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 »
Fundraising is a challenge all gyms face, but done right, it can be an exciting, memorable experience for everyone involved. For inspiration, we’re interviewing gym owners who’ve found ways to put the “fun” in fundraising. Case in point: Mansfield, OH-based Spirit Ohio All Stars, which runs a Sponsor My Uniform fundraiser. Gym owner Steve Fuller spoke with us about why he thinks it’s something every gym should do.
If what happened in Vegas actually stayed in Vegas, then Greenville, South Carolina’s Rockstar Cheer and Dance might not be where it is today. After all, it was a 2007 visit to Sin City—specifically the Hard Rock Hotel—that inspired owner Scott Foster and his wife, Kathy, to pick a unique theme for their gym that was “different and out of the box,” says Foster.
Out of the jukebox is more like it. Every team at all seven Rockstar gym locations is named after a rock band, and Foster doesn’t discriminate one genre over others. There are teams named for classic bands, like the Small Senior Level 5 Queen and the Large Junior Level 3 Heartbreakers. Then there’s The Rolling Stones, The Beatles, Journey, Nirvana, Poison, No Doubt and the Dixie Chicks. Plus, there’s a team called The Wiggles and a few nods to the 80’s, including Vanilla Ice.
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.
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.
It’s the health trend du jour—everyone seems to be talking about bone broth. And if it’s not on the radar of your athletes and staff yet, maybe it should be. Advocates rave about the drink’s healing properties, and high-profile athletes like Kobe Bryant swear by it. But does bone broth live up to the hype?
Prior to taking the floor for a 2010 competition, former Shine Athletics owner Sydney McBride wrangled her team into the warm-up room where they did a quick final run-through of their routine. Everything was right on schedule, until an unexpected accident occurred. One of McBride’s girls tumbled to the floor, landing on her arm and suffering an open break. The injured all-star cheerleader was scared, in pain and lying on the floor—unable to lift her limb. Someone dialed 911, but it took a full 15 minutes for an ambulance to arrive.
“In those types of situations, when an athlete is in pain, 15 minutes can feel like an hour,” says McBride. “The venue was in a remote area, and there were no medical personnel on site. We just had to sit there with her and wait!”
Fundraising is a challenge all gyms face, but done right, it can be an exciting, memorable experience for everyone involved. For inspiration, we’re interviewing gym owners who’ve found ways to put the “fun” in fundraising. Meet Josh Filiault, owner of Troy, AL-based Xtreme Athletics. For the past four years, Filiault and his team have organized a highly successful zombie-themed 5K run, raising as much as $25,000.
For Pam Duke, owner of Nor’Eastern Storm, recognition as USASF’s 2015 “Small Program of the Year” means everything. It’s validation of her vision, dedication, perseverance and aspirations. The only problem is that she doesn’t operate like a small gym—which just might be the key to her success.
Going into her 10th year, Duke has learned a thing or two about how to succeed in the all-star cheer industry despite living in an area with limited population. Located on the eastern shore of Maryland, an area that does not realistically have enough potential athletes to support a large gym, Duke makes the most of what she’s got…and that’s a lot.
On the surface, it sounds like a great idea: provide a specially designated room where parents can watch cheer practice and see the hard work their kids are putting in. But some gym owners say that introducing a parent viewing area can open doors that remain better closed—and invite unwelcome feedback and drama. So what will work for your gym? We interviewed several gym owners to get their take.
At the start of the 2015-2016 season, we wanted to know: what are your business and team goals for the upcoming year? CheerProfessional polled gym owners and coaches from around the country to find out. See what cheer pros from Ultimate Allstars, ACX Twisters, and more had to say.
Considering a new name, new space or new approach? These changes can shake up your gym and open up new possibilities. We spoke with Allyson Moore, owner of Okemah, OK-based Victory Elite Athletics, about her decision to move to a new city and focus only on tiny/junior teams rather than offering senior teams.
One year ago, Nebraska Cheer Center relocated to a brand-new facility, and co-owners Dusty and Nicki Baker decided to incorporated a pro shop within the space. Says Nicki, “Having the space to do it really motivated us to open the shop and get things started.” Find out how they got the shop up and running in this installment of “Owner’s Manual!”
What does it take to win our “Coach of the Year” competition? In Denise Ginocchi’s case, it was the heartfelt testimony of her athletes, who praised the Beloit, Ohio resident for pushing them to be their best and being generous with her time and effort—but also for having the ability to go from “laughing and hugging” her team to “conditioning with no mercy.”
That determined work ethic is what spurred Ginocchi’s West Branch High School competitive cheer team on to kudos like third place at the 2015 AmeriCheer Internationals, seventh place at Ohio’s state competition, and series grand champion at their local CheerTime competition.
