Working for perfection
[subtitle]Champion cheerleading team has long been vision of owners[/subtitle]
By St. Clair Murraine
Inside of a warehouse building converted into a cheerleading practice gym, groups of boys and girls meticulously repeated stunts.
They call them “1 ½ turn and up” and “scales.” For a handful, it was a first-time experience while most of them have done the routines countless times.
They seemingly were proud of their work at the end. For good reason – there are trophies mounted on a ledge and banners hanging near the rafters as reminders that their hard work will pay off.
But none is as significant as the banner with the word “Summit” sprawled across it. The championship is the ultimate prize that any cheerleading team could win.
Just what business partners Dana Brown and Dustin Baker set out to do when they opened up Cheer Nation three years ago.
Now they want more.
“Our goal is to go out there and be a nationwide winner; go against the best and make a name for Tallahassee,” Brown said. “We want to show that Tallahassee’s competitive cheerleading is on the map.”
Doing that requires plenty of traveling to competitions. Brown and Baker don’t miss the important ones, despite the cost. They cover that with a $3,000 fee that each athlete pays annually. An occasional fund-raiser supplements that, Brown said.
Brown and Baker, two former cheerleaders at Florida State University during the mid-2000s, were mobile instructors for several years before they settled down at Cheer Nation. The same building where they have set up shop off Capital Circle NW used to be one of their stops to teach stunts.
The idea to start Cheer Nation came out of a conversation they had about what they could accomplish if they owned the gym. For several weeks they pondered a name for their business. At about the same time, the gym’s previous owner was considering getting out of the business.
They made an offer to take over and the deal was done, creating a business that has grown every year since the doors opened.
They’ve put in place a plan that goes beyond teaching young people how to tumble and do stunts. Building character and academically sharp athletes are at the top of their list.
“I’m confident that when our kids leave here they not only know cheering, but how to be professional and mature,” Brown said. “Yes, we teach cheerleading skills but we also teach life’s lessons.”
And, they are building champions, too.
Just three weeks ago, a Cheer Nation senior team captured the Summit title in Orlando. They did it by knocking off some of the top teams in the country during the three-day event.
“We had to fight every single day,” said Olivia Lewis, a senior member of the champion team. “We were doing extra practice. It was crazy how much extra work we had to put in.”
After winning the opening round of competition, Cheer Nation got a bye into the final. They went after the title like a team that won’t be denied.
“All of the teams were really good,” said Caroline Talbot, another member of the team. “It was amazing. It was such a big competