Last year at this time, my now 9-year-old daughter came home and declared that she wanted to be a cheerleader. She had never cheered in her life. None of her friends cheered. She just decided it was something she wanted to do. So, I did what all Type A moms do. I went on social media and started asking my network about cheerleading. Did anyone’s kids do it? Does anyone know anyone? Where do I begin? Surprisingly, it was challenging to get any information about cheer. Google searches turned up lackluster results. One website kept coming up time and again and it turned out to be the place we landed, CNY Storm.
We signed her up for a six-week program called FUNdamentals designed to give her a taste of cheerleading. I figured it was a good way to try it out and see if she really wanted to do it. She was a natural. Flying high and smiling her heart out, she convinced me to let her join a mini-prep level team. I had no idea what mini-prep was or what was to come. I just blindly did it, carried away by my daughter’s enthusiasm.
After a year spent experiencing and learning all there is to know about All-Star Cheer, I’ve learned several valuable lessons. This information is not readily available online from what I could find. For me, it was just something I had to figure out. But, I believe in paying it forward. Here are my 7 lessons learned from the first season of All-Star Cheer.
- Get everything in writing. If you don’t understand the fee schedule or what you are required to purchase or do, ask and ask again. Preferably get the answers in writing so you have them to refer to later. So often I didn’t understand something and I felt embarrassed to ask since everyone else seemed to know what they were doing. Fees are most important. There are a lot of incidentals that are not discussed up front, such as the cost of sneakers, practice wear, makeup, even travel.
- Make an appointment with the owner or manager of the gym and interview them. This is something I failed to do the first time. You need to make sure the gym is a place where you can envision your child and yourself for that matter. You spend a lot of time there and with these people. If you are not comfortable with the staff, or they are not welcoming to you, seriously consider that before joining. Make sure their values align with yours and the vibe is your jam. Plus, the one on one time helps you get answers to all the questions you have without the activity and noise of the gym.
- Ask for references. It’s helpful to ask for references so you can chat with other parents about their experiences at the gym. It helps you gain perspective and avoid any pitfalls later. Parents can tell you what questions to ask and what to look out for, plus they can give you a sense of their own journeys and why they chose the gym for their own children.
- Get a sense of the travel schedule. All-Star Cheer involves some level of travel to the different competitions. Some gyms even have international teams that travel to Canada. Travel is a HUGE expense in terms of not only money but also time. Make sure you know up front how many competitions there will be and where they will be. Also, book those hotels early. If you’re not sure where to book or how, ask. I didn’t ask, thinking I’d figure it out and ended up in different hotels from other families, as well as booking and un-booking when competitions ended up not being “stay to play.” The whole thing confused me and instead of asking someone, I just went along with it.
- Ask how communication will take place. This is key. I can’t stress enough how important communication is in an All-Star Cheer facility. There is a lot that happens between your child’s team and growth as an athlete, fundraisers, competition information, weather closings and more. Make sure you are comfortable with how you will receive information and provide feedback to the staff. Facebook groups are not enough. You need other options, too. Make sure you ask other parents how they feel the communication is. The freer the information flow is, the fewer rumors and issues there are.
- Find out about the training plan for your child. Cheerleading is hard work and involves developing skills that take tremendous time and practice to perfect. Make sure there is a plan for your child to train, not just learn a routine for competition. Find out about classes and other opportunities for your child to learn new skills and make sure they are affordable for you, as well.
- Find a buddy. This is the best advice I have. Find another cheer parent who is willing to help you learn the ropes. I had a few here and there but no one solid to count on. I think it would have helped a lot if I had someone to ask all the questions. I had a lot to learn! It’s always helpful to find someone else who’s been there to help you through it!
Now that I know more about this sport and how things work, I have come to realize that CNY Storm is not the right fit for my daughter and me. We’ve decided to make a move to Core Athletix for the 2019-20 season, a facility headquartered in Rochester, New York, with a satellite gym in North Syracuse. It’s larger overall, but a smaller environment here, which was appealing! Plus, the overall expense is lower, saving us money, which always helps.
So far, we’re thrilled. We started with a personal interview with the manager of the Syracuse facility and tried a few open gyms to make sure it felt right. After only two visits to open gym, a time when you can work on whatever skills you want with the support of a few coaches roaming around, my daughter has perfected her back walkover, learned the front walkover and completed a back handspring with a spot — skills she failed to develop after an entire year at the other gym.
CNY Storm doesn’t include tumbling classes with your mini-prep registration payment; they are extra and it adds up. What’s more, the classes are often disorganized and kids are just doing cartwheels and not truly working on skills. If your child is missing a skill, they end up in a different role for the routine and they never really have the opportunity to learn it. This was disappointing for me to find out. Core Athletix values the skill development and includes tumbling classes with registration. If your child is a flyer, they are required to attend tumbling AND flyer classes. This makes so much sense! That’s why the kids are in cheer — to learn how to cheer! When they learn skills, they do better in competition, too.
What kind of wine goes with learning the hard lessons and paying it forward? One that is reminiscent of education, of course! Liberty School Cabernet Sauvignon is an easy drinking red for pondering these great questions.
All-Star Cheer is a huge time and money investment. It’s one I’m willing to make, given the right facility and management. I’m thrilled to be a part of the Core family and excited to feel nothing but welcomed! Team placements are this weekend. Lucia can’t wait to meet her new tribe! Cheers!