COACHING ABROAD: Find out what it’s
really like to go global from those who know. PAGE 38
EAST CELEBRITY PAGE 12 ELITE SMART COLLECTION PAGE 31 STRATEGIES
DECODING THE GYM HOPPER
WINTER 2016 Volume 4, Number 1
S ES QU E I N N I HI C I TI ST
6 Editor’s Letter 8 Photo Gallery: Holiday Spirit!
THE COMMU N I T Y
WINTER 2016 PAGE 04 WWW.THECHEERPROFESSIONAL.COM
INDUSTRY INSIDER 10
Spotlight: Jamie Parrish
Spotlight: East Celebrity Elite
Game Changers: Kentucky Reign
Candid Coach: Tiffany Love Anestis
DOWN TO BUSINESS 31 Smart Collection Strategies
18 Closing Your Gym 24 Gym Hoppers
34 Holiday Cheer
27 Drug Testing
37 Owner’s Manual: Carlos Onofre
MIND, BODY & SOUL 40
SPOTLIGHT ON: JAMIE PARRISH
Get the real deal fun facts about Jamie Parrish himself
Earn your Bid to the Cheerleading Worlds at
April 2-3, 2016 â€˘ Ocean City, Maryland
Happy new year to our CheerProfessional readers! As 2016 kicks off, energized gym owners and coaches everywhere are motivated to make this the most successful year yet. And, as the premier trade publication for the all-star industry, we’re here to help. In this issue, we’re tackling two of the biggest issues that plague gym owners: gym hoppers and deadbeat clients. On page 24, find out what makes athletes switch gyms—and how to stop them in their tracks. And on page 31, hear tried-and-true bill collection strategies from cheer pros at Midwest Cheer Elite, New York Icons and Fury Elite Allstars, and find out how to make this the year that you’re not stuck chasing payments. Looking for inspiration in this new year? Look no further than the “Industry Insider” section, featuring colorful profiles of Jamie Parrish, East Celebrity Elite and Kentucky Reign. See what makes Parrish’s brilliant mind tick (and how he created some of his “greatest hit” routines for teams like California All Stars) on page 10; on page 12, find out how two gyms combined for double domination as East Celebrity Elite. You’ll also get inspired by Kentucky Reign owner Jessica Bugg Smith and her fearless approach to running her gym on her own terms on page 14. And if one of your new year’s resolutions is to travel the world, you’re in luck. Opportunities to coach and teach clinics abroad are more plentiful than ever, and we’ll show you how to get them on page 38. Hear from Oklahoma Twisters owner Craig Hallmark, former Cheer Athletics coach Jerry Ozuna and more on how they’ve parlayed their expertise into jobs in Finland, Australia and beyond. 2016 is also a great time to re-examine your business—what’s working and what’s not. For some gym owners, that can mean closing their doors or finding another person to take over. In “The Last Chapter” on page 18, we speak with three gym owners who made the difficult decision to close or sell their gyms and get their advice for others considering the same path. Other topics we’re covering in this issue: industry-wide drug testing, the real deal with energy drinks, sister gyms and so much more. Remember: the conversation doesn’t stop here— come join us on Facebook, Twitter (@cheerproco) or at our website: www. thecheerprofessional.com. The cheer industry is on the move 24/7…and we don’t want to miss a beat! Cheers, Jen
Jen Jones Donatelli
Managing Editor Assistant Editor Copy Editor Editorial Contributors
Web Developer Art Director Photography/Art Contributors
Jen Jones Donatelli Stephanie Moss Topher Christianson Lisa Beebe, Molly Blake, Renee Camus, Dina Gachman, Christina Hernandez, Arrissia Owen, Nicole Pajer, Alicia Thompson Ben Phillips Matt Call Barry Goley/Milestones Photography Erin Denny/The Studio on Main
Office Services Coordinator
Publisher Sr. Publishing Consultant
Chris Quarles Helen Cohen
Cheer Professional, LLC 170 East 83rd St., Suite 7B New York, NY 10028 Phone: 917-597-0065, 321-960-8610 www.TheCheerProfessional.com facebook.com/cheerprofessional twitter.com/cheerproco Advisory Board Karlette Fettig, Indiana Elite, Noblesville, IN Cherokee Greendeer, Green Bay Elite, De Pere, WI Jeff LeForce, Twisters, Norman, OK Cookie Jamison McGowan, Maximum Cheer, East Greenville, PA Courtney Pope, Cheer Extreme, Raleigh, NC Pam Puckett, The Cheer Center, Grove City, OH Roger Schonder, Stingray All Stars, Marietta, GA Sarah Smith, Prime Tyme Athletics, Hendersonville, TN Orson Sykes, Twist & Shout, Edmond, OK Karen Wilson, All Star Elite Cheer, Diamond Springs, CA CheerProfessional™, Vol. 4, No. 1 is a trademark of and is published quarterly (four times a year) by CheerProfessional LLC, 170 East 83rd Street, suite 7B, New York, NY 10028; telephone: 917-597-0065; fax: 212-988-0621. Please address all editorial and advertising mail to: 170 East 83rd Street, suite 7B, New York, NY 10028; telephone: 917-597-0065; fax: 212-988-0621. Manuscripts, drawings and other material submitted must include a stamped, self addressed envelope. CheerProfessional™ is not responsible for loss or damage to any unsolicited material. Subscriptions are free to qualified recipients. Single copy sales: $8.00 in the United States. Send address changes to CheerProfessional™ Circulation, 170 East 83rd Street, suite 7B, New York, NY 10028; telephone: 917-597-0065; fax: 212-988-0621. Nothing appearing in CheerProfessional™ may be reprinted either wholly or in part without permission. All rights reserved. Copyright © 2012 by CheerProfessional LLC. Printed in the USA. All advertising is subject to approval before acceptance. CheerProfessional™ reserves the right to refuse any ad for any reason whatsoever. Prior publication does not constitute any agreement for continued publication in any form. Advertisers certify that the descriptions of the products or services advertised are factual in all respects, and CheerProfessional™ assumes no liability for the content of the advertising, guarantees made, or the quality/reliability of the products or services offered in such advertisements. Information provided by advertisers is provided on an “as is” basis without guarantee of any kind, either express or implied, including but not limited to the implied guarantees of merchantability and fitness for a particular purpose. CheerProfessional™ expressly disclaims any and all responsibilities for any and all direct, indirect and consequential loss or damage, included but not limited to loss or damage to property or for loss of profit, business, revenue, goodwill or anticipated savings resulting or arising from the information contained in the advertisements appearing herein. The instructions and advice presented are in no way intended as a substitute for professional training. If you engage in any exercise program presented herein, you agree that you do so at your own risk, are voluntarily participating in these activities and assume all risk of injury to yourself. CheerProfessional™ disclaims any liabilities or loss in connection with the exercises and advice herein. Stock photography by ©iStockphoto.com/TheCheerProfessional & ©Shutterstock.com
What better place to get in the holiday “spirit” than an all-star gym? We asked programs around the country to share their festive photos with us.
At Cheer Fusion’s annual Christmas party, the Cindy Lou Who hairdo contest is always a big hit, as well as owner Mandi Spina’s rendition of “Twas The Night Before Competition” read to the athletes. Ugly sweater contests and present-wrapping games are all part of the traditions at Fierce Allstars’ team parties. (PS. So much fun that they even had a party crasher this year!) Staffers at RPM Athletics were rewarded with a night out in a Hummer limo to dine at Kooky Kanuck, as well as an hour massage at Massage Envy. To give back to their community, the athletes and staff at Diamond Athletics made bagged lunches and holiday cards to distribute among the homeless in Camden, New Jersey.
STEAL YOUR PROFITS?
Turn to page 34 to find out how other gyms are using the holiday season as a way to boost business!
