It’s that time of year again! Yes it is tryout, skill evaluations, team placement, or what ever else you want to call it. It is that time of year where cheer gyms and gymnastic gyms alike, are looking to fill their competitive all-star teams roosters. Whether your are a professional All-Star parent who has been involved for years, or a new parent wanting to get your child involved, here are the top 5 questions to consider when choosing the right cheer gym!

1) How much does it cost?– Yes cheerleading can be expensive, so you need to make sure whatever gym you decide to attend, you have a full understanding of the cost associated with the cheerleading program. On average you can expect to pay between $2000-$3000 per year to do All-Star Cheerleading. Most gyms do a good job of showing the upfront cost of uniforms, competition fees, practice wear, team fees, and some even have one price and everything is included. What most people don’t calculate is the travel cost. Is the gym you plan to attend going to competitions where you might have to fly, or are all the competitions in driving distances. How many overnight competitions will that gym attend and how many hotel nights will you have to pay for. If you are new to this sport, some gyms have half year or regional teams, which should cost less as well as allow you to see if your child is going to enjoy the cheer world. While yes cheerleading can be expensive, it is important to find out what else your child will learn outside of just tumbling and stunting.

2) What lesson will my child learn? They say it takes a village to raise a child, and as a father of two I can tell you this is so true. Find out what your gym’s mission statement is. Do they even have a mission statement? Do their policies and procedures enforce their mission statement? After all, isn’t it just as important that your child becomes a better person? Reality is, most colleges do not give full rides for cheerleading yet, so when your child’s cheerleading days are over, what will they walk away with? Here is a great article on what you should be paying for instead of cheerleading I don’t pay for cheerleading. As a parent you have to trust the people that you are expecting to help to raise your child. What are the values of the owners, what are the values of the staff? Are they good role models? Do some Facebook Stalking! Most people now a days post their life on Facebook, and you should be able to get a pretty good sense on one’s character, by looking at their Facebook post. Steve Maraboli said “You express the truth of your character, with the choice of your actions.” The size of a program is also important to consider when making a decision.

3) How many kids are in your gym? When looking at a gym, look at how many people they have on their competition team, recreation teams, and classes. There are gyms of all sizes from big mega gyms of over 1,000 kids, to very small gyms of less than 30 members. Finding the perfect cheer gym, is like dress shopping! You must find the right size or you and your child will not be happy. Large mega gym have a competitive edge when it comes to competing; not because their coaches are better, but because they have more talent to pull from. Being a part of a mega gym is perfect for those people who are highly competitive and who would rather focus on winning above anything else. The disadvantage is because they are highly competitive, often times your child could get overlooked, or even worse, get moved to a different team mid-season in order to keep the best of the best on the floor. Because of the competitive nature of Mega Gyms, the parents associated with mega gyms are competitive as well, which often causes the gym to loose its family touch. If a family environment is what is most important, then a small gym might be the best choice. Normally in a small gym you will see a strong family environment where everyone supports everyone. If you are more concerned with what level your child is on or if your child will fly, then a small gym is more likely to help you with that. Because small gym are often concerned with loosing kids, they sometimes build their teams around one or two kids that have higher skill levels than everyone else in their program. This means there is more opportunity for your child to make a higher-level team. On the flip side, the smaller gyms normally struggle to be competitive. They often finish last or near the bottom, because they are not what the industry calls a true level team. The other disadvantage to a small gym is kids not being on age appropriate teams. This means because the gym is just trying to fill teams, you might have a 10 year old on teams with 16 to 18 years. While gyms do their best to bond the teams, you normally have older kids saying “I would rather be on a team with kids my ages”, and the younger ones say “it’s not fun because I don’t have any friends on the team.” Placing your child in the right environment is just as important as having a good coach. I don’t know a parent that would take their child to a school if they did not have all the grade levels needed to be successful. When picking a gym make sure your gym has as many of the level teams as possible, this will make sure your child is trained properly and safely.

4) Would you eat at a restaurant with a 33% on health inspection? Have you ever been in a restaurant and seen the health inspection? What if you saw a health inspection rating of 33% out of 100, would you stay? How many below average health inspections would you have to see, before you stopped eating at the restaurant? While cheer gyms do not have health inspections, you can use what I call the “1/3 rule!” to see the quality of the gym. Simply stated did 1/3 of the gym’s teams, place in the top third, at 1/3 of the competitions they competed at? While no gym can promise to win all the time, no gym should lose all the time either. If the gym you are researching has consistently placed at the bottom at every competition, then there is something wrong! Either they have their teams in the wrong divisions, they are attending the wrong competitions, or they simply do not know what they are doing. Yes, there are plenty of lessons to be learned when one fails, but if a child constantly fails, then they will loose the motivation to get better. So do your research, ask the gym owners what competitions they competed at last year, and look up how they finished. After all, would you eat at a restaurant with below average rating?

5) How long have you been doing this? Would your rather see a doctor that has just open his practice, or go to a doctor that has been practicing medicine for 10 plus years? When choosing a cheer gym you need to ask yourself this same question. Every year cheer gyms open up and gyms close down. Every year I read a story about how a gym owner closed their doors in the middle of the year leaving their clients high and dry. With the average uniform cost of $250-$400 and the average life expectancy of any business is about 4 years, yes choosing the wrong gym can be a costly mistake. Of course there are advantages and disadvantages to a new gym. New gyms often will have lower rates to attract more customers, or even offer scholarships to get you in the door. Realize one thing, without revenue, a gym cannot function, so how long will that scholarship last. This does not mean that every start up gym will fail; but there are some important things you should take the time to find out. Does the owner/owners have any cheerleading experience. Did the owner cheer in college or work for NCA or UCA? Most of the cheer gyms that go out of business today, do so because the owner does not have cheerleading experience. All Star directors come and go, staff comes and goes, so if your owner does not have the knowledge to teach the class themselves, you might want to look elsewhere. On the other hand, any gym that has been in business for 10 plus years has a loyal following, a customer base, and a proven track record. This helps you to talk with their clients to see exactly what they like and dislike about the gym. You can also feel comfortable that they will not close the doors in the middle of the season. We all make mistakes, one of the benefits of being at a gym that has been around, is they have already had their growing pains. They made the mistakes, lost customers, and learned from those mistakes. So the questions you need to ask yourself is, am I willing to sacrifice my child’s happiness, as a new gym goes through growing pains?

At the end of the day the way a child gets better is through consistency! If you are constantly moving from gym to gym, then it is hard for your child to build up to that elite cheerleader that we all want them to be. Each cheer gym trains a little different, each instructor uses different terminology to help kids understand. So if your child’s happiness is important to you, then don’t look for gyms that are convenient for you. Instead, find a gym that is right for you!