choosetherightgym

I was checking out the news and noticed some chatter from families about their gym owner basically ripping them off, using their credit cards without authorization, over-charging them without them knowing, parents lending the gym owner money based on a story that the owner had told them about needing funds for a competition that somehow were misplaced. . .  I read all of this and I shook my head.  Really?  No one noticed this?  This was a complete surprise?  The business owner in me came out with a vengeance and was completely outraged; the parent in me was surprised!

In this day and age of the “World Wide Web”, checking out businesses and individuals is so much easier than in the past.  Is everything on the internet accurate?  No, it isn’t.  But using credible resources and taking some extra steps will insure that your athlete goes to a quality gym and will help with keeping your money with you.  This sport is expensive enough without criminals adding to that mix!

There are so many things that you should be checking out to find the program that is right for your child.  If you are like I was, you have never participated in this sport, and had no idea that this was even a sport in your area until your little child saw them at an event and declared that is what they wanted to do.  Our daughter did that at the ripe old age of four, and it was at our city’s holiday parade.  That was over five long years ago, and she is still going strong in the sport. My husband and I did a lot of checking into things before sending our daughter off to participate in this sport, and writing the checks for the sport.

Where we first looked was with our daughter.  She was four years old; what did she know about what she had wanted to do with her time?  She had also told us she was going to live on the moon with her stuffed kitty Pollen and hang out with SpongeBob, for the love.  So I started out checking prices.  I have to say that now, knowing what I do about the sport, the prices for tuition were CHEAP!  But back in the day, spending $600 for a sport for our child was HUGE!  What if she didn’t want to do it?  What if she tried it and hated it?  We went the route of letting her try it out first.  The program we went with was hosting a “Spirit Day” for athletes (old and new) to take part and try out the sport.  It was $25 and so much easier for us to swallow if she had hated it.  I signed her up, chatted with some of the other parents that were there, asking questions such as what was known about the gym, the coaches, and so on.  I had heard nothing but great things from the parents there, and all of the kids were nice and were so welcoming to all of the new ones that were there.  Our daughter was the youngest, but she also had a ton of personality.  She was not shy by any means, and demonstrated that on numerous occasions for the coaches and athletes there working with her.

If you inquire, most programs will allow you to have your athlete “try it out”.  The gym we are at will allowCouple meeting with financial advisor. athletes to try a practice or two.  That is the part that you want your athlete (especially a younger one) to try because that is what they will do the most of – Practice.  That is the drills, the repeating of sequences and the work, which most find less than exciting.  Competitions are fun (according to my athlete).  She would much rather get the uniform on, get all dolled up, wear the blingy bow, and work the routine for the adoring “fans”.  At four, our daughter did the “Spirit Day” wonderfully, working the entire two hours and having a great time.  That part was a go.

My next step was finding out the names of the coaches.  I had an easier time because I played competitive volleyball and knew the owner of the fitness facility that the program was housed in at the time.  I got the information from the website and I asked my friend about the program.  She explained to me that the program was a wonderful one and that the coaches were very reputable and worked well with kids.  I asked about how the finances worked – when I paid, what was the money going for and such.  She explained that the tuition had built into it the competition fees for events, and that the tuition could be split and paid in installments or all at once.  She also explained that everything was paid to the fitness center, and that her bookkeeper took care of the bills and such as needed.  That was fine for me.  She also explained that I would have to purchase a uniform, as well as some “practice wear” that was specific to the team and certain shoes that would be required for the sport.  The coaches also explained that to me when I signed my child up.

A program is going to be very open and up front about any and all expenses.  When they say that this sport can be an expensive one, they are NOT exaggerating!  This sport is one that is very involved, and there are a lot of things that are needing paying for.  The uniform can run anywhere from $125 to over $700, depending on the program selection.  Any athlete needs proper shoes, and this sport is no different.  It isn’t just going to the store and buying a pair of white shoes; it is investigating and finding the shoes that are right for your athlete.  We were lucky my daughter’s first year because we were able to purchase some Converse that ran about $40.  Shoes can run upwards of over $130 a pair.  Cheer shoes – because of the nature of the sport and what is needed – are very light weight but don’t always offer longevity with the high price tag.  They need flexibility, grip, support, and no rough or blunt edges.  This design type doesn’t necessarily allow the use of a structure or the use of materials that will last a long time.  My child is smaller, and she is getting a season out of her shoes.  The older athletes and the hard tumblers go through multiple shoes in a season.  So just be prepared for that expense.  There are bows, makeup, practice wear, hair product, travel, hotels, food, swag at the competitions, and all of the other things that will be around for your money to be spent on.  Much of it is what you make of it.  If it isn’t mandatory, it is best to pass if you are on a budget.  If you have only one child in cheer, it is much easier on the pocket book.  If you have more, then you might as well think of everything doubled.  We have one child, so for us to spend a bit more on things is rather easy.  If we had another child, I am certain my husband would have cut off our credit line a long time ago!

