helm. Check out our first case study on Pittsburgh Pro All-Stars.
Amanda Dauzat wasn’t always a cheerleader who prayed. The founder of Denver, CO-based Youth Alive Cheer didn’t discover a spiritual connection with cheerleading until she attended a small Christian college. There, through the guidance of her cheer coach, she developed a relationship with the divine. Now Dauzat offers other youth the opportunity to combine athleticism with faith. “The way I view faith-based programs is like any other,” said Dauzat. “We are a cheer program that wants to teach [our students] life lessons. We choose the Bible to be our guide.”
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.
Like the splitting up of once head-over-heels newlyweds, the parting of ways in business is often tricky, sad and more than a little complicated. Add in the complexities of an all-star cheer business, and breaking up can get downright sticky. So what happens when one of the partners of an all-star gym wants to retire or pursue other passions? Legal experts advise not waiting until one person is ready to retire—or wants out—to discuss what will happen with your beloved gym.
Troy Hedgren landed in the all-star cheer world by chance, but he nailed it. Today he’s one of four co-owners of the rapidly growing Pacific Coast Magic, but the former gymnastics coach first started his entrepreneurial career at age 19 with the Tumblebus, a mobile gymnastics school for pre-schoolers. In 1995, he sold the venture to open his first gym, Gymnastics 4 Kids, with his wife Keri. While sponsoring the local Pop Warner cheer team at a competition, the Hedgrens ran into one of Keri’s former gymnastics students, whose parents clued them into the competitive all-star world of tumbling, stunting, dancing and flying.
The good news: Private lessons can certainly add an extra layer of perceived value for gym clientele. The bad news: at times, offering privates can also add more hassle for gym owners between scheduling, pay structure, and other considerations. However, in the end, most gym owners, coaches and parents agree that private lessons offer an array of benefits that make it worth the effort. Find out how gyms around the country handle this popular revenue stream.
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.
As home to the premier F5, the Maryland Twisters are no strangers to high expectations. Pressure from industry leaders, judges and fans to “keep delivering and over-delivering” can be intense, but gym owner Tara Cain insists that championship titles (of which they have many) are not the end goal for a Twister—it’s having fun. “At the end of the day, the kids sacrifice two to three days a week at practices, all year long, because they love what they do,” says Cain.
When Randy Dickey, owner of South Carolina-based ACX Cheer and head of the All- Star Gym Association, unexpectedly had to fly a photographer to an event, the exorbitant price of the airline ticket stunned him. But when he pulled out his credit card, he solved the problem—without spending a dime. Ever since Dickey first signed up for the American Express Platinum Business Card in 1999, he has been covering gym expenses and reaping significant benefits. “We run everything in the business through the credit card,” says Dickey.
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.
ICE began in 1998 with Darlene Fanning renting space from a local gymnastics facility for a program of approximately 60 kids. According to Fanning, the program “quickly outgrew the space” and two other facilities before landing in their current Mishakawa location in 2007. In 2009, ICE expanded to Fort Wayne, and in 2011, the program opened a third location in Aurora. This year, a big part of the gym’s growth has been the reintroduction of ICE’s dance program—we asked owner Darlene Fanning to share the details.
For our “Go, Go Gadget!” review feature, we asked the athletes at Oklahoma Twisters to road test the MyoSource Cheer Kinetic Bands. Designed to improve jumps, flexibility and overall performance, MyoSource’s Cheer Kinetic Bands are leg resistance bands geared at ages seven and higher. They come in two sizes (for those under and over 110 pounds). The product also comes with a flexibility stretching strap that can help ease stress on joints and provide a practice tool for scorpions and heel stretches.
Intrigued by our story on mentoring and networking and its growing importance in the all-star industry? Hear testimonials from three cheer professionals who swear by making the connection: “I make it a point each year to attend as many conferences as I can. These conferences allow me to learn from others’ experiences and ways they’ve more »
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.
Creating a thriving program is often the impetus for starting an all-star cheer gym—but what happens when that accomplishment generates considerable demand? How do you answer the call to open another location? CheerProfessional asked three gym owners who took the leap and expanded based on their own initial success.
Learn how CheerForce, Inc. tackles the challenge while maintaining the integrity of their brand.
