The Business of Cheer
My daughter has been in all-star cheerleading for going on 5 years now, and I as a cheer mom have learned a lot about the sport of cheer. A part of the sport that I have learned a great deal about has been the BUSINESS side of it. Yes, all-star cheerleading is a youth sport, and it is a large one, but it is also a HUGE business! There are businesses that depend upon the athletes and their parents spending their money to purchase their shoes/clothing/bows/mats/equipment/makeup. . . But the business that starts it all out? What about the GYM that your child competes at? That is a business as well.
I have heard a lot of comments about how some parents are “late in paying” their monthly tuition, or they “forget” to pay something. I get where that comes from – come on, it is just my child’s gym. They don’t need that money! For what I am paying, they have more than enough from the other families paying their portions for me to not have to pay this month or to be a little late with the payment.
That is the furthest thing from the truth! Many gyms are started by former cheerleaders or coaches that love the sport so much that they wish to open their own gym. They don’t look at it as being a “business” venture – at least not until that first year they are operating in the red because of “dead beat parents” or being taken advantage of. Suddenly rent is due on the building/space they rent, the payment for the utilities is due, the credit card payment is due for the card they put the competition fees on, or they were banking on the monthly payments to cover the check written to the choreographer that had come in to choreograph all of the routines, and suddenly there isn’t enough money. THEN it is looked at as a business. Why? Because it HAS to be looked at it that way.
Many parents don’t know all of the money that goes out of a gym each season. Competition fees for an average competition will run a gym $50 per athlete. Now, if you do the math on a gym having 70 athletes compete over various teams (not counting cross-over fees), you are looking at $3,500.00 for just one competition (and if you do six competitions at this rate, the annual competition fees alone are $21,000.00!). This is the price of a smaller competition; if you do something larger, say JAMFest Super Nationals, you are looking at $160.00 per athlete. Taking 70 athletes to that competition – not counting cross over fees again – that cost goes to $11,200.00 for that one competition. These are fees that are not due at the time of competition. Most gyms get an “early bird” price if they pay early, which they pass onto their athletes so they can keep costs down. If they don’t pay the entire fee by that date, they owe more per athlete AND lose money if they are covering the difference. When it goes up $10 per athlete, that is $700.00 additional that is covered. Event Producers (EP) don’t allow you to pay for only the athletes that have paid their tuition on time.
I have learned a lot over the past few years that my daughter has been in all-star cheerleading. I have learned that the gyms are not charging high fees just to make money from the athletes/families that participate in the sport. While the gyms do have to survive and make money to continue, they make very nominal “mark-up” on the product. Even gyms that don’t include competition fees into their costs don’t make a ton of money on what they do. Any business that has to have liability insurance will tell you that. At a minimum of $700 every six months for a brand new gym that can be a huge overhead payment. Rent is also a huge undertaking. You figure that warehouse space at $1 per square foot is going to have you paying about $3,000 per month for rent – or $36,000 per year. Electrical/power is going to run you a couple hundred a month – more in the winter months if you live in a “frozen tundra” like North Central Wisconsin you can pay upwards of $600 (and more) per month. There are more bills, but why bore you with the details – you are getting the picture. Just with the money that I listed, my “imaginary” cheer gym runs an overhead of $64,800.00 – without accounting for paying coaches, basic equipment, property insurance, taxes, water. . . So if this gym charged $1,000.00 per athlete per year and has 70 athletes in their gym, there is $5,200 left for all of those expenses AND to make any sort of profit. It might surprise many to know that there are gym owners that DON’T get paid by their business; they work a full-time job in order to pay their personal bills.
I think there are a lot of things that people don’t look at. All of what I used is hypothetical – not many gyms charge a flat fee across the board for their athletes, and there are some gyms with fewer than 70 athletes, and some with many more. Fact of the matter is, even though this is a youth sport, it is also a business. With any business, there has to be operational overhead, and the fees have to cover that overhead or else the business will not survive. Any parent will know that if you find a place that your child likes, the last thing they are going to understand is why it closed. In this day and age, gyms closing or merging is a necessary reality because of the economic climate. As parents, we shouldn’t be contributing to this. When money gets tight for us, and we are not able to afford things, there are alternatives – finding “sponsors” for your athlete. I heard of a parent getting a couple of local businesses to contribute money towards her child’s tuition so that it could be paid off, and she didn’t have to foot the entire cost of cheerleading. Was it creative? Absolutely! Why I hadn’t thought of that, I will never know. As they say – necessity is the mother of invention.
The point of this is – NOTHING worth having is free. A cheer gym offers its athletes so much more than just learning a skill; athletes learn teamwork, putting forth effort, reward in personal goal setting and achievement, discovering role models and being a role model. . . There is so much that is learned in team sports. For the tuition that is paid, in all honesty, we are getting what we pay for. So make sure that you respect the gym enough to pay it on time.