We received a call from Helen today, she and her daughter had visited our site a few months ago when she was shopping around for programs for her daughter to work on her cheer tumbling and technique. Helen and her daughter visited many sites in the bay area, other cheer gyms – gymnastic schools, etc in an effort to find the best program for her daughter. Her daughter’s goal was to improve her cheerleading skills – jumps, stunts, etc and improve her tumbling skills.
After visiting a couple of sites, she decided to enroll her daughter in another local program for cheerleading and tumbling classes. Helen explained that after the first month at the other program, they both decided it was not the right fit for them. I asked why, she said “They have a really big facility, everything she wanted to train on. But the class was simple, everyone worked on the same thing even if their skill level was higher – they still worked on basic skills”. Now, anyone who knows us knows we never insult another program, so in an effort to defend the other program that is direct competition with us – I said “Well, many programs focus on excellence of skills before progression. They probably just wanted to make sure everyone had mastered the skills before moving forward”. Helen continued to explain how they had all this equipment and coaches, the kids were constantly tumbling on the trampoline and never working with bases from coaches. She said she met parents who kids have been taking this class for over a year or two and she was very discouraged to see that kids who had been there so long were still working on the basics and not moving forward. The end result, she withdrew her daughter and took her to another program – actually two different programs. 1 program focusing solely on cheerleading skills, the other program was 100% focused on gymnastics/tumbling. Helen explained that lasted only two months. When I asked why, she again explained the cheerleading coach was more like a “fun” coach, just teaching stereotypical cheer moves, nothing challenging, nothing creative. Basic high V, T’s etc. When it was time to work on jumps she explained how to do them. When the kids were constantly doing them wrong, she did nothing to help them improve. Just a lot of patting on the back and good job, never pushing them to excel. Then her daughter was offered a space on the competitive cheerleading team they had. Helen explained that she felt that if her daughter joined their competition team she may get lost in how big the team was. That program explained that large programs are the best because the kids really grow and it just looks better to have a big program. They both sat in on a practice and her mother noticed a couple of girls who were struggling with some skills. The mother asked the parents (they were all enjoying a very large viewing room with wi-fi while their children trained) how long their kids had been with the program. One parent explained her daughter had been with this program for nearly 5 years, the other parent asked said 3 years. Helen said that helped her decide, she said after all those years the kids were still on level 1 and their jumps and tumbling were no where near what she felt kids who trained that long should be.
She want to talk about the tumbling classes. Kids were just doing cartwheels, bridges, etc, everything her daughter already could do. When she asked the program if there was a higher level class they said yes, but she would have to join their gymnastics program not the cheer tumbling. She asked if the coach of the gymnastics program would solely focus on tumbling as her daughter had no desire to learn bars, beams, etc. They said no. She asked why they were told the class caters to the needs of the children, she was told its a group class and everyone has to work from the level of the beginners until everyone was caught up on skills. Once caught up they would all move forward together.
As she went on and on about why her daughter had to stop training at what she thought were powerhouse programs in the Bay Area, I asked “Why did she decide not to enroll her child at our program and why she is thinking about it now?”. Helen explained she was concerned that our facility was not big enough, that we didn’t have all the ropes and trampolines that the other programs she visited had. She was concerned that we only had 3 staffers and that the guest coaches were not enough to make her believe her child would grow. I asked, what changed her mind, what makes her think we would be any better than the other programs she was enrolled in. She proceeded to explain that her daughter had friends at our program. Her daughter was always coming home telling her how her friend landed this skill or that skill. Then she found out that most the kids had only been with our program for less than a year or two. She said that her daughter and her friends practice in the grass at school and her friend would explain to her how to get her jumps better or how to clean up her tumbling. Her daughter asked her friend why does she sound like a coach and her friend said my coach teaches us every way possible to get better at everything. She tells us everything, so it’s like we are learning to coach too. Finally Helen’s daughter talked to the daughter friends and found out what the students were working on in our program and even learned that one child who joined the day she visited was already progressing rapidly. So, with that she decided to come back to our program and enroll her child.
I explained we still do not have all those bells and whistles she was looking for, we keep it basic to keep the program affordable and work hard make sure that all kids grow rapidly but safely. She said, after being at those other programs with every piece of equipment her daughter wanted to train on, she is ok with us not having all that stuff. All she cared about was her daughter getting better at what she loved and she knew we would make that happen.
We share this because we are often approached with these kinds of situations every year. Cheerleaders, dancers, tumblers – its important to explain what you are looking for in a program before joining. Ignore all the flashy colors, bright lights, advanced parent lounge and high price equipment. A big flashy program isn’t good or bad just like a small program isn’t good or bad – you need to look at the big picture. Look at the programs weakest athlete’s, those who aren’t really getting the skills or seemed truly lost. Then find out how long they have been there. Also, watch the coach, see if mistakes are made does the coach try to clean it up (every coach has their own way of coaching, so do not judge their clean up style) or do they just keep letting the kids do things wrong? These are the things you should look at when trying to chose a class or team. Having a child at level 1 for 5 years is like having a child in Kindergarten for 5 years by year three or four they are the best darn kindergartner out there, but that is not a good thing – it means your not progressing. Now, if you want to stay on the same level for five years, that is totally up to you, but most kids and parents do not want to spend years and years of training and money to stay exactly where your at. Don’t worry about the glitz and glam or how many kids are in the program. Remember even the biggest schools and gyms in the world had to start day 1 and build up to where they are today. Imagine if everyone just passed on those programs when they first opened because they were too small or didn’t have to 10,000 square foot facility, they would never have become the amazing programs they are today.
Know what you want, make it clear what your goals are and again look at the athlete that struggles the most – find out how long they have been with the program you are considering. Watch the coach, do they fix or just let things continue to be done incorrectly. That is going to really help you determine if this program is a right fit for you.