by Sammi Wendling, photo by Action Moments

The competition season is winding down. Teams are attending their last competitions, cheerleaders are saying goodbye to their teammates, and tryouts are coming up.

Some cheerleaders are graduating and just took the mat for the last time. Other team members are deciding to not cheer anymore, and others might even be thinking about switching gyms.

If you are thinking about starting All Star cheer, or if you feel like you are struggling to find the right gym location, check out these tips. Picking a gym to cheer for can be stressful, but if you know what to look for, you will have a greater chance of finding a good match!

1. Figure out what type of cheerleading you want to participate in – and be realistic about the level you are currently at.
Do you want to be strictly All Star, or do you want to participate in Rec cheer? These two types of cheer are vastly different, and will give you two very different experiences. All Star cheer is generally more competitive, and does not include game day cheers or routines. Rec cheer can be a more relaxed environment, and many choose it for their first year cheering.

If you do want to compete in All Star cheer, look at the skill level you currently posses. Be honest with yourself! Understand that the level you will be placed on will be based off of your age and abilities, and accept that there is always room to grow!

You also need to make sure that the gym you are looking at has a level comparable to the skills you currently have- and one that fits your age group. If a gym only offers a Level 1 and 2, and you have a solid back tuck, you may need to rethink. Also, if a gym has an appropriate level, but not the right age category, you will have to consider your options.

2. Sit in for a practice, or observe a class.
I believe that the best way to truly understand a gym is through observation. If you are interested in a particular program, talk to the coaches or gym owners, and ask if you can watch a practice or sit in on a class they offer. You will be able to see firsthand how their coaching staff operates, what the athletes are expected to do, and how the gym runs. Being familiar with the gym policies, procedures and coaching philosophy is so important! Observing will let you see if the coaching staff and gym have qualities that are important to you.

3. Take a class from the gym.
Like the last point, complete immersion is truly the best way to get a feel for the gym. Taking a class offers both the opportunity to progress your skills and experience the gym’s training beliefs and core values. Do they place a high importance on technique and safety? Are they making sure you are comfortable? Do they seem knowledgeable, encouraging, and caring? These are all important traits that you will be able to understand through actually taking a class.

4. Talk to the coaches, gym owner, and even other athletes to get more information.
Talking to the people in charge will give you a clear-cut understanding of how the gym operates. Most of the time, owners, coaches, parents, and even athletes will be willing to talk to you and your parents about the gym. Don’t be afraid to ask for a meeting with a coach, the gym owner or any of the staff. This will offer clarity and will hopefully lessen any confusion about the gym. Prepare ahead of time any questions, concerns or comments you wish to talk about. Chances are, you will find out some valuable information!

5. Consider the finances involved.
As much as you wish that money would magically grow on trees, it does, in fact, cost money to cheer. While your parents love you, sometimes a program may just cost too much for your family. Some gyms can be in price range, while others may be over your parent’s budget. Remember to be respectful and understanding about the financial commitment involved, because it is a big part of choosing a gym. And be thankful for the financial support you receive, because without it, you might not be cheering!

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