Speaking of dads, there are males in the sport of cheer, but it is predominately female.  With that comes drama, cattiness and some things that will make you shake your head.  When you find the right gym, you may want to make sure you find one that is welcoming to the dads as well as the moms.  In this day and age there are single finding the gym1dads out there as well that have to work with their athlete being a part of this sport.  The gym we are a part of is very family friendly – moms and dads alike.  There are other moms and athletes that will help dads with competition hair and makeup.  There is even one dad at our gym that I will introduce as a “cheer mom trapped in a dad’s body”.  He is at the gym a lot, and takes great pride in his athletes (he has two girls on three different teams).  He does a lot for the gym as well, and is out there fundraising like the rest.  He goes to every competition whether it is his weekend with them or not.  He does anything for his girls.

You need to contact the Better Business Bureau as well as the city to find out about the business reputation of the gym in question.  Are they delinquent with any payments?  If they lease, has the landlord had any dealings with them?  You can typically check on businesses and owners of businesses via the court system in your state.  They are a matter of public record.  You might have to pay a small fee to get records, but most things you can get the answers if you know how to do the checking properly.  I will tell you that if a gym owner has had money issues in the past, that DOES NOT make them a poor gym.  If the gym owner has had charges for passing bad checks, eviction and/or breaking and entering, fraud, or any other past or pending charges, THAT is something that you may want to be careful of.  I am a firm believer in rehabilitation, but working with the amount of money one does in cheer, it can be very tempting for someone that has had money issues in the past.

While we are on the money topic, you are paying for a service.  If you think the gym fees are too high, find another business.  Don’t complain to the owner, coaches or anyone else.  Event producers set the competition fees; not the gym.  If you want your athlete to truly compete against great competition, you are going to pay higher prices for that opportunity.  The bigger the event, the more expensive it is to attend.  With the entire “stay to play” thing under debate, I am personally waiting to see where that goes.  There have been some gyms with huge numbers that have taken all of the “stay to play” events off their competition schedule, with another huge one (with over 1,100 athletes) stating they will not be doing any for the next season.  If that trend continues (this is a World’s competitive team and one that is considered a “name” in the sport), there may be changes in the trend.  My point of all this – gyms charge for a service that you can get elsewhere.  The quality is a factor, and like anything else, you get what you pay for.  Gyms shouldn’t have to “seek out” athletes to the point of “recruiting” them; if they are good, then they will get athletes.  In my mind, that speaks volumes.  If a gym is begging me to be a part of their program, I am not buying.  I am not about winning all the time, and if all I see are first place and grand champion trophies around, what that says to me is that the gym looks to win and only goes where they know they will win.  Where is the challenge and growth in that?  If that is what is important to you, then you might be looking for that gym; as an athlete, I want my daughter to work for her wins and to grow as she does.

Another tell-tale sign of the type of gym you are at – if you are at a gym that is only older athletes, and there are other gyms in the area, that might most likely point to a program that merely wants to win.  A program should be one that your athlete can grow with, and develop different skills within.  Our gym has a couple of coaches that are phenomenal tumbling instructors (credentialed at level 4 and 5), as well as very talented cheer coaches and dance coaches.  There is versatility offered to families, and the coaches teach everything to the athletes – tumbling skills, stunting skills, dance. . .  When my daughter started, she had a forward roll and that was it.  She is a mental head case away from her back walkover, working the front walkover, and her round off.  There are numerous coaches that are involved in my child’s development.  She has her primary cheer coach, her assistant coaches, her tumbling coaches, and many others at the gym.  Find out what you are paying for – what the service involves.  Some gyms work the full package – tumbling, stunting, dance, and skills.  Some gyms focus on different aspects.  No one way is the “right” way, but what you want for your dollar will help you make the right choice.  If you want your athlete to work on growing in tumbling skills, you want a program that works that into the program.  No one wants their athlete to hit their peak at the age of eleven when it comes to tumbling.  Investigate what is offered.  What are the skills that the coaches work?  How many teams are at the gym?  What levels are they?  What is their feeling on moving younger athletes up?  Does age matter first or does skill?  Finding out the philosophy of the program is going to help you make the right choice.