Raise your hand if this scenario sounds familiar: a parent pulls you aside after practice and says, “According to my research, your competition fees are too high.” Chances are, if you’re a gym owner, you’ve been there—more than once. With so much information readily available online, many parents are doing their own due diligence to find out what competitions really cost, but they may not always understand the bigger picture. So what’s the best way to handle concerned parents who research fees online and compare them to the fees charged by your gym?
Considering a new name, new space or new approach? These changes can shake up your gym and open up new possibilities. We spoke with Kristin Perrin, owner of Central, LA-based Central Community Athletics, about her experience taking on a new gym name and two new co-owners. See what she has to say about the changes and how she’s reinvented her gym.
The wildly popular CheerUPDATES Twitter feed started off simply enough. DJ Yeager, then a coach for the now-shuttered Galaxy program, was traveling to the Majors in 2012, and his athletes wanted play-by-play updates from the competition. “I didn’t want to send out a ton of text messages,” says Yeager. “I decided to start a Twitter account instead.” Word spread quickly, and by the end of that first evening, CheerUPDATES accumulated 500 followers.
When hiring new staff, Kevin Spencer of Southern Kentucky Athletics follows the same litmus test as Facebook mogul Mark Zuckerberg, asking himself, “Would I work for this person?” If the answer is no, then the coaching candidate doesn’t make the cut.
Pretty cut-and-dried, but hiring isn’t always so simple. Finding coaches that demonstrate proper technique, are responsible and share the same values as your gym can often prove to be a tall task. So how do you go about staffing your facility with top-notch talent? We picked the brains of some of the best in the industry to get their secrets on coach recruitment.
Chesapeake, Ohio is set on the banks of the Ohio River. At last count, less than 1,000 people live in the tiny town, steeped in railway history. Stuck halfway between the two bridges that connect the town to its neighbor Huntington, West Virginia is Jill’s Tumbleworld. Owned by Jill Greenhill, the gym plays home to the Dreams All Stars and more than 350 athletes, some of whom travel two hours to train. When the girls and boys, coaches and trainers head home after a rigorous practice, they can be seen squeezing one another’s hands three times. Later, there will be a flurry of texts and social media posts that read simply, “Sqx3.”
The conversation about redistributing small gym and large gym numbers to level out the playing field of the all-star industry began two years ago at USASF regional meetings. Today, it has become USASF’s newest initiative for the 2015-2016 season.
USASF will assign gyms in Division I or Division II—previously large gym and small gym, respectively—based on the program’s total number of traditional All Star and All Star Prep athletes. A Division I gym has 126 or more traditional All Star and All Star Prep cheerleaders enrolled in their program, while a Division II gym has 125 or less.
Off-season can be a slow time, but Kansas City Athletic Cheer has found a way to keep up the competitive momentum: stunt charades. “The athletes come up with stunts and act out a theme, like a movie or a favorite summer activity,” explains KCAC owner Johanna Lucas. (Picture a Frozen theme where one stunt group has an “Ella”-esque flyer freeze the other group with choreographed arm motions, or a Brave Little Toaster-themed basket toss.) Adds Lucas, “This gives our girls the opportunity to show off skills that they’ve worked on throughout the year and to come together as a team to try out new things.”
This is just one of many ways in which Lucas and her staff keep their teams engaged, and it shows—KCAC’s program has doubled in size over the past three years.
Running a gym takes stamina, patience, resilience and the ability to multi-task like a superhero. Add a pro shop into the mix and things get even more hectic—and, if it’s managed well—even more rewarding.
Many gyms start pro shops to sell team merchandise and cheer-related items in an effort to supplement the revenue that comes from running all-star teams and classes. Though it can feel like yet another thing to add to an already very full plate, pro shops can be a huge moneymaker and help increase the profile of the gym. It takes physical space (unless the shop is online-only), manpower and the ability to juggle a side business, but for many gym owners, the sacrifices are well worth it.
High school is a busy time for competitive athletes, particularly at the start of junior year when attention turns to college. That vital next step comes with a hearty to-do list: SATs, letters of recommendation, college visits and applications. And if you’re a cheerleader, that list includes another big question: what’s next in my cheer career? While the answer may seem simple (collegiate cheer), the process is not. That’s why CheerProfessional reached out to several coaches to gather a helpful list of do’s for gym owners and coaches alike.
With eight cheer gyms within a 30-minute drive of Beaverton, plus five more for a little extra gas money, it’s no small claim when Oregon Dream Teams calls itself the fastest-growing gym of its kind in the state. The region’s saturated cheer gym market also means that bringing new athletes through the doors is no small feat. So it’s somewhat surprising that Tori and Dan Cotton decided to take a minimal marketing approach when they purchased Oregon Dream Teams during the 2011-2012, letting their product speak for itself. But the gamble paid off: the result was a second location within two years—and twice as many athletes.
With so many business books on the market, how can you decipher between dead air and dead-on? We asked five gym owners to share their trusted tomes they used for building their cheer businesses. Check out our list to find one that will work for you.