THE COMMU N I T Y
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amie J parrish
IGHT by Molly Blake
This in-demand choreographer has all the right moves for helping teams hit big.
competition routines that include skill assessment, stunts, pyramids, dance grooves and, of course, the out-of-the-box ideas that have teams in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Florida, Nevada, California and elsewhere coming back to him repeatedly. The cost? $3,500. Imagine a pyramid of cheerleaders that morphs into a human poker player dealing blackjack, Las Vegas-style. How about a pyramid of cheerleaders whose uniforms suddenly transform into hockey jerseys in a straight up homage to a hip-hop dance crew, or an all Lady Gaga-themed routine? Luckily, cheer fans don’t have to imagine such curious and jaw-dropping spectacles. Jamie Parrish makes them happen. “We had seven girls in the air—three became the table and one dealer,” says Parrish of the quasi gambling-themed routine for the California All Stars Aces. These and other memorable routines have solidified Parrish’s spot in the choreography history books. And his exacting schedule proves it. “I’m booked for summer 2016,” says Parrish, 44, who choreographs full
Always “44 eight-counts from beginning to end,” Parrish’s routines are often inspired by off-season travels to acrobatic competitions in Europe and Cirque du Soleil performances. Otherwise, Parrish calls on his many years as an Atlanta gym owner to develop routines that athletes will nail—every time. While some choreographers expect “the tumbling or talent fairy to show up in a month’s time,” Parrish takes a realistic approach to working with teams. Says Parrish, “I’m not going to create a routine that I hope the cheerleaders will hit.” His motivation is simple: “I don’t want anyone to fail. It’s not good for business.” And it’s not just all-star cheerleaders lucky enough to sweat out the fruits of Parrish’s labor, although gyms do account for about 50 percent of his clientele. High schools, colleges including Boston University, TV
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shows like “Vampire Diaries,” MTV and Universal Dance Association have all enlisted services from Parrish. Not bad for a former University of South Carolina cheerleader. But long before college cheerleading took hold, Parrish was turning cartwheels and dancing through the fields on the Ty Ty, Georgia peanut farm where he grew up. “I was the Billy Elliot of South Georgia,” says Parrish. “My creative IQ is pretty high.” And while he had every opportunity to fuel his dance and imagination outlet, many children aren’t so lucky. Reading about cuts to many school arts programs saddens Parrish. That’s why he lends his skills no charge to a few area high schools—in the hopes that the next fashion designer or Broadway play performer will uncover his or her creative muse. Harnessing creativity is also why, in April 2014, Parrish sold his successful Atlanta gym, Georgia Allstars, to embark on a full-time choreography business. “My coaching career ran its course,” says Parrish, who had grown weary of the alltoo frequent gym hopping among athletes hoping for nothing more than a coveted spot on a Worlds team. Those who bounce
He adds that dancing has taken a backseat when it comes to all-star routines, eliminating a lot of opportunities for athletes who may not be the strongest tumblers or stunters but who contribute to the overall routine on a different plane.
of what they wear, drink, eat and Tweet about, and Parrish knows this. Fortune 500 clients want their attention—and Parrish knows how to get it. “Reaching the female market requires finesse,” says Parrish.
But at the end of the day, there’s one thing that keeps Parrish—once voted ESPN The Magazine’s Top Cheer Choreographer— going, and that’s working with teams to help them succeed. “Cheerleading is in my heart,” he says.
So Parrish is putting more energy into pursuing his other passion, a creative think tank of sorts called Bold & Dash. The company offers various marketing services (including choreography, of course); one event in New York City included 300 dancers and 100 life-size lizards. Bold & Dash also provides insight into two powerful groups that Parrish knows intimately: teens and millennial moms. After all, spending hundreds of hours the last two decades working with cheerleaders and their mothers is practically a study in anthropology. Cheerleaders are influential in terms
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among high-profile gyms are missing out and burning out, says Parrish, on the less tangible but hugely important benefits of being part of a team long-term. “[They’re] all Worlds and winning,” he says.
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CELEBRITY ELITE by Nicole Pajer
A strong showing at the 2015 Worlds has the industry buzzing about this emerging all-star powerhouse. Sometimes a merger can be the kiss of death for a business. That, however, was far from the case with East Celebrity Elite, which formed after East Elite and Celebrity decided to join forces in 2009. Since the union, the program has become stronger than ever.
“I think the thing that really helped us get to the next level is that we had different ways of performing,” says Cassie Bienvenue, one of ECE’s four female owners. “East Elite at the time was very technical; Celebrity was more focused on choreography and entertaining the audience,” she explains. So when the two
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forces came together, it combined the best of both worlds. East Celebrity Elite’s Tewksbury, MA location is now considered to be the program’s home base. Following the merger, they expanded to two additional gyms in Central, MA and East Windsor, CT.
One such success was their Medium Coed Level 5 team winning 2015 Worlds and also being invited to compete at the Majors. Their Medium All-Girl and International All-Girl teams had strong Top 10 showings at Worlds as well. In addition, ECE’s Junior 5 team won the 2015 Summit and their senior dance team had back-to-back Dance Worlds victories. “I think people were interested to see what would happen after we merged,” says Bienvenue. “There are plenty of teams that we’re competing against at Worlds with twice the athletes that we have. I think anytime you become successful and you’re a little bit smaller, it does generate some excitement about your program because everybody roots for the underdog.” ECE’s Cheryl Pasinato says the program’s growth spurs from the gym’s determination to move their athletes forward. “We’re always trying to get our kids to reach their highest potential, in a positive way,” she explains. “Sometimes you go to competitions and you see these
teams that don’t always do well and the coaches are punishing them, making them run laps… Our feeling is no kid goes on the mat and says, ‘Hey. Let’s have a really bad performance today. Let’s not even try.’ That’s not what happens. They are human. So we try to prepare our kids to do their personal best.”
In addition to the gym’s thriving pro shop, the program has also experienced success building up their prep teams. “We’ve been pretty fortunate that we’ve had a lot of interest in them over the past few years,” she adds. Between the gym’s five locations, they’ve averaged 8-10 prep squads per year.
The program’s owners work to foster a family atmosphere and positive attitude in their gyms, regardless of what level of athletes they are dealing with. “We don’t put more emphasis on Level 5 than we do on other levels. Whatever we do for one team, we do for the other team,” adds Pasinato.
ECE also credit a lot of their achievements to their staff—particularly their tumbling instructors, who have received a lot of kudos on the competitive front. They also laud their coaching staff, including Amy Jones (who passed away in 2012 and is remembered through the Love You Mean It charitable fund) as being part of their success story. “She really brought our dance program off the ground from, like, nothing to winning Worlds,” explains Pasinato. “I think she made a huge impact on the industry as a whole.”
Looking toward the future, ECE is currently focused on two areas, one being recruiting new athletes to the sport and developing their skills at a young age. But these kids don’t always have to be allstars. “Obviously we’re most known for the competitive cheerleading program, but we also try to offer a lot of classes and train high school teams,” explains Bienvenue. “Not every parent can have their kid in all-star cheerleading and we’re very aware of that, but every kid can take a class or come to a clinic now and then. So we’ve done a lot of marketing to attract kids from the surrounding community,” Pasinato adds.
Winning Worlds this year has really energized the ECE owners and has inspired them to continue to build up their already successful brand. “We feel confident that we don’t have a great single team, we have a great program,” says Bienvenue. “And the teams that feed into our Worlds teams are super strong. So we feel like the future is bright.”
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In addition, the gym’s Londonderry, NH location stayed on to continue to service the local school teams that trained there, as did the Oakdale, CT facility. From there, the staff merged and the program really began to shine.
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by Arrissia Owen
With an innovative business model and a fearless attitude, Jessica Bugg Smith’s gamble on Kentucky Reign is paying off.
Some might say Jessica Bugg Smith is doing everything wrong at her Danville, KY-based gym, Kentucky Reign All-Stars. Somehow though, things are going very right. Instead of going the group-classeswith-additional-private-coaching route, Kentucky Reign primarily offers oneon-one time with coaches, with all-star athletes practicing together as a group
a couple of hours a week. It was a risky move, but one that has paid off. Since making the change in August, Kentucky Reign’s roster doubled within months. “It has been amazing,” says Smith, a Danville native. “Our kids are getting more one-on-one attention, and we are able to get results faster that way.”
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Because many of the gym’s athletes are in multiple extracurricular activities and come from busy large families, flexible scheduling works out in everyone’s favor. Their times can move weekly, depending on schedules and coaches’ availability. It is not uncommon for Smith to list those openings on Facebook in the middle of the night, and by morning, every hour is
Plus, in a group class, a child may only get about seven minutes of one-on-one attention from his or her coach. With the gym’s new model, kids are getting results quicker and learning new skills more rapidly—and that’s what is bringing in new faces. And for all-star newbies, individual lessons are less intimidating, she adds. Yet Smith acknowledges that this sort of business model wouldn’t work for all gym owners. After all, it took her a while to find the right formula. Smith first struck out on her own after moving back to Danville upon giving up on a career in finance after the financial crash of 2008. With a supportive husband, $30 and fond memories of her years coaching cheer while putting herself through college, Smith set out on her new path. She began by renting space at the local Salvation Army and offering tumbling classes. It wasn’t long before she needed her own gym, so Smith rented a sparse room 30 minutes away in Nicholasville, a busier suburb of Lexington. “It looked like Shrek lived there,” she jokes about the gym’s humble beginnings. When it came time to move into bigger digs again, she struggled with what direction to go in, literally. Her head told her to stay in Nicholasville, which has a population of 30,000 compared to Danville’s 16,000. But her heart wanted to be back home, working within the community she has so much pride for because of places like Centre College, which hosted vice-presidential debates twice during the last decade. Her beloved small town is also home to the annual Kentucky State BBQ Festival and a place that Money magazine rates as one of the best retirement destinations in the U.S. With a tie score between her head and heart, Smith made a conscious decision to wait for a sign. It happened at a local burger
joint, like so many things do in small-town America. A former student who Smith had not seen for at least a year approached her and asked why Smith’s classes had to be all the way in Nicholasville. And although Smith could think of a few reasons, like how others in the industry assured her she could do better in a bigger city, she knew that would not resonate with the little girl staring at her over French fries. Smith decided right there and then that reconnecting with her own community and the kids growing up there–offering a smaller, unique opportunity closer to home–was what she should do. But even with the level of enthusiasm her All-Star athletes have for competitive cheer, Danville is not a competitive cheer town like many Kentucky locales. Football is the “Friday Night Lights”-style main event. Everything revolves around pigskin. And inadvertently, Kentucky Reign All-Stars has become part of that rotation with football players seeking out the gym’s coaches for conditioning and cross-training. Many players report improvement on the field thanks to their cheer conditioning, bringing more males through the doors. As Kentucky Reign’s emerging business model began to present itself due to demand, Smith began taking notes on Courtney Smith-Pope’s success at Cheer Extreme. “They have been an inspiration,” Smith says. “They were pioneers who showed that (All Stars) can be done in a small area.” Trusting her instincts, Smith decided to go the private-lesson model almost completely at that point, dropping recreational classes and open gym hours in response to demand. The focus shifted solely to intense training for competition and preparing athletes for college cheer teams (as well as helping them acquire funds and scholarships to pursue their degrees in the process).
