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.
“We invited all of the powers that be into the group so that they could see what the collective voice was talking about,” explains ACX Cheer’s Randy Dickey, who co-founded the group with Cheer Extreme Allstars owner Courtney Smith-Pope. “When there are 150 comments on a particular topic, it’s clear that it needs attention. We’re not trying to strong-arm or bully anyone; it’s more about learning to listen to customers. Our opinion matters.”
The group started back in 2008 with a select group of growing gyms including ACX, CEA, Cheer Carolina All-Stars, Charlotte Allstars and Rockstar Cheer. Dickey says the group was “fairly low-key” at that point and mainly connected several times a year to share resources, review scoring systems and combine buying power. “We’d work together to get volume pricing on uniforms and hotel rooms,” he explains. It wasn’t until 2012 that the ASGA membership eventually exploded: “When they announced the tumbling restrictions around the time of Worlds, we had 1,000 people show up to our conference call,” remembers Dickey.
Since then, the ASGA has been full-steam ahead—yet stayed true to its grassroots beginnings. The group lives solely on Facebook (outside of annual retreats where members can connect in person), and it’s a free resource for all cheer professionals. “We don’t have LLC or non-profit status; it’s completely funded by Courtney and me and whatever sponsors are willing to chip in,” shares Dickey. “We don’t make a dollar off ASGA, but the beautiful thing is that more and more people are willing to help.”
No topic is off-limits in the lively Facebook forums, from dealing with problematic parents to dirty recruiting to inappropriate coaching behavior. The group is also a place for gym owners to share best business practices and resources, and it has spawned numerous friendships, professional connections and even business ideas (Lark Wood credits the formation of Fierce Connection to his involvement with ASGA).
“I think the best part of ASGA is that people are willing to share ideas and info,” says ASGA member Jessica Lee of Galaxy Elite Athletics. “So much of our industry is keeping everything a secret—this group breaks the mold! People share openly and give honest answers and advice.”
Next up for the ASGA? Quite possibly revolutionizing the event space. Dickey eventually envisions the ASGA hosting its own competitions and recently set up a board of directors to “brainstorm and have a meeting of the minds.” While the group is still figuring out what such an event might look like, the idea is to provide lower registration fees and more regional events to minimize travel costs. “When you see something you don’t like, you have to be the change,” says Dickey. “If I can use the ASGA as a vehicle to create a new or innovative format that is less expensive, we can set the mold for everyone else to follow.”
Overall, Dickey see the missions of the ASGA as education, connection and all-star gym advocacy—giving owners a louder voice throughout the industry and a means of uniting to help each other succeed. “There is so much potential with the power this group is building,” says Dickey. “I think it’s really cool that peeps who compete on the mat come together off the mat to help each other, and ASGA has been the vehicle to create those bonds.”
–Jen Jones Donatelli