No Fear All Star Cheer: A Parent’s Guide to Getting Started by Jen Floro
Gallery: All Star Cheer [6 Images] Click any image to expand.
You may have seen cheerleaders on the sidelines at your favorite sporting events energizing the crowd and getting the stadium pumped, but there’s another side of cheerleading growing in popularity along the Emerald Coast that you may not know much about—All Star Cheerleading.
All star cheerleading is a highly competitive and growing sport for boys and girls ages 4 and up that combines gymnastics-style tumbling, dance, jumps and stunting in a two-and-a-half-minute routine set to fast-paced energetic music. Kids compete against other teams based on their age and skill level. They do not cheer for other teams at games or lead crowds in chants, but rather they compete for the love of the sport.
“When my daughter, Skye joined all star cheerleading eight years ago, the thing that I liked most was each child plays an important role on the team that showcases their specific talents—no one sits on the sidelines,” Mandy Snyder said. “When you play softball, basketball or other sports, there’s usually a starting line-up and some kids may not play at all. That’s not the case in all star cheer. In all star cheer, every team member participates and plays a vital role at every competition.”
Team placements for various gyms along the Emerald Coast for the 2016-17 year will happen in May. Locally, there are many options to choose from. Each offers various age and skill level options. Regardless of your child’s current skill level, every child makes a team. The local all star options include ACE Cheerleading Company (with 17 locations throughout the southeast including Ft. Walton Beach, Gulf Breeze, Panama City Beach, and Pensacola), AMPED Elite All Stars in Niceville, Beach Elite Cheerleading in Ft. Walton Beach, Cheer Intensity in Panama City Beach, Cheer Omega in Pensacola, Emerald City Gymnastics in Ft. Walton Beach, Flip Factory in Pensacola, Triple Threat Dance & Cheer in Crestview and World Class Athletics in Panama City Beach.
With so many options available, parents and athletes should research gyms online and visit with the teams and coaches. Talk with the coaches and returning parents, observe a practice or take a class. With tryouts in May, many gyms will have open practices or options to interact with the coaches ahead of tryouts. For instance, ACE Cheer Company is allowing potential athletes to attend some of their team practices during the month of April at no charge.
Beyond the banners and trophies you’ll see when visiting a gym, ask yourself:
How long has the gym had an all star program?
How have the teams and athletes progressed through the years?
What team levels does the gym offer?
How long have the coaches worked at the gym?
Are the coaches certified and to what level are they certified?
How do the coaches work with the athletes?
Is the gym clean and well-maintained?
How many athletes return to the program each year?
What type of classes and clinics do they have to help your child advance outside of regular practice?
“I took an interest in cheer because my older sister did cheer for Bruner Middle School. She started to teach me how to tumble because I was captivated by every single move, twist and flip. I have cheered for two years now and it changes you. It teaches responsibility, time management and discipline. Cheer has taught me to honor victories and failures,” LaDarius Marshall said.
Marshall started his all star career at ACE Cheerleading Pride Warriors in Panama City Beach and now cheers for the ACE Cheerleading Wild Warriors in Jackson, Mississippi, a level 5 Worlds Championship team. Marshall recently threw a very complicated tumbling pass at Cheersport Nationals in Atlanta, Georgia. His team hit a zero deduction, technically perfect routine at the competition. “I hit my most complicated pass at Cheersport this year-- a punch front, round off, full, half twist step out to kick double.”
Teams practice year-round with a focus on new skills throughout the summer and competitive routines in late summer/fall. Teams then typically compete from November through April. Most competitions take place within a few hours of the gym, but may also take athletes to Dallas, Orlando or Las Vegas. Skill levels range from level 1 to 5 for athletes under 18 years old and are based on the athlete’s tumbling, stunting and jump sequence skills.
Holly King, an elite level 5 athlete with ACE Cheerleading Company Pride Warriors in Panama City, likes that she and her teammates can do something most other people can’t do. “We practice as a family and win as a family.” The Pride Warriors will be representing our area in May at the Cheerleading Worlds, a bid-only competition regularly featured on ESPN.
While athletes may move, competitions are a chance to reunite with old friends.
“I love traveling to competitions so I can cheer on my old friends and see how much they have improved. At Amped, we work together as a team to get our stunts up. Teamwork and friendships are so important to me and my team,” Maddie Roberts, an Amped Elite All Stars Krewe of Ruckus athlete, said.
Alyssa Patton agrees with Roberts. Patton is a Junior Surge athlete with Beach Elite Cheerleading. She loves the excitement of getting on stage with all her friends and performing.
Many gyms also offer classes and clinics year-round. The classes can help athletes develop new skills and prepare for school and all star tryouts.
Coach Terry Weeks, a 20-year veteran coach from U.S. Gold Gymnastics and Cheerleading in Destin and Crestview, says, "I really enjoy seeing the kids progress from toddlers in our gymnastic classes into National Champions from our local high school cheerleading programs! We have been fortunate enough to train NCAA cheerleaders from FSU, Alabama, Troy and my favorite - the University of Florida. Go Gators!"
As a traveling sport, all star cheer involves a significant commitment. When considering joining a team, ask about the costs. Typically, there’s tuition, competition fees, uniforms, practice gear and other fees. Ask about scholarships, sibling discounts, male athlete discounts and referral discounts to make the sport more affordable. While it is an investment like most travel sports are, many parents appreciate the role cheerleading has in improving other areas of their kids’ lives.
Emerald City Gymnastics has both a competitive and a performance cheerleading team. This year they competed as a level 2 Junior squad. The all star squad, the Jewels, competed in 3 local competitive events and against numerous regional teams.
“The Jewels are charismatic, hardworking and love the challenge of their workouts. This year’s team traveled to Mobile for the first time to compete at the WSA Mobile and will compete in 2 more events, the Athletic Grand Championships and the Beach Nationals,” owner Jean Lowery said.
During their yearlong commitment, the Emerald City Jewels also enjoy performing in local parades and at events.
Most teams wrap up their seasons mid-April; however, some win regional competitions earlier in the year that have earned them bids to finals competitions. These finals give teams an opportunity to compete against other award-winning top-tier programs. For instance, the Golden Arrows from ACE Cheer Company in Ft. Walton Beach, a Youth level 1 team, received fully-paid bids to both the U.S. Finals and The One Finals this season.
“I like the camaraderie and teamwork that my kids’ teams exhibit,” says Nate Burks, cheer dad of two. “I’ve seen my son’s agility and flexibility improve greatly in cheer which has helped him be a better football and baseball player. They’ve both learned valuable leadership skills that have helped in other areas of their lives.”
Visit these websites for information on all star tryouts, classes and clinics:
ACE Cheerleading Company www.acetribe.com
AMPED Elite www.getapac.com
Beach Elite Cheerleading www.beachelitecheerleading.com
Cheer Intensity www.cheerintensityfl.com
Cheer Omega www.cheeromega.com
Emerald City Gymnastics www.emerladcitygymnastics.com
Flip Factory www.flipfactorypensacola.com
Triple Threat Dance & Cheer www.triplethreatdc.com
US Gold Gymnastics & Cheerleading www.destingymnastics.com
World Class Athletics www.worldclassathleticsllc.net
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Triple Threat Dance & Cheer Jen Floro ACE Cheerleading AMPED ELite All Stars Beach Elite Cheerleading Cheer Intensity Cheer Omega Flip Factory World Class Athletics Cheersport NCAA Cheerleaders FSU CHeer Alabama Cheer Troy Cheer University of Florida Cheer WSA Athletic Grand Championships Beach Nationals Emrald City Jewels