needs change, her gym changes—even the name when it didn’t fit the gym’s personality anymore. Change is always a gamble, Smith acknowledges. But paraphrasing Kenny Rogers, the world’s favorite gambler, she says the secret to surviving is knowing what to throw away, even if it’s what works for everyone else. The shift was a boon for her coaches, who began to make their own schedules and thereby set their own salaries, paying a small percentage of the tuition to Kentucky Reign. The gym, which has little overhead thanks to its no-frills, highfunctioning facility (read: small, sparse, succinct) covers bills mostly through all-star tuition. Since the area’s median household income is around $38,000, coaches work closely with parents to help offset those costs through fundraisers. At the core, Smith’s business philosophy echoes that of her mentor, Pride Cheer Metro St. Louis’ David Briggs. Here’s how she sums it up: “It is my and my coaches’ jobs to find a way to make our kids successful on their terms,” Smith says. Whether it’s by accommodating their schedules or helping them pay their way, she wants to keep the sport accessible for everyone. Briggs also instilled in Smith that there is no success without successors: “He mentored me and now I mentor others.” Part of that mentoring for Smith is matchmaking. Within the gym, a twotiered, family-style system exists to sustain the feeling of unity, even with more one-on-one coaching hours logged. Each of the older students is assigned a “Little” during a ceremony, which in turn determines what family they are a part of. “It’s a big deal,” Smith says. “There is a lot of thought put into it. It creates a very good system and teaches older ones how to lead others. That is something they will need to do later in life.” And Smith is just the person to lead the way.
The key to the gym’s success, according to Smith? Adaptability. As her clientele’s
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spoken for. “In our modern time, we have access to almost anything 24/7,” Smith says. “So we adapted the traditional model to work for modern parents.”
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Pictures: Barry Goley/Milestones Photography and Erin Denny/The Studio on Main
She does it all for the love of cheer—just like the rest of her industry-famous family. The Love family is practically cheer royalty—maybe gymnastics guru Debbie Love has visited your gym, or you’ve seen cheerlebrities Whitney and Britni Love kicking butt on the mat. But how well do you know Tiffany Love Anestis? As Total Cheer’s gym manager, Love Anestis coaches eight teams from Tiny to Level 5 at the Bowling Green, KYbased program (where her husband also serves as tumbling director). She has also conducted clinics all over the world with her mother. The concept of family is clearly important to her and present in all her work, even as she embarks on a second career in sonography. What was it like growing up in such a cheer-oriented family? Love Anestis: Awesome. My mom homeschooled all of us. We would wake up and do all our [schoolwork] and were done and to the gym by noon—where we stayed until 10 pm every night. We played a lot on the trampolines, especially me and Whitney and Britni. We were always at the gym. That’s the only thing we knew. It was definitely a childhood that was very special, and my mom and dad worked hard for us to have that. That’s the kind of childhood I want my future kids to have.
How do you create a family bond at Total Cheer? Love Anestis: Once a week, they do team bonding, whether it’s sitting down and sharing goals or putting something in the Positive Box. Each team has its own Positive Box, and each time they come into the gym, they have to put in something positive about their day. It doesn’t have to be about cheer; it can be about their family or school, anything. Then they have to write something positive about practice before they leave. We encourage positivity, and the kids respond to that. How does your gymnastics background make your teaching unique? Love Anestis: I don’t think a lot of people have the experience in gymnastics that I do, competing in Level 10 gymnastics and learning skills on the different apparatus. I think that sets my teaching apart from other people. We focus on technique of the little things—not just straight legs and pointed toes, but the angle to hit in a roundoff, the stretch through the shoulders in a back handspring. All the little things that are so minute make such a big difference in tumbling.
to all over the place. My husband and I moved to New Zealand and worked at an all-star gym for six months, and we loved it. We were in Montreal at a cheerleading clinic for a week, which was different because they spoke French, but they learn the same as the kids here and have that same passion and love for the sport. It’s so cool to go to a gym and have them be accepting of you and want to learn everything that you have to say. How has your mom, Debbie Love, been influential on your career? Love Anestis: Yes, I love to listen to my mom. She’s my biggest inspiration and my mentor. I love to sit in her classes, even though I’ve heard them a million times and could probably regurgitate anything that she has said in them. I love to watch her teach and take everything that I can get from it. Even though I’ve heard it a million times, I always get something out of it. It’s pretty awesome. Once you stop learning, that’s when you fail your students, because nobody ever knows everything. Nobody ever is the god of cheerleading. There’s always something to learn and once you stop learning, that’s when you’ve let your kids down.
What’s it like doing clinics around the world? Love Anestis: We’ve been with so many gyms, from San Francisco to Louisville WINTER 2016 PAGE 17 WWW.THECHEERPROFESSIONAL.COM
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TIFFANY LOVE ANESTIS
D OWN TO BU SI N ESS
T S A L E H T
R E T P A H C
ebe by Lisa Be
Thinking about closing or selling your gym? Get candid insights and tips from three gym owners who’ve been there. WINTER 2016 PAGE 18 WWW.THECHEERPROFESSIONAL.COM
Angel Phyre All Stars
After running Angel Phyre All Stars in Larkspur, Colorado, for three seasons, owner Jessica Maynard was focused on the future. She moved into a huge new facility, bought an $18,000 spring floor—and then took a good, hard look at her financials and decided it was more practical to close the gym than to start a new season. See what Maynard had to say about how everything changed so fast, and what she learned along the way. Why did you decide to close Angel Phyre? Maynard: I started Angel Phyre with $5,000. I didn’t go into debt at all, and we started out really tiny. We did really well, and things started progressing. But for a cheer gym, you need a lot of space—at least 4,000 square feet of open space with no poles—which is hard to find since we’re located in a small town. We ended up moving last December, and I made that move knowing it was going to be difficult. We needed to bring more kids in, because the rent went from $2,500 to $4,600. At the time, I was still debt-free, and that’s how I wanted to stay. We did really well this last season, before we closed; we got a lot of first [place wins]. We were just getting into our groove of knowing what we needed to win and molding our kids into the way they needed to be. Then we hit a block, and I looked at my significant other and said, “I’m so stressed out about making bills and because I want to make sure my coaches get paid.” I was paying myself maybe $500 a month and working 60 hours a week. I really wasn’t coaching anymore; instead, I was doing paperwork and email and dealing with parents and all these things. Our new facility was so pretty—everything was about angels— but I just kind of hit that point where it was like, “I’m not going to go into debt for this. I can sell all of my equipment and make money, and then I can be done.” I thought Angel Phyre was a forever thing, but it was the right business move to make. I was so stressed out and putting my family in a state of financial insecurity, and I didn’t want to do that. It was a really horrible weekend; I cried pretty much the whole time. We went over the pros and cons about 3,000 times. We closed the gym on a Monday. The next Monday, I had sold all of my equipment and was completely out of the building. It was really quick. It was a big life change, and
it’s very sad. I miss it so much, but I don’t miss the stress of it at all. How did you tell your athletes? Maynard: I sent my coaches an email and text first, so they weren’t blindsided. Then we sent an email out to everyone else, and my phone blew up. How did you deal with parents who were stressed out about the gym closing? Maynard: When I sent the email out to everybody, I didn’t tell them exactly what had happened. I just said that it was a choice that we made based on some situations and where the gym was going. I said, “If you have more questions, you can personally call me.” I didn’t feel like it was important for all of them to know. Parents called me crying, like, “Oh my god, are you okay?” The majority of the parents were very sweet and understanding. I know some of the parents are mad, but other than that, it was easy, because I had a set idea in my mind that this was what I was doing, and I was fully committed to this decision. How did you sell the equipment so fast? Maynard: I used the ASGA Facebook page. I put up the spring floor and sold it in like four hours. The people came from New Mexico in a 26-foot U-Haul, and we pulled it apart, put it in there and they were gone.
she’s not coaching at all now, and for her, it’s been devastating. I probably should’ve given them more of a heads up, but I didn’t really know until the day before. What are you doing now? Maynard: I decided not to work for a couple months. I coach high school, which is not a lot of money, but I love it. I’m not sure what I want to do next. The owner of WSA, Darren, contacted me and asked me to apply to be a judge. So I did that, because I would love to travel and get to judge cheer. At this point, I’m just kind of enjoying life and figuring it out. What advice would you give other gym owners in your situation? Maynard: The biggest thing is to make sure that you’re able to live with the decision you make. If you’re okay with having some hard years and going into debt, that’s going to be a life change just as much as closing. Also, look at your financials and be really realistic. How much money is going out every month? How much money is really coming in every month? Where is that money going? Be honest about what the numbers actually are.