Research the program.  Speak to the coaches in the program.  Also speak to people in the program if possible.  What are they getting?  Is it what they expected?  Do they enjoy the program?  How many of their children are in the program?  Where did they start out?  These are questions that will show you the quality of program as well as what others think.  Ask around if you are able to as well.  In smaller towns there will be “friends of friends” that will know people that were in the program.  You will also need to filter what you need from what you don’t.  Everyone that has had a bad experience is more than willing to tell you all about it.  Just remember:  There are three sides to every story – side A, side B, and the truth.  It is human nature to slant something to show you in a more favorable light.  Someone with continual issues with their account – did the person make their payments on time?  Did they take advantage of the gym and the kindness extended?  Also be leery of those telling stories second or third hand.  Stories get twisted and distorted as they go, and by the time someone is relaying it to you it might be so regenerated that it is almost opposite what the actual story was.  You want factual experiences, but you want to be sure you are not getting fed lines of crap. finding the gym2

Finally, you are going to want to look at level of commitment.  There are programs that are very flexible with things – if it is for school and graded, they will work with you.  There are other programs that have a very strict attendance policy.  It is a safety issue for all athletes to be at practice so they can properly work and practice stunts and sequences.  The more they miss, the less time they get working on things, the more unsafe it is for their teammates.

The level of commitment is one that is necessary for the family as well.  There are competitions that might have you gone for five days.  There might be flying involved, hotel stays, numerous events to travel to. This is something that (especially with younger athletes) needs commitment from a parent as well as the athlete.  In our house, I travel with our daughter to competitions.  My husband comes to the ones he can, but he is not able to go to all of them due to work.  I also go because I am the one in our house that can do hair and makeup.  I cringe to think about the panic my husband would be in if he had to do a “smoky eye” on our daughter, put on the lip stick, and then do the competition hair.  The man would have a heart attack just thinking about it!  There are those fathers out there that rock the hair and makeup, and still there are those that know the older athletes willing to help out with the hair and makeup of the younger athletes.  It is team work throughout.  But it is important to know the competitions that you will be expected to have your athlete to, where they are, how many days they are, transportation, and so on.  The commitment is heavy the longer the season is, and it is one that families need to do.

Ultimately, use your gut!  If it doesn’t feel right, then trust the gut feeling.  If it is too good to be true, most likely it is.  Ask about the finances and how they are done.  Ask about the number of years in business.  Where did the owner previously coach?  How many years did they coach?  Or are they just the business owners, and they work with coaches?  Why did they start the business?  If they love the sport, that is typically the ones that will have the most passion for the business and will tend to stay around longer.  Don’t be afraid to ask any question, and if you don’t get the answer you were looking for, double check things.  Questions with glossed-over answers are ones that get my attention, as well as those that find out the answer you want and give you that one.  Good business owners do things the way that works for them, and will not let their customers influence how they do things.  If the administration is continually pleasing everyone, I can guarantee you they will be miserable and without a business in a matter of time.  No business is right for everyone, and no one will please everyone.  The program that has a mission statement and can tell you what it is as well as what their objectives are is a business that has been planned out and most likely will be around for a while.  Don’t ever lend a business your money to “get it through” because most likely if that is happening, there is a reason.  Can you imagine the manager of your local Best Buy coming up to you in the check-out line asking to “borrow” some money so they can purchase stock?  If it doesn’t happen at other businesses, it most certainly should not happen there either.  It is a business, and there should be professional standards – from the consumers as well as the owners and operators.  Use your senses, investigate and don’t let a smooth talker take you for a ride.  It could be one much more expensive than originally thought.

 

Co-founder Heart of Cheer

Co-founder Heart of Cheer

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I was checking out the news and noticed some chatter from families about their gym owner basically ripping them off, using their credit cards without authorization, over-charging them without them knowing, parents lending the gym owner money based on a story that the owner had told them about needing...