A few weeks ago I taught a session at the Next Gen conference called, “Going Against the Industry Standard”. In the weeks since, I have thought of so many areas I wished I could have talked about. 

One of them was brought up in a comment regarding professional non-negotiables I referenced in a blog yesterday.

The comment talked about how people told this person over and over that cheer moms were nothing but trouble (I’m paraphrasing…) and to veer from them. After several years of owning the gym, she learned otherwise.

So, here we go again as I defy the industry standard.

“Industry professionals” tell us not to be friends with cheer moms. According to these people, cheer moms can’t maintain professionalism. They will walk all over you. They will expect you to do special favors for them. They will get angry when their child isn’t put into tumbling or in the lead flyer spot, and they’ll believe they have done you plenty of favors over the years and it’s time for you to repay them.

This theory is so overplayed that for many years it was stuck in my head too. I had to keep my distance – draw a clear line in the sand that said I wasn’t willing to befriend them. I would get invited to a movie, murder mystery party or holiday BBQ and I’d turn it down. Sometimes these were people whose company I truly enjoyed, but every piece of advice I read by other owners was that I was just asking for trouble.

During the COVID shutdowns, I let my guard down a bit. No one was “professional”. Most of America poured their heart out on the internet or to any acquaintance we could see face-to-face. People who had never before connected were bonding through social media and over their personal beliefs. While I was insanely busy running a virtual program at our gym and working 60 hours a week in our restaurant, I craved the same social interaction we all did.

But one thing stuck out to me more than any other. Our gym parents kept my restaurant afloat. We were one of the few restaurants in town that didn’t close its doors in 2020. I did the math back then. Closing our doors to spare ourselves all that work would have cost nearly $20,000 in food loss and replenishment later on. But, a slow bleed (losing just $2,000 on a weekly basis) meant we could afford to stay open 10 weeks before we’d have to close. So, without a drive through, we offered curbside service. We began doing deliveries to Whiteman Air Force Base where Justin and I still have access. 

Of the orders we received on a weekly basis, nearly half were those from Twister families. There was no benefit in the world other than a meal, but they were people who cared about us and wanted to help. 

You could say cheer moms saved our restaurant that year.

During that time, we had consistent enrollment from our competitive families. While recreational classes saw a roller coaster of enrollments, the competitive families who could use their disposable income at our gym did so in hopes of supporting our dream. 

Cheer moms were also the reason we retained the majority of our staff in 2020.

Take COVID out of it, and I have some serious gratitude for cheer moms. 

We opened the gym when my daughter was 2. She learned how to be a gym rat very quickly. Our front desk staff usually watched her while I coached, but it was the cheer moms who entertained her on their iPads, fed her snacks and even bought her candy at my snackbar!

At competitions, they would take care of my kids while I ran to warm ups. Sometimes they would see my kids were restless from a long day of competitions, and they would walk them around the arena or take them to look at the vendors (with my permission of course). 

As my youngest grew older, moms would invite her to lunch with them during competition days. These days, they take such good care of her, she isn’t at the venue more than her teams require anymore. Not only that, but our parents often take coaches’ orders before heading out to lunch. They’ll offer Diet Pepsis or Starbucks for those coaches who are there all day. They literally save us from being hangry.

It’s not about the gifts though. It’s about the service and thoughtfulness. A few months back, we had a couple of our long-time athletes leave for a gym near Kansas City. They were kids who had been in our program for nine years. Our families know how much we love each athlete. My first day back coaching after that developed, I had two moms bring my favorite Starbucks drink to my house. I had a few others get together and bring me a gift card for lunch the next day. Another bought me fun socks with a beautiful note. We had tryouts that weekend, and the coaches were at my house for hours as we formed teams on our giant whiteboard in my living room. That’s when Justin walked in with pizza. Some of the moms had gotten together and planned dinner for my staff that night. 

They didn’t have an agenda. No one was doing it with the goal of making a certain team. No one was mad when teams were released and their child was placed on a level 2 instead of level 3. 

I tell you all of this to say, cheer moms can be your friends. They can be wonderful, kind, loving people who want the best for their kids AND for your gym. They can love the coaches, and never expect any special treatment.

If you’re reading this thinking it’s nuts, then you might have some work to do on the culture in your gym. Twice in the last 12 seasons, I’ve had a terrible culture in my gym…times I didn’t even look forward to coaching because I didn’t know what drama would pop up that night. Both times it was hard to work through, but we did. 

I’ve had “friends” at the gym who turned out to have an agenda. I eventually spotted them and maintained my distance. That’s truly no different than a friend who chooses to befriend you because you have a lakehouse or because you get free tickets to concerts. 

Over the years I’ve built in some personal rules for friendships with cheer moms:

  1. If we’re talking about cheerleading, I’m not going to tell you anything I haven’t publicly said to anyone else. I understand if you like talking cheer. I do too, and I’m happy to do it, but that is a clear boundary for me.
  2. If we’re talking about other people or their kids, I will not ever say anything bad about others. I try to do this in my friendships even outside the gym. Gossip and negativity are things I just don’t have a lot of time or patience for, so this rule is honestly a personal one despite where the friendship originates.
  3. I never ask for favors professionally, and I don’t expect others to either. We actually opened a business with a cheer family a few years back. We helped them get it going, and then sold our shares. Even though I know the ins and outs, I never (I mean NEVER) ask for a discount, special treatment or “dibs” on something they have on the auction. They have often told me if the gym needs it to let them know and they’ll get it for us with a discount. I won’t do it. The same way I need to profit off their child’s tuition, I expect them to profit off my purchases. This is the same for the family in our gym who runs the Mexican restaurant in town, my cheerleader whose parents own the nail salon, all the MLM moms, and all the hairdressers and make up artists.
  4. I try to frequent their businesses to show them I support them in their ventures too. Above, I mentioned how many small business owners we have in our gym. When it makes sense, I buy from them. I want to support them the same way I hope they support me. If I find out they bought a “cheer mom” t-shirt from Etsy rather than my proshop, I say NOTHING the same way I wouldn’t expect them to say anything if ate dinner at a different restaurant or used a different realtor.
  5. I am open to friendships with anyone. If you knew me in high school, you’d know I never joined a group of friends. My daughter is like this too. She is friends with everyone. That means some weekends she has multiple invites from friends, and some weekends she doesn’t have any at all. That was me! Obviously I’m drawn to some people more than others, but I am always friendly and open to getting to know all the moms equally. Want to hang? Meet me for pedicures!

If this is all new to you, take it slowly. Get to recognize behaviors. Show gratitude and be open to friendships with cheer moms. You only get one life. Some of my greatest friendships with my biggest supporters have come from the gym. 

If building that culture is something you’d like to learn how to do in your gym, our Next Gen coaches can help you with that! To learn more about the Next Gen Academy, visit nextgenowners.com/book-a-call.