Were you able to help anyone who worked at the gym find a new job? Maynard: One of my coaches was planning on moving at the end of the season anyway, so I knew she was going to be fine. I heard one coach was mad, but she got another job and I gave her a reference. I did anything I could do, but they also weren’t making enough money that it was going to be significant. I paid them $8/ hour for four or five hours a week; they all had other jobs. Emotionally, it was more upsetting for everybody. One of my coaches is one of my good friends, and
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THE LEADER THE TRENDSETTER THE ORIGINAL
Contact Motionwear today to get started with your Motionwear Cheer Representative.
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Elite All Stars
Brianna Metcalf ran Elite All Stars in Melbourne, Australia, for five years. The gym was going strong, but after experiencing some personal struggles, Brianna was too overwhelmed to keep it running. Learn about the chain of events that led her to sell the brand. Why did you decide to sell Elite All Stars? Metcalf: I went through a very surprising divorce last year, after 11 months of marriage. My husband had part ownership of the company, so when he pulled his finances out, it meant that I was in debt, and I was still paying off our wedding. I also just lost my mother to cancer, so it was a bad time. I kept the gym doors open, and at the end of the year, I was kind of having a nervous breakdown. I didn’t know what to do anymore. I reached out to another local gym owner in tears. I’d grown my gym from nothing to being state champions. This gym owner said, “How about you come train here? I’ll pay you to coach them, and they’ll still be Elite, but they’ll be under our roof. At the end of the year, we can reassess what you want to do.” I’d be getting paid, but the kids would pay tuition to him and not to me anymore. He had me write an email to all the parents, and most of them were completely fine with it. But he ended up doing a dirty thing. He signed my students up and then didn’t give me any work. He just put my students in his squads. So when I went to sell my company, I had no students. I didn’t want to put the effort back into rebuilding, so I put an ad up in Gumtree and in the Facebook groups, and said, “I’m looking at selling the brand. It wouldn’t be with students—it would be just the brand.” That meant it could function anywhere in Australia. I put it at a really cheap price. I think I advertised it about $5,000, and it came with all of my uniforms and my website. They got the rights to the Facebook, everything. People were really hesitant and skeptical about it. They didn’t understand how much money goes into starting up a company. A lot of dance schools were interested in purchasing the brand so they could run it within their business, but everyone wanted it for cheaper. I was just like, “It’s ridiculously cheap already.” I think I valued everything I had at around $70,000 or $80,000. I ended up selling it to a lady who had no experience with dance or cheerleading for just under $4,000.
After the sale, did you stay involved at all? Metcalf: I was like, “I’m happy to help you start it. I’ll run a few workshops for you to get students interested. I’ll coach for you to start off with—obviously, you have to pay me for that, but I’ll help you start the program.” It’s being run in Melbourne, but in a different location from where it was originally. Are you still coaching with her? Metcalf: No, it was too hard. I was so used to being in control of the company. After about eight weeks, I said, “I’m worth more than what you’re paying me, I’m spending a lot of money getting here, and I’m not getting the support I require in terms of things like parents. I’ve told you how I recommend you do things. At the end of the day, it is your call.” I felt like the best thing to do was walk away. It’s something that I knew what was going to happen selling the brand. I’ve lost the control. I can’t dictate what happens. What did you do with the gym’s equipment? Metcalf: Before the sale, I was running out of a gymnastics center, and we were in the process of purchasing a warehouse. We had purchased a few crash mats, a TumblTrak and [other equipment] in our colors. When we made the deal with the other gym, I sold the crash mats to them. I sold some of the flexi mats to dance gyms. When I tried to have it included in the package, people didn’t really want it. I had offered it to the lady who ended up buying the brand, and she said “No,” but now she’s asking, “Do you know anyone who has them?” Are you still involved in the cheer world? Metcalf: I run a lot of workshops. I help coaches learn the rules and qualifications, so they can do their exam and become credentialed. I also help kickstart programs. I’ve helped about six dance schools in Melbourne start cheer programs and run tryouts. I am looking at next year starting to run some more classes myself, simply because I’ve had a lot of demand for it. For a long time, I was saying no, but
I’m in a better place now where I feel like I can. Do I regret selling Elite? No. I feel like it was the right decision, because it had too many memories associated with it. It was a company I ran with my ex, and I think fresh starts are good. What advice would you give other gym owners who are thinking about selling? Metcalf: Do a lot of research. I think the biggest advice is to know the value of your brand and how much you’re selling [for]. Obviously, you’re not going to be able to sell it for exactly what you spent, but put a figure on it that you know it’s worth. My company was national champions, and I could’ve valued it at a lot higher than what I did. I just wanted to get rid of it, and I lost so much money. Now I realize there are agents who can sell your brand for you; they give you a good idea of what the market will be like, as well as how much you can get for the facility or just the brand. They can liaise with people who are interested. It takes the pressure off of you.
I think the biggest advice is to know the value of your brand and how much you’re selling [for].
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CASE STUDY 3
Texas Spirit Cheer Company During the 11 years that Matthew Rhody owned Texas Spirit Cheer Company, he was spending most of his time running the business. He felt like he didn’t get enough time on the floor with his athletes. He closed his gym so he could get back to his first love: coaching. Why did you decide to close Texas Spirit? Rhody: I wasn’t spending as much time on the floor with the kids as I was doing paperwork, chasing money and doing everything that I needed to keep the business open—like registering for competitions and USASF and all that other red tape that’s now part of the process. It just got to a point where I wasn’t as happy, because I wasn’t spending time with the kids. Was it something you thought about for a while? Rhody: It was probably a two- or three-year process, where I started going, “Maybe this isn’t what I want to do.” I [ultimately] partnered with a buddy of mine who owns Spring Creek Athletics. She didn’t have time to run the program, because she was busy running the business. She enjoys doing that, and I enjoy doing this side, so it was kind of a perfect match. That’s why we went ahead and made the decision. It was a big decision to close the gym. How did you make the announcement that you were closing? Rhody: We discussed that at length, but the end result was basically an email. To be able to get everybody in the gym at one time was not really a feasible option between all of the tumbling classes and all of the cheer squads. Email wasn’t my favorite option, but it was the most feasible option to [reach] everybody at one time. We knew as soon as word got out, it would spread like wildfire, which it did. We wanted to make sure that everybody had the opportunity to get the information in a written format. What about the staff? Did they get more notice? Rhody: I pulled them in and gave them a bit of a heads up. The gym that we ended up joining forces with is also a local gym, so a couple of my staff came with me, as well as numerous kids. One was a new mom, so she decided to stick with being
a mom. Another one decided to go in different direction. Did your athletes seem to understand your decision? Rhody: I did not get a ton of negative feedback. I, of course, got a number of emails that asked, “Where are you going?” Any time you make a change like that, somebody’s going to be upset. If there were any major issues, I didn’t know about it, and parents usually aren’t shy about letting you know that they’re upset. They may have seen the writing on the wall, too. They knew that I wasn’t in there as much as I wanted to be. What did you do with your equipment and uniforms? Rhody: We basically sold it. Uniforms, individuals bought those; we had surplus, but we ended up donating them. The equipment was sold fairly quickly—we probably underpriced it a little bit. We have a few things left that we’re trying to get rid of before the end of the year, but for the most part, it’s a done deal. The main way we sold it was on ASGA’s Facebook page—people snapped it up from there. I gave first dibs to the gym [where I was going]. The majority of it was taken pretty quickly through the awesome community we have through ASGA. Once you decided to close, how long did the process take? Rhody: Technically, it’s ongoing, since we still have our bank accounts open through December for tax purposes. As far as the building itself, we were done once we gave notice. All of the paperwork and everything else to officially close down the business is also still an ongoing process. We could’ve closed out sooner than this, but we’re trying to sell those last pieces of equipment so we don’t have to carry it over to another year of taxable income.
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What advice would you give other gym owners who are considering closing their gym? Rhody: Go with your heart. That’s what I ended up following, because my true desire is to be working with kids and coaching, not dealing with the difficulties of running a business. It is hard. Everyone’s like “Oh, I’ll open my own business.” It’s not quite as fun as everyone thinks it is. As gym owners, you wake up and go to work. You stay until it gets done. You chase people who owe you money until it’s paid. You fill out the forms until they’re filled out. I’ve got a lot of friends who own a cheer gym and love it, but my background is coaching. I’ve been doing it for 27 years, and that’s where I get my joy. I didn’t get to do that looking at a computer screen or on the phone chasing money. There’s nothing I would’ve changed over the 11 years. We changed a lot of kids’ lives—it was a labor of love. We’re getting ready to go to our first competition tomorrow with the new gym, so that will be a little weird, but I’ve got a lot of kids that have been with me for years. That’s a big plus.