The Ultimate Athletics Gems program first launched in October 2008 and is now in its seventh season. Both cheer and dance are offered for the gym’s 45 special needs athletes, along with the opportunity to compete at Cheersport and perform at local exhibitions. CheerProfessional spoke with gym owner Craig El about the growth of their program and his advice for others looking to follow suit.
You know the ones: those gyms who have instantly recognizable logos, unmistakable choreography and/or a name that’s known all over the cheer world. Many of the most successful gyms in the industry get there by cultivating a strong brand that suits their product perfectly. To find out how to build a massively effective brand, we spoke with three gyms who’ve done just that: Maryland Twisters, California All Stars and Top Gun. See our second installment with Tannaz Emamjomeh of California All Stars!
“Begin at the beginning”—a simple concept, but one that works well for coach Jodi Kandl in her work with the all-star cheer teams at Cheergyms.com, including its special needs team, Sparkle. “Every athlete that walks in the gym learns differently, whether they are on the special needs team or not,” says Jodi Kandl.
They say when one door closes, another one opens. In Jessica Moltisanti’s case, the 2009 economic downturn and her husband’s sudden unemployment was just the catalyst Moltisanti needed to open the doors at Zone Cheer All Stars. Since then, Zone has grown from one team of 16 athletes to nine teams with more than 300 athletes. Despite such a meteoric rise, however, Moltisanti never wavered from her commitment to a powerful trifecta: dedication to the sport, an educator’s background and a fierce, former cheerleader’s spirit. Learn more about this rising cheer entrepreneur in our candid Q&A.
Late uniform delivery, missing music, and flaky vendors, oh my! If any of this sounds familiar, you’re not alone. Choosing a qualified vendor for uniforms, music or choreography can be a lot like speed dating—there is much information to process in a short amount of time and, even if you are hopeful about the relationship more »
You know the ones: those gyms who have instantly recognizable logos, unmistakable choreography and/or a name that’s known all over the cheer world. Many of the most successful gyms in the industry get there by cultivating a strong brand that suits their product perfectly. To find out how to build a massively effective brand, we spoke with three gyms who’ve done just that: Maryland Twisters, California All-Stars and Top Gun. See our first installment with Tara Cain of Maryland Twisters!
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.
Kathy Penree still vividly remembers the life-changing conversation she and her longtime friend Elaine Pascale had back in 1996. Both former cheerleaders, she and Pascale were chatting about the business of all-star cheerleading, as well as their love of coaching. World Cup All Stars owner Pascale saw the writing on the wall—and suggested that Penree more »
When CheerForce owner, Becky Herrera, logged onto the ASGA Facebook page this fall, she discovered a plethora of posts about a company that was using existing cheer logos to make doll clothes without the gyms’ permissions. This was familiar territory for Herrera, who’d previously discovered the CheerForce logo being used on bows and other apparel—without more »
When Midwest Cheer Elite owner Tanya Roesel calls a pizza place near her Ohio gym, chances are, it’s not to order a pizza—it’s to make a deal. She regularly contacts local pizza places, including franchises like Pizza Hut and Domino’s, and asks the general manager to consider doing a cross-promotion. If they’re willing, Roesel drops more »
2014 was a big one for Spirit of Texas—at the Summit, the gym placed third in Youth 3 and first in Senior 3. In addition, they snagged three silver medals at Worlds, and their coach Krista Godbee was appointed Coach of the Year by USASF. As this season shapes up to follow suit, Spirit of more »
There was no time to batten down the hatches. It was business as usual July 8, 2012, at Fredericksburg, VA-based Cheer Fusion. While coach Mandi Spina and her senior Level Four co-ed Dream Team members practiced double downs, the sky turned ominous. The rain pelting the building had shifted sideways, sending a warning through the more »
As a gym owner, dealing with drama is often part of the job description—but bad or event toxic behavior from your athletes, team parents or coaches can make life difficult not only for you, but everyone who is part of your gym. CheerProfessional spoke with cheer professionals who’ve dealt with disastrous behavior to find out their wildest stories—and how they fixed the situation. See if anyone from this cast of characters sounds familiar, and see how to deal.
For the third year in a row, CheerProfessional tapped three of the industry’s cheer “leaders” for a spirited panel discussion on our industry and its future. See what Midwest Cheer Elite’s Tanya Roesel, CheerGyms.com’s Morton Bergue and JAMZ’ David Sims have to say on the hottest topics affecting our industry in part two of our roundtable.
For the third year in a row, CheerProfessional tapped three of the industry’s cheer “leaders” for a spirited panel discussion on our industry and its future. See what Midwest Cheer Elite’s Tanya Roesel, CheerGyms.com’s Morton Bergue and JAMZ’ David Sims have to say on the hottest topics affecting our industry in part one of our roundtable.
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.”