Are Cheer Gyms Really Safe?

by Bitley Shawn
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Let me tell you a true story of one elite cheer gym in Colorado that happened just recently. A girl who is a flyer decides to go to the open gym to hone in her skills on partner stunting. A male base tosses her into the air to do a toss extension (a stunt where the base catches the flyer’s feet with their arms fully extended overhead). Upon the catch, the base gets disgruntled and yells out a few obscenities telling the flyer to stop moving. As if the obscenity were not inappropriate enough, the base pops the flyer up out of his hands and walks away. The flyer was left to fall from a height of over 8 feet with no one to catch her. Just so we are clear, OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) regulations states that a fall from a distance as short as 6 feet can be fatal. Are you disturbed yet? This is an elite gym! The above is completely unacceptable! And even worse, the base was not reprimanded in any way.

Now I am not trying to scare you away from gyms, but rather enlighten you so you do not end up as the poor flyer above. I have gone into numerous cheer gyms throughout my career and seen similar problems throughout. Unfortunately, the general public would never know these things as they go on behind the scenes. So how do you choose a gym? You need to do your research.

Step one:

Make a selection of gyms. Go out a find out how many cheer gyms are in your area and make a list of the ones you wish to attend. You can do this by doing a search on the web. But honestly, the best way to check out cheer gyms is by going to a cheer competition. Why not see what the team you want to join is capable of before joining up? The price of admission to a cheer competition is well worth it to find gyms you are interested in going to.

Step two:

Find out how credible the gym truly is. You can do this in a multitude of ways. First, go to the gym and interview the coaches and owners. Remember, you are going to be paying these people to teach. Therefore, you need to make sure they are worthy of receiving your money.

Next ask around about the gym. Go to other gyms and ask why they are better than the gym you wish to attend. Yeah, some of you are thinking, isn’t that wrong to do. The answer is no. You are trying to get some answers here. Sometimes, that means you are going to have to put people on the spot to get a real answer and not the practiced sales pitch.

Step three:

When you are almost ready to join up, sit in on some practices. Find out how the gym operates, what do they do, how do they do it? More importantly, pay attention to how many team members are getting hurt or dropped.

I can’t tell you how many times I have seen this step left out. If you see a lot of cheerleaders wearing ankle, knee, wrist braces, odds are that there is an underlying problem. Yes, accidents do happen, but a team of accidents does not.

Also, if you see flyers hitting the floor often, I would recommend not joining the gym. Flyers will fall in stunts from time to time, but should always be caught by the base(s). There is no excuse for flyers hitting the floor. This is usually the easiest way to weed out cheer gyms that are not right for you..

Step three: This is the most important step of all. Go to the open gyms! Open gyms are usually late off gym hours, so be fore warned. However, since these are the off hours, a lot of coaches and staff will participate at these. Again, since they are after hours where a lot of the spectators are gone, the gym atmosphere can change drastically. The story above is what happened during an open gym.

These open gyms will really give you a good idea of how a gym truly runs. Just remember, it is better to check these out incognito. Do not make the gym aware that you are checking them out. You want to see the real gym in action. Sometimes this means you may have to pay a few open gym fees to get the real feel. Just remember, it’s for your safety.

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