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by Renée Camus
DECODING THE GYM HOPPER
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by Dina Gachman
Want to stop gym hoppers in their tracks? Find out the common reasons for making the switch—and learn how to better keep your clients.
In the cheer business, “gym hopping” is considered a four-letter word. Whether it’s an athlete that wants to trade up to a larger gym or a parent who wants her child to be a featured flyer, families make the switch for a variety of reasons—but often find that the grass isn’t any greener on the other side. And for gym owners, it can result in loss of income, bad blood with clients and issues preparing for competition. So how can gym owners recognize the signs early on and improve retention? Get some ideas from gym owners at Rockstar Cheer, Myrtle Beach All-Stars and Power All Stars. Reason #1: Position Sometimes athletes are unhappy with their position on a team, especially if they feel they’ve been “demoted” from flyer to base, for example. Frequently, it’s the parent, not the child, who feels slighted. Carlos Realpe, head coach at Naples, FLbased Rockstar Cheer explains: “The parents who drill it in their kid’s head that flying is the only position available for them, those [kids] are the ones that we see fail in this sport.”
Solution: Speak to your clients and try to change their mindset. “It’s not about your own performance—it’s about the team’s performance and how you contribute to it,” Realpe says. Debunk the idea that flyers are the stars of cheerleading, and stress the value of all the positions, whether bases, tumblers or front spots. Unlike other sports, there are no alternates; every athlete is invaluable. They must love the sport itself, not their position in it. Reason #2: Placement Similarly, athletes may be disappointed when they think they’re on a team that’s beneath their abilities, but again, it’s usually because of the parents’ persuasion. “Very rarely do you have an athlete go, ‘I want to leave because I feel I’m higher than this level,’” Realpe says. “And [when that does happen], usually those are the athletes that really are higher level.” Solution: Realpe’s philosophy is “program first, team second, individual last,” and he works to maintain that philosophy. Know what your program can offer, and stay within it. “From a safety standpoint, putting kids in teams [where] they don’t belong automatically increases your injury rate,” he says.
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If the athlete is truly advanced and you don’t offer a team that suits their skills, it’s best to let them go. They’re bettering themselves, and it’s better for your program to maintain its structure. Reason #3: Other Gyms Cindy Cumbo’s all-star program is based in the high-tourist area of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Entrepreneurs make assumptions based on the lucrative activity during tourist season and don’t consider the reality of the rest of the year. As a result, shiny new gyms with assumed reputations pop up frequently, attracting Cumbo’s athletes—but many can’t maintain their business. At four years old, Cumbo’s Myrtle Beach All-Stars is the oldest program in the area. Solution: Cumbo says simply, “You have to find your niche.” Keep your focus, whether it’s all-star prep, Worlds teams or tumbling classes. Speak honestly with clients about your program and what you provide, and they can choose what’s best for them. “Everybody has a cheer gym DNA,” she says, “and my gym DNA may not fit with yours.” Whether established or new, it’s important not to make promises you can’t keep. “When you’re giving people
Reason #4: Unhappy Parents As mentioned, it’s often the parents, not the child, who want to switch gyms, because they feel their child deserves more. While children are resilient and bounce back quickly from setbacks, tenacious parents make emotionallybased decisions about their cheer future. Tori Ballard, assistant head coach of Bowling Green, KY-based Power AllStars, lost two athletes on their parents’ insistence. The fathers were close friends, so though the idea to leave initiated with one, the other followed suit. He was disappointed that his daughter didn’t have a full yet, and no explanation or comforting from Ballard would pacify him. “I think they were made promises from another program that their daughter would fly and have a full,” Ballard says. “And now she’s on a lower-level team than she was with us, and they both front spot.” The father’s irritation rubbed off on the daughter, who grew impatient with her
own deficiency. When a presumed rival teammate achieved the skill before she did, she stormed out. Solution: In cases like this, it’s best to let them go. “I feel gym-hopping is a petty thing to do, and people who can do that shouldn’t be with us,” Ballard says. “We’re very family-oriented, and those people are like poison.” No matter what reason for jumping ship, all three coaches say cheer parents feel entitled to more. Ballard suspects that parents no longer teach the values she grew up with: commitment, loyalty, stick-to-itiveness. The problematic gymhoppers go from gym to gym until they get what they want, sometimes bringing your program down in the process. When in doubt, it’s often better to let them go. As Realpe says, “If you’re going to contribute to me disliking the sport I’ve been successful at my whole life, then I probably don’t want you here.”
Money, Money, Money Missed or delayed payments can be hints that something is wrong and signal a potential gym-hopper. Be sure to have a clear contract, dictating specifically what’s owed, how much and when. That way, if delayed payments lead to a collection agency or to small claims court, your gym is protected. “If you have a clear written contract, you’ll be set for getting your money one way or another,” says Realpe. Consider including a quit fee, and be firm about consequences: no payment equals no class. “If someone is financially invested, then they’re less likely to leave,” Cumbo says. And gym owners can also have each others’ back when it comes to preventing this type of behavior. For instance, Realpe has an agreement with other local gyms for when new athletes come calling. “If they leave other gyms with a balance, I don’t take them,” he says.
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unrealistic expectations, that’s when you have loyalty issues,” adds Cumbo.
UNDER THE INFLUENCE by Nicole Pajer
Is it time to put your staff to the test? Find out why many gym owners are calling for industry-wide drug testing. Imagine this scenario: you shell out thousands to hire a highly recommended choreographer to come into your gym and teach your squad a new routine. Your athletes show up, eagerly awaiting the opportunity to learn an array of skills to show off at their upcoming competition. But mere minutes into rehearsal, it’s clear that the choreographer is distracted and high on an illegal substance. You immediately send him home in a cab— now weeks away from competing with absolutely nothing prepared. The above scenario happened to Cheer Savannah’s Stephanie Britt, and sadly, the incident is not an isolated one. As drugrelated episodes like this continue to permeate the all-star cheer community, gym owners are calling for something to be done about it. “Using drugs both on or off of the job is completely unacceptable,” says ACX Cheer’s Randy Dickey. “I personally feel that if you work with children, you should not be under the influence of chemical substances whatsoever. A coach is more
than a coach. A coach is a life coach. You shape these kids and develop their habits. If you can’t get your own life together, I just don’t feel that you can really be a role model for these kids.” Britt agrees. She argues that the industry has made recent moves towards taking on a more conservative approach to competitions, so why shouldn’t eliminating drugs should be an equal part of that priority? “We are going to long uniforms because they don’t want the sport to seem promiscuous. They are going towards the dance moves being a lot more conservative and less makeup, because they think that is the reason a lot of people don’t want to sign their daughters up,” she explains. “Well I’m thinking, ‘Maybe we should clean up the adults, clean up the people that mentor the kids!’”
A Call to Action Many gym owners, like AIM Athletics’ Dia Muhammad would love to see the USASF take action. “USASF should
mandate drug testing for all professional members,” she explains. “We have taken an excellent step in requiring background checks. Drug screenings are definitely the next step in ensuring the safety to the children, our growing industry, and gym owners nationwide. If USASF does begin mandating drug screenings, I do believe we will witness a ‘cleanup’ in our industry.” Dickey seconds this notion, mentioning that he has witnessed too many professionals operating under the influence around his athletes and that the sport’s governing body should be in charge of supervising that. “Some people debate if that’s the USASF’s place or not. I made a post in the ASGA and I had some instructors tell me that they didn’t feel like it was the USASF’s job to do that—and if they wanted to hire someone, that was their choice. But I was like, ‘That’s not the way it works.’ That’s not the gym owner’s decision; there should be somebody there to be the liaison to make sure that the right professional is there in front of the kids.”
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SHOW ME THE
MONEY by Alicia Thompson
Gym owners weigh in with their tried-and-true ways to stay on top of invoicing and collections. When most cheerleading coaches decide to open their own gyms, they do it for love of the sport, a desire to make a difference with young athletes, a competitive drive to be the best. They don’t do it because they love chasing down accounts every month, but that’s exactly what they’ll have to do if they want their gym to stay open. “One gym called us for advice and was $100,000 in the hole,” says Tanya Roesel, owner of Midwest Cheer Elite. “And I was like, how did you get there? People will pay what they have to pay for. If you let them think they’re at the bottom of the ladder, they will treat you like that.”
There are many different programs or apps available to make invoicing efficient and painless, and the trick is finding the one that works best for your gym. Kristina McDaniel, owner of NC-based Fury Elite Allstars, recommends Square because it “works best and is super easy.” As for Roesel, she takes a unique approach: after using a parent-created program for a long time, she is now launching a custommade billing program that resulted from a year-long process consulting with Apple. For her, the key was to think about what technologies parents and coaches were most comfortable with using—in this case, iPhones and iPads.