Could the addition of a dance program be something to cheer about at your all-star gym? The sector has certainly seen significant growth in the last five years, with the 2008 debut of the Dance Worlds and many gyms introducing dance teams. USASF dance committees were formed in 2011 to help foster that growth, and 25 event producers now give bids to Dance Worlds. Being part of this emerging trend comes with both risks and rewards for any gym. Though a dance program can diversify your offering and/or boost your bottom line, it’s important to consider elements like scheduling issues, staffing and costs.
Jamie Gumina distinctly remembers being on the bus with her team and about to leave for JAMFest Super Nationals in Indianapolis five years ago. Energy was high, as the team had worked hard to prepare for the event—but that’s when she realized her base was missing. “We called her, and she said she couldn’t come because she was sick,” Gumina recalls. It was a huge setback for the group from Blue Springs, MO-based Gage Center, but cheer director Gumina got to work quickly.
When Jam’s Athletics owner Elizabeth Marsh and her teams arrived at the Cheer Nation Nationals, they were looking forward to the opportunity to compete; in fact, one of the Jam’s Athletics teams was preparing for their first-ever performance. Instead, they got a heartbreaking surprise. “The day of the competition, we came in, and there were no mats, pretty much nothing set up,” says Marsh, who was approached by a rep for event organizer Halee Yates to see if they could borrow Jam’s Athletics mats and spring floor at the last minute. This was not only an unusual request from an EP, but a tall order.
It may sound like just another trendy buzzword, but “volun-tourism” is a very real trend. A 2008 study by Tourism & Research Marketing found that an estimated 1.6 million volunteer tourists take “ethical” holidays where they have an opportunity to experience another culture while performing philanthropic actions. If you’re thinking about joining their ranks, get inspired by these three inspiring stories from cheer professionals who’ve been there and done that:
It’s not uncommon for parents to become close when their kids cheer together. What is unusual is for that friendship to blossom into a full-fledged, profitable and fun business. For Wanda and Gary Whipkey, Caryn Hale and Laura Dudley of Tallmadge, Ohio, starting American Elite Cheerleading in 2005 made sense because of their combined enthusiasm and experience volunteering at the all-star gym where their daughters trained. They just weren’t the ones who came up with the idea.
Creating a thriving program is often the impetus for starting an all-star cheer gym—but what happens when that accomplishment generates considerable demand? Many business owners answer the call for expansion and go on to open multiple locations. To learn more about this approach, CheerProfessional asked three gym owners who took the leap and expanded based on their own initial success. Learn how the Stingrays tackle the challenge while maintaining the integrity of their brand.
5:00 or 6:00 am: I get up early in the morning to work out before the girls wake up. (I have two little girls: 3-year-old Ruby Jane and 1-year-old Eleanor.) 90 percent of my workout is straight running—right now, I use the treadmill because it’s been so darn cold [in Kentucky], but I’ve done a couple marathons and a bunch of half-marathons and smaller races. Then I shower, drop Ruby Jane off at pre-school around 8:30ish and come to the office.
When JAM Brands co-founder Dan Kessler tried cheerleading for the first time at the University of Louisville after two years of playing collegiate soccer, his friends told him he was a natural at stunting. But he still had to learn the techniques from the ground up: a toss hands, then a toss hands extension, then a liberty, then a top hand. “[Stunting] was a new athletic skill that I had to conquer and try to perfect,” he says. “That addiction of getting better kept me going to practice and working.”
Considering getting incorporated? We asked legal expert Trippe Fried to give us the skinny on several types of corporations that may work well for gym owners: Subchapter S-corporations (“S-corp”): Profits and losses flow through to the owners. There are some requirements to qualify, the key one being that all of the owners must be U.S. more »
At this stage in her cheer career, Jackie Lindom does it all. Besides managing the Twisters Elite Cheer & Dance Gym in Lake Villa, Ill., Lindom also coaches, helps with choreography for various teams and judges for Xtreme Spirit and several rec competitions. (Oh, and she is just 21 years old.) Having been a cheerleader since age five, Lindom made the transition from competitor to coach/gym manager shortly after competing at Worlds in 2010 and has continued to expand her role—inside the gym and out—throughout the years.
As a new gym owner, looming legal and business matters can flummox you—among them the decision whether to file as an LLC or corporation. Infiniti Elite Athletics owner Cari Ann Bulzone says filing as an S-corp was one of the first things she did when she took over the program from its previous owner in 2012—and it was a learning experience every step of the way. “It’s not something to take lightly; gym owners should definitely do their homework,” says Bulzone, who used LegalZoom as a resource and to facilitate filing.