When is it time to move to a new cheer gym?

In this lull between try outs and the “real” competition season starting, it’s not uncommon to wonder if you and your child are at the right gym.  While we’ve been a part of the cheer world, my daughter has asked to change gyms on two occasions.  And I agreed because participating in this sport is up to her.  But it wasn’t without a good reason. Here’s what I can tell you about changing gyms.

First and foremost – where your athlete cheers should be up to the athlete more than the parent.

That being said, here (briefly) is why we changed gyms – so you’ll get some background:

    • The first time we made a change my daughter had just started with pom poms at the local “Young Champions.”  My daughter was just starting out, only 6 years old.  The practice room was small, the “coaches” were young and it was clearly just an after school activity.
      But after her first “competition” she came off the mat and greeted me with “I REALLY like this!”  So I knew she needed to be at a place that could teach her skills, where she could really learn to cheer.

    • Four years later, when it was time for the new season, the gym where my daughter had been cheering was having significant staffing issues. The “good” coaches had all left and the owner / director had hired (not kidding) 18 year olds with no experience coaching.   My daughter and her BFF would come out of practice in tears with tales of being screamed at and practicing stunts until some of the girls were throwing up.  The practices were closed so no way to verify.  But when my kiddo isn’t having fun, it’s time to make a change.

    • The next change came several years later and the reason a bit more complicated but essentially the culture there was just not encouraging.  While they claimed to have classes to refine and teach skills, the “coaches” stood around talking while the girls went through preset exercises.  It was obvious that the director had her “favorites” and the parents were more cliquish than junior high.
      So when it came time for try outs, and time to show off the advanced skills she had aquired (from taking private lessons with a coach across town), it should have been no surprise that the director had already decided team placements before try outs began.  My daughter was so demotivated after working so hard to bring her skills up that she simply said, “Mom, I know I’m ready for Cheer (name withheld) gym. Let’s go try out.” She made the team she wanted at the new gym.

    • This year, my daughter has decided to take a break.  And I could see this coming.  She’s been on the same team for the last 2 years.  Although they went to Summit last year (finished 6th overall), to me it looks like she’s not motivated.  And when you don’t continually challenge these athletes, they get bored.
      She would have like to learned new skills, perhaps learned to fly or worked harder on tumbling.   [She’s a base but she’s a shorty so it’s a struggle for taller teammates to base with her]  But it just wasn’t happening.  They gym didn’t offer any specialized classes nor did the tumbling coaches work with her on new skills.
      That’s okay, it’s what SHE (my daughter) wants.  And she’s even mentioned cheering in high school or switching to track instead.

So the bottom line is this – it’s time to change gyms when:

  • You see a lot of staff turnover or have serious concerns about the staff qualifications.
  • You feel uncomfortable with the management.
  • The coaches aren’t supporting your athletes goals (and you’ve tried discussing these goals with them).
  • Your athlete isn’t challenged or clearly isn’t having fun anymore.

Be sure to give the gym staff a chance to make a difference, my daughter and I always tried to work with the coaches and communicated with them before making a change.

And, remember this, just because you change gyms doesn’t mean the grass is greener – things will be different and there will be an adjustment.  Every gym has their own way of doing things so something you may have liked in a previous gym (driving ourselves to competitions) may not be allowed when you move (all athletes bused to every comp).

Best thing is to ask a lot of questions, talk to other parents (not just your friends) who are at the new gym and go in with your eyes wide open.  When it’s the right choice, your athlete will excel and you’ll know inside it was the right move.

3 Comments

  1. Great article – I agree with the decision point.
    However, regarding the coaches not being supportive of your child’s goals, I think it is important to distinguish a coach/gym not being supportive and a coach/gym not giving the placement that the child (parent) wants. To me, those are different. I completely agree; it is inappropriate/unfair for the gym to have decided where to place kids before tryouts and not give the kids an opportunity to show what they can do to determine their spot. It is quite another for a child to be placed on a team (or a specific position within a team) that is not what your kid was wanting or expecting and leaving as a result (taking your toy and going home syndrome). Team placement is about piecing together a puzzle made up of different kids of varying skill levels. If your child wants to fly but his/her other skills don’t warrant placement on a team where a flyer is needed or there are other children on the team your child is being placed that are a better fit for a flyer position – that is NOT the gym being unsupportive of a child’s goals. And I disagree with parents who pull their children from a gym, that is meeting all the other criteria – great environment, great coaches, successful seasons, your child has great friends there, etc – just because they want to take their kid to a gym that will make a promise to give them the spot they (you) want.

    Whatever happened to teaching your child a life lesson, sometimes you can’t always get what you want and how to deal with that? What kind of lesson is your child being taught when the parent pulls their kid – moves them to another gym – just because they didn’t like the placement results?

    1. You are absolutely correct about the gym placements.
      But here is what was left out of the article:
      In the situation outlined, the director told the kids and parents that they should try out for the level they would like to be on and outlined specific skill sets needed for each level.
      Tryouts were held over about 2-3 weeks time. My daughter worked very hard to get her skills before tryouts, often going to more than one private lesson extra each week. When it came time to tryout her skills looked right in line with the other girls trying out for the the same level – no better, no worse.
      The next day (after only one day at tryouts) we received a one line email (without any discussion or phone call) that simply said, “[daughter’s name] needs to go to the tryouts for X (a level below). My daughter’s only goal was to be on a team with girls her own age since she was 13 at the time.
      After making the change, I found out from one of her former coaches that the teams had been set before tryouts began – gave all the girls false hope of moving up in many cases.
      And this had nothing to do with levels, she had to get the upper skill to be on a team with girls her own age because that gym was smaller. Upon moving to the larger, more accomplished gym, she ended up on the same level but on a senior team – with girls her own age. So THAT made all the difference.
      I hope the clarification helps.


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