Heather Crowe-Clark of New York Icons prefers to keep things classic. “I personally absolutely love QuickBooks,” she says. “I have recurring templates set up for every month.” Staying on top of regular billing is hard enough when everything runs like clockwork, but the reality is that you’re always going to have some parents who don’t pay on time. Roesel has a general e-mail that she sends to anyone who’s delinquent to make arrangements for payment, and then she distributes a list to her coaches of who needs to sit out practice until the fees are paid. “It’s like
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UNDER THE INFLUENCE
Putting Policies in Place Many programs, like AIM Athletics, have very clear-cut rules about drugs and onsite alcohol usage spelled out in their employee paperwork. In the case of a reported usage, Muhammad says her gym would immediately terminate an offender. Britt would do the same, but Dickey says he might initially opt for less drastic steps, depending on the severity of the situation. “We have a chaplain who is with the Fellowship of Christian Athletics that comes to our staff meetings every Tuesday night,” he reveals. “If I found out somebody was doing drugs, I would definitely point them towards him and hope that they would take the proper steps to rectify themselves.” Regardless of their outlook, all three gym owners agree that programs should have a firm anti-drug plan of attack in place.
A United Front Cheer program owners have started to band together in the fight against hiring staff members that have a past history
of using drugs. When Britt encountered her unruly choreographer situation, for instance, she immediately hopped on ASGA’s Facebook page and posted the following alert: “I highly discourage gym owners and my peers from using choreographers with a history of drug abuse, whether they have had rehab or not, because you never know what you are going to get.” Following her remarks, Britt was immediately bombarded by messages from fellow gym owners with similar experiences. She encourages her colleagues to openly share stories of past offenders in an attempt to keep child athletes safe from being around these drug offenders. And since there is nothing currently mandated by USASF, many industry professionals see this methodology as the best way to ensure they end up hiring reputable and drugfree staff members.
Britt says that one of her colleagues even went so far as to start circulating a list of choreographers and having fellow gym owners rate experiences associated with using them. “If they don’t do a good job, put their name out there and we’ll blackball them,” says Britt. “It’s all about word of mouth.” According to many gyms, drug use within the all-star cheer community continues to be a problem—but that hasn’t stopped programs from doing their part to halt the issue. And with voices being raised across the community, many see it as only a matter of time before USASF steps in and takes action. “I take this job very seriously. I want this industry to be taken seriously, and we are never going to get there if we don’t curb some of the ‘wild, wild West’ antics that we have going on in our industry,” explains Dickey. “They need to go away.”
“Because there is no governing body rule that will blackball [offenders] from the industry, they can go right up the street and work at your competitor,” says Dickey.
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MONEY a utility bill,” she says. “You get a late notice, and then services stop.” If you are going to assess a late fee, she suggests making it high enough that a parent would balk at it, like 50 dollars as opposed to ten. “If there are 18 kids on that sit list at the start of the week,” she says, “by Friday there will be zero.” Sometimes it’s necessary to have a conversation with a parent about the delinquency. Crowe-Clarke thinks that’s the reason some gym owners don’t want to deal with collections—because they don’t want to have that potentially confrontational phone call. “But you’re going to lose that parent anyway,” she points out, “because they’re not going to be able to catch up.” She says what helps her is to level with parents and explain the various
competition fees, equipment charges and uniform costs she has to pay. Helping them understand the money going out reinforces the importance of the money coming in. Most gym owners hope to never have to escalate collections to the level of involving an attorney or initiating a case in small claims court. But Roesel says that she’s brought several such cases in front of a magistrate, and it’s taught her a lot. “We work really closely with our judge so that our document that parents sign is approved by the judge,” she says. She’s also learned not to release merchandise to a parent unless it’s been fully paid for. “When you go to court, you bring the merchandise with you, so that the judge can see that you did have to purchase the merchandise and couldn’t cancel the order,” Roesel says. When
merchandise is released and payment never received, the charges could go from civil to criminal, because at that point, it’s theft by deception. What’s clear is that the best way to stay out of court—and keep the money flowing in your gym—is to be proactive with parents. Auto-debit is one strategy that makes payment more convenient for parents and more assured for a gym owner. Crowe-Clark has had success with auto-debit, and she also works with her families to create different options where they can pay weekly, monthly or in a lump sum as might be convenient. For families who are more financially needy, she says, she’s worked out discounts on tuition in exchange for help with cleaning the gym, assisting or junior coaching. “I’m never going to let a kid not cheer for my gym because they can’t afford it,” she says.
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by Lisa Beebe
How Catching the Seasonal Spirit Can Benefit Your Gym The holidays are a time of celebration around the world, and cheer gyms are no exception. In fact, for savvy gym owners, the holiday season provides not only an opportunity to strengthen bonds and build goodwill, but to boost business as well. At Maryland Heights, MO-based Platinum Athletics, owner Adam Rufkahr throws
a holiday party for athletes, coaches and their families. “A lot of times, their only focus when they step into the gym is, ‘What am I doing in the routine? How are my skills? How do we place at the next competition?’” shares Rufkahr. “The competitive side of stuff is important, but to keep the kids engaged, we want them to know they’re part of a family—part of a gym that cares about them.”
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To create that family feel, the Platinum Athletics holiday party includes a secret Santa exchange, funny skits and a game where athletes cover the coaches in wrapping paper. According to Rufkahr, it’s all about letting loose—and letting go of everyday gym pressures. “Try to find something that gets them out of cheer mode, and gets everyone to have fun and interact with kids from other teams that
they may not normally come into contact with,” suggests Rufkahr. “Get everyone on the same playing field.” Kelly Makay, owner of HotCheer AllStars in Elizabeth, Pennsylvania, sees a holiday party as a chance to really celebrate the program. Past activities have included an ugly sweater contest and snowball fights (with crocheted snowballs); the party highlight is the annual costume contest. “We get a lot of Cindy Lou Who’s and some Grinches. We make a runway that they all come down, and everybody cheers for them,” says Makay, adding that she offers trophies for first, second and third place winners. The HotCheer party is a lot of fun, but that’s not the only benefit. Makay says, “It helps with morale and takes the pressure off, especially during competition season.” She’s also using the holidays as a way to pump up pro shop business; this year, Makay introduced a special Santa shop in the lobby, where parents can shop while their athletes go to open gym. No matter what your gym does for the holidays, Makay believes it’s good to have annual traditions. She urges other owners to give them a chance if they don’t take off right away. “If you don’t have good attendance at your first [event], just do it again next year, and keep hyping it up,” says Makay. At Yonkers-based New York All Stars, the holidays aren’t just a time to party— they’re the perfect time to attract new clients. Owner Katy Cocovinis says the gym’s holiday camp is a “huge source of revenue,” so she tries to time it optimally for when local schools are out. This year, the camp will take place the week before New Year’s Eve. “[Kids] come from 9 to 4 and get a sampling of everything we offer
in our gym, so it’s great for kids who are on our teams or already taking classes, but it’s also great for people to sample what we do before we take registration for the new semester.” New York All Stars’ holiday intensive includes tumbling, stunt classes, ballet and jazz, in addition to leadership/teambuilding activities and holiday crafts. On the last day, they do a countdown to the new year. Cocovinis says, “We do a balloon drop on their heads. They really enjoy stuff like that.” Cocovinis has learned a few lessons along the way, one of which is to keep the environment low-pressure. “In the past, one of the mistakes I made was trying to get them ready for an end-of-camp performance, and it was a lot of pressure on kids, especially if they’re new. Making it fun is going to foster a love for what they’re doing here.” And speaking of fun, New York All Stars also offers pajama parties during the holidays. For $25, the athletes get pizza, juice and an array of activities. “We do a tumble and cheer class, and then we put on a movie or have a tree-trimming party,” says Cocovinis. “It’s a great source of revenue, because people are looking for childcare. The parents can either have a date night, or get some Christmas shopping done.” Cocovinis emphasizes the benefits of opening the holiday camps and pajama parties to the whole community. She has had good luck using Facebook to advertise locally and sending out press releases in hopes of media coverage. These events are her favorite ways to attract new athletes. Says Cocovinis, “They’re basically paying for a trial. They get in your door and have a good experience, and they’re going to be begging to come back.”
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CARLOS ONOFRE by Dina Gachman
WEST COAST RUSH
The Debrief: West Coast Rush owner Carlos Onofre started coaching overseas more than 10 years ago. To date, he’s been to countries including Mexico, Canada, Chile, Ecuador, Switzerland and Costa Rica. Says Onofre, “I just put my name out there and, through connections, I started traveling and coaching in other countries.” The Dish: Early on, I started coaching and judging in Mexico—that’s how it all started for me. Now the events have grown so big it’s hard for me to attend all of them, so I have gotten a lot of people to go judge over there. The places making the biggest progress with cheer are Mexico and Canada, and in many cases, they’ll pay what you are worth in the U.S. In some instances, you can actually make a fair amount of money. Overseas, they’re usually a little bit behind [cheer-wise] because they have gotten a lot of their information from videos or YouTube. They’re getting a lot better, but oddly enough, because they get so much from watching videos, they don’t understand that they’re mirroring. For instance, they’ll stand on their left leg instead of the right or pull their right heel stretch instead of their left, which is the opposite of what we do. Overall, you’re able to make money on opportunities abroad, but initially, there isn’t much. The exchange rate can definitely hinder that. Besides money, a lot of it is paid off in different ways with flights and hotels. For the most part, they
Name: Carlos Onofre, Owner and Coach Gym: West Coast Rush Cheerleading All Stars Location: Chatsworth, California Founded: 2005 Size: 72 athletes on five teams Gym Size: 8,000 square feet
really take care of you and go out of their way to make you feel at home. Because of that, there have been places where I’ve been able to bring my wife and my child to visit and I’ll work for the weekend and then we’ll stay a few extra days. It varies. Usually, you just need a passport to be able to work outside the U.S. I’ve never been to a country where you need a special visa, as long as you’re not working there longterm. That’s been my experience. One of the biggest things I would stress is to make sure you go over the details before you agree to anything. Only once did I actually not get what I was owed. There are huge differences in the culture sometimes, so you need to be very upfront about what you need, what you’re going to get and how you’re going to get it. You don’t want to go to a country like Mexico and, all of a sudden, you’re getting paid in pesos. It has happened. I’ve gone somewhere and gotten the money in their currency, so that’s a big one—to make sure it’s all clear before you go. The language barrier can also be an issue. I’m about to go to Switzerland—initially I was going to work with their Level 6 teams, but now it turns out that I’m also working with their Level 5 athletes. You just have to be clear about what you’re doing and what you’re not doing. Most of the time, I’ve gotten these opportunities through someone I know directly or someone who knows that
person. I’ve also gotten jobs just because I’ve coached so many athletes. They spread their wings and go somewhere and then I might get an opportunity that way. The experience is very rewarding. I’ve never gone anywhere where they’re not eager and ready to work for you—they’re just so ready to go. I’ve worked with teams in the U.S. where they don’t want to do what you’re asking; overseas, you can say, “We’re going to flip you upside down, and someone is going to catch you by your pinkie toe,” and they’ll go, “Okay!” They trust you, because you’re coming from the States. They make the unfortunate assumption that everybody from the U.S. knows what they’re talking about. I would do my homework online about the people you’ll be working for, regardless of who it is. You don’t want to go somewhere for the first time without knowing anything at all. If you’ve never been outside the country, it can be overwhelming. Colombia is one of the countries where cheer is growing rapidly, but it can be intimidating to someone who isn’t used to it. Some people can get culture shock. And definitely watch what you eat! The bottom line: Just be clear about what you’re going over there to do and how many hours you’re working. Be firm, honest and straightforward—they don’t get insulted by that.
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’S R E N
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WORLD by Dina Gachman
Cheer is exploding overseas, and cheer professionals from the U.S. are in demand for coaching, clinics and more. Find out what it’s really like to go global from those who know. In 2007, Newsweek covered the growing popularity of cheerleading outside of the United States, citing globalization as a major factor. They attributed this spread to the fact that ESPN International has been showing U.S. competitions globally since 1997. They also credited movies like Bring It On as reasons for cheer’s popularity in places like Japan and Australia. Add to that the fact that NFL teams brought along cheerleaders when they played overseas, and “you get a wave of kids attracted to modern cheerleading’s athleticism and élan.” Nine years later, this trend is stronger than ever before, and it’s evident at Worlds—in 2015, teams from Canada, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, England and Thailand placed right up there with the leading U.S. competitors. The number of countries participating has quadrupled since 2007 and is expected to hit 40 countries in 2016. In less than a decade, cheerleading has gone from a predominantly American sport to an international phenomenon, and U.S. coaches are finding more opportunities to teach and train athletes overseas as a result. After all, America has long been considered the dominant country at Worlds, and athletes and gym owners in other countries tend to look to the U.S. cheer community for inspiration and guidance.
Several coaches have taken advantage of this global cheer fever by offering classes and clinics abroad, or in some cases, moving out of the U.S. to open a gym. Just ask Jerry Ozuna, who has traveled to Australia and Canada educating up-andcoming coaches and choreographers and working with athletes. “It was a breath of fresh air to step into another part of the world and work with pure passion-driven athletes and coaches that are so thirsty for knowledge and who want to grow the sport of all-star cheer,” says Ozuna, formerly of Cheer Athletics. “It really did take me back to the love of cheerleading.” His overseas opportunities came about mainly due to networking. But creating a personal brand is important as well, Ozuna says. “Before you know it, opportunities will begin to find you,” he says. “The cheer community has a way with helping each other out.” Like Ozuna, Oklahoma Twisters owner Craig Hallmark’s early opportunities came about via networking. A coach he knew couldn’t make his annual trip to Finland to coach, so he contacted Hallmark and his business partner Jeff LeForce. “We jumped at the opportunity to work in Finland,” says Hallmark, who has also taken gigs in Mexico. Every coach’s experience outside of the U.S. varies, but most opportunities
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do come from good old-fashioned networking. Putting the word out that you are interested in working abroad is a good start, as is fostering relationships at competition with coaches and gym owners operating outside of the country. Matthew Brown, co-owner of Chicagobased Cheer Destiny Allstars, has developed programs in Finland, Mexico and Chile. He says that the organizers he has worked with in each country have been “insanely efficient” when it comes to helping him understand their scoring systems and how they teach athletes. Before heading to another country, he makes sure his style of coaching is “conducive to what they are looking for while maintaining the ‘perfection before progression’ mindset I instill in all of my athletes.” He also takes the time to study the language a bit before he travels—to ensure that communication will be smooth, and out of respect for the culture. Many coaches emphasize the need to be respectful of whatever culture you happen to be stepping into, which often means asking questions, doing research and learning at least a small bit of the language. If the headaches and paperwork of traveling out of the country to coach sound like a dealbreaker, Brown, Ozuna,
COACHING ABROAD Mexico, Scotland, Japan and Taiwan and has taken teams to compete in England, Mexico and Germany.
Jerry Mauldin, owner and director of Limelight Allstars in Vaughan, Ontario, moved to Canada nearly eight years ago on a work permit to become the director at a cheer gym near Toronto. He says that he did have to deal with a lot of paperwork to get approved for the visa; after securing it, Mauldin then worked for four years on the permit before becoming a permanent resident and opening his own business.
Once you’ve put the word out, networked and landed an opportunity to go teach outside the U.S., the next step is to master the ins and outs of negotiating your contract and make sure that both parties are 100 percent clear about the details. The contract should specify payment, work hours and the expectations surrounding your visit—you do not want to arrive in another country assuming you will work three hours and day and finding out they want you there for eight. Also, make sure that the rate you are negotiating is in U.S. currency, not the currency of the host country. Many coaches say the time differences can be brutal, so it’s important to be prepared for that as well.
“I was lucky to forge relationships that lasted for years,” Mauldin says of his experiences all over the world. “I have been to Japan nine times, Costa Rica five times, Sweden three times…” He has also judged competitions in the Bahamas,
As far as payment, some overseas opportunities pay a decent rate, and some do not pay at all, but many coaches say it’s worth it because flights, meals and lodging are provided. The chance to see another country, experience their passion
for cheerleading and make contacts across the globe is valuable of itself. Brown cautions coaches not to take advantage of these opportunities as simply a “free vacation,” though. “You are an influence to their athletes, coaches and to anyone watching while you work,” he says. The takeaway? Remain professional, even if you are getting a free trip to Finland or Australia. There are a growing number of opportunities in other countries due to the ever-growing popularity of cheer around the world. “If you have the resources and time, then I say go for it,” Ozuna says. “Go see the world and spread your knowledge. You never know what a small seed can grow into until you put in the work.”
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and Hallmark stress that if you are going to work for a short amount of time (in most cases, a few weeks) you do not need to bother with bureaucratic paperwork and visas. You really just need a passport, plus any contracts you have signed with your host gym. If you plan to spend six months or more out of the country working, you will need to apply for special work permits.
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MIND, BODY & SOUL
SISTER ACT by Lisa Beebe
Meet three sets of sister gyms that firmly believe in the benefits of bonding with the competition.
Ever seen a team of all-star athletes wholeheartedly cheering for their competitors? It might look strange to an outsider, but anyone with a sister gym relationship understands. After all, when gyms forge close relationships, it creates a unique bond like no other. The owners and coaches lean on each other for support, referrals and resources, and the athletes get to know each other and cheer each other on. Just ask Fury Athletics of Madison, 3-D Elite Allstars and North Florida Christian Cheer—all of whom know firsthand how much having a sister gym can offer. Fury Athletics of Madison Madison, WI Sister gyms: Wisconsin Storm Elite, Green Bay Elite, Heat Athletics For the past two years, Fury Athletics has participated in Green Bay Elite’s showcase, and this year, Storm Elite joined the fold as well. Owner Julie Petersen says, “These are teams that could be potentially competing against each other several times this year, but everybody was cheering each other on and kids were taking pictures with kids from other gyms. They were getting to know each other, because they’re going to see each other all year.” The gym owners also support and encourage each other throughout the season. To stay in better touch, they’ve formed a private Facebook group, along with the owner from Heat Athletics. “Sometimes it’s ‘Who do you use for this?’ or ‘What do you do about that?’ and sometimes it’s just venting [about] crazy or funny things that happen in your gym,” explains Petersen. “It’s nice to be able to share some of the things that you’re feeling, and to have someone else who 100 percent understands what you’re going through.” After competition, the four coaches get together for dinner and to share ideas. “We’re all so far away from each other— the closest two gyms are over an hour apart—that we’re not competing for the same kids in the same markets. It’s a cool group, because not only do we get to chitchat, but we’re also providing each other with ideas that can help grow each other’s business. I’m really excited about it.”
3-D Elite Allstars Myrtle Beach, SC Sister gym: Extreme Cheer and Tumble Here’s the backstory: Maureen Sullivan, program director and gym manager of 3-D Elite Allstars, cheered on an open team in Columbia, South Carolina, with Lanell Timmons and Ty Rogers for years. These days, Timmons is the head coach and Rogers is the dance choreographer at Extreme Cheer and Tumble in Florence, South Carolina. When Sullivan moved to Myrtle Beach and opened her own gym a few years ago, she found Timmons and Rogers very supportive. Sullivan is also friends with Extreme’s owner, Jason Weatherford. “He had two girls last year who moved from Florence to Myrtle Beach, and he told their parents, ‘I’m just going to go ahead and sign them up for what team they’re supposed to be on at 3-D Elite,’” she shares. The bond may have started between the owners and coaches, but it has grown to include the athletes, too. Sullivan says they follow the same competition schedule, doing at least four competitions together every year. “Our kids are always sitting in front on the floor for each other, and that’s just fantastic,” she says. Even when the teams compete against each other, the vibe is a positive one. Adds Sullivan, “I don’t know if it’s because we’re such good friends, but there’s never any tension. My kids are always like, ‘We need the competition schedule. We need to know if we can watch them and get back in time for warm-ups.’” Sullivan
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poignant moment from U.S. Finals: “Our Senior Level 1 teams had been competing against each other all year, because most of the smaller competitions didn’t split the large and the small gyms. Both teams made it to U.S. Finals and were actually in different divisions. [Extreme] won the large division and we won the small division, and they were in there trying on their jackets together. You would’ve thought they were all on the same team.” Although the two gyms don’t always communicate regularly, they remain close. Sullivan says, “We don’t talk as much as we should, but it doesn’t matter if it’s been five days or five months—it feels like five minutes. We work together so well, and it’s hard to find that in this industry.”
MIND, BODY & SOUL
North Florida Christian Cheer owner Julie Barry comes from what she calls the “old school” mentality: “You compete on the floor, but leave it there and keep your friendship. We were always supportive of other teams. I was raised that way, and it’s always carried on with me.” Her gym is especially close with Myrtle Beach All Stars, Dynasty All Stars (in West Virginia) and Power Cheer & Tumble (in North Carolina). Barry says, “We stay in touch as coaches, and the kids have connected on social media.” At competitions, North Florida Christian Cheer’s athletes, parents and coaches often sit with parents of the teams that they’re competing against to cheer them on.
regionals down here in Florida, and Power Cheer and Tumble is coming down here instead of going to their local regionals so we can hang out for the weekend. We’re doing a thing on Friday night to welcome them. We’re all competing against each other on Saturday, and then we’ll probably all go out to dinner afterwards.” One reason Barry likes being friendly with other gyms is because she wants her athletes to realize that winning isn’t everything—and that they’re essentially competing only with themselves. “This is what I teach kids: We want every team
to hit a clean routine. I don’t want to win because somebody fell out of their stunt. I want to win because every routine hit, but ours was best.” For Barry, it’s not just about the cheer world; it’s a lesson her athletes will have with them their whole lives. “They’re going to go out into a field—no matter what profession they pick—and they’re going to have to work as a team. If I don’t teach these young people how to be good sports in losing, then my job’s not done.”
They’ll even plan their competition schedules around opportunities to connect. Says Barry, “We’re having our
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MI N D, BODY & SOU L
North Florida Christian Cheer Jacksonville, FL Sister gyms: Myrtle Beach All Stars, Dynasty All Stars, Power Cheer & Tumble
MIND, BODY & SOUL
MI N D, BODY & SOU L
LIQUID COURAGE by Alicia Thompson
Are your athletes hooked on energy drinks? Find out whether they really work—and whether they can hurt rather than help performance.
Hannah is a typical 15-year-old cheerleader. She spends eight hours a day at school, comes home to do her homework and then heads to the gym for cheer practice. With exhaustion setting in, she picks up an energy drink on the way to give the boost she needs to get through the grueling schedule of stretching, stunts, tumbling and dance. Sound familiar? It’s a common practice with many athletes— and cheer professionals, too. But do energy drinks even work? Stephanie Beveridge, wellness coach and owner of GymKix in Texas, says that they do, at least temporarily. “They pump your body full of sugar and tell your body to start producing insulin,” says Beveridge. “It’s almost like if your ‘check engine’ light is on, and you take it to get fixed and your mechanic turns the light off. But did it fix the problem?” Even more concerning are the adverse health effects energy drinks can have. Beveridge cautions that they often contain harmful artificial colors like Red 5 (which can lead to hyperactivity) and artificial sugars that are carcinogens and neurotoxins: “Artificial sweeteners and colors cause headaches, joint
issues, inflammation—all the things we’re trying to fix in our athletes. It’s counterproductive.” In 2014, the World Health Organization published a study calling for more restrictions on the sale of energy drinks to young people. In particular, it highlighted some of the dangers of using energy drinks before or during sports practice— despite the fact that energy drinks are often marketed specifically as enhancing athletic performance. In a worst-case scenario, energy drinks can trigger heart problems even in healthy teenagers (according to cardiologist Dr. Fabian Sanchis-Gomar). And the best-case scenario? According to a January 2013 article published in The New York Times, it’s that the drinks are completely ineffectual. “The energy drink industry,” researchers conclude, “is based on a brew of ingredients that, apart from caffeine, have little, if any benefit for consumers.” So if the energy drink won’t help Hannah perk up for her cheerleading practice— and might even harm her—what should she do instead?
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Beveridge swears by water with a drop or two of essential oils. “They’re therapeutic and detoxifying to organs. They produce energy from the inside out,” she says. “We use plants from the indigenous area, so they have the most potency.” Another option is pure coconut water, which has been touted by top athletes and health experts as a healthier, more hydrating option. It has been found to be just as nourishing as a sports drink but creates less nausea or feeling of fullness. Sports nutritionist Nancy Clark just urges athletes to be smart about replenishing calories for longer workouts, too. “Supplement with a quick source of energy, like a banana or some raisins and a handful of pretzels, to provide nutrients to replenish your stores,” she recommended in a WebMD article. A young athlete like Hannah has better options than energy drinks for those long practices, and coaches and parents can play a crucial role in helping her to make those healthier choices. “It’s really about wellness education,” Beveridge says of the biggest impact coaches can make on their athletes, “because they don’t realize how harmful energy drinks are to young bodies.”
DAY I N THE LI F E
A DAY IN THE LIFE
amie J parrish by Molly Blake
Think you know dance extraordinaire Jamie Parrish? Get the real deal with fun facts straight from Parrish himself.
I just got off a whirlwind summer tour all over the country. I was happy to work with repeat clients this year like World Cup Shooting Stars—so many awesome teams all summer. I love the creativity in choreography and creating entire routines from soup to nuts. This year, I did 28 full routines. It was a lot! My partner Kirk is a physician. We live in Atlanta—we just bought a new house and are getting married in October 2016. But we don’t spend enough time in the kitchen; I am up and out the door on most days for work. I travel so often and eat airport and hotel food. Kirk and I are traveling to Salzburg, Germany soon and I can’t wait. He is the best and has been so supportive of my career. Traveling to Europe and seeing shows really helps me stay inspired and ensures my routines don’t get stale. Creating a routine that a team can really nail in two months is an art, and there are probably only about 10 true pioneering choreographers out there who understand that idea. Failing or allowing the team to fail by making a routine that’s beyond their skill level is not good for business. The teams come back to me each year, which I love. But I do think cheerleading is changing. Creativity has really taken a plunge and dance is being pushed aside when I think it should play a greater role.
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Since I’m an artistic, creative type, I love to paint and take photographs. It’s a passion of mine. That’s why my company Bold & Dash is such a great outlet for my creativity. Having gone to college to be a copywriter, I combined that knowledge with my experience with Georgia All Stars (branding and the ability to reach teen influencers) to apply to corporate America. I’ve done very well with it—I love working with Fortune 500 national brands and clients like H&M, Victoria’s Secret, Varsity and Delta Airlines, who are receptive to unique and creative ideas that I bring to them. We’ve done some incredible promotions for clients who want to reach the teen female market. I was so ready to sell my gym back in 2014, but I was really happy that I ended on a high note. Kirk and I are really passionate about animals and rescue pets. We have two dogs named Miss Maxie and Mr. Mayo (both rescues). I paint pictures of dogs and donate them to area pet rescue non-profits. I also take portraits, too. Photography is another passion of mine and we were just inducted as members of The Confrérie de la Chaîne des Rôtisseurs, a food and wine society. We travel all over to try new wines and eat delicious meals!
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Published on Feb 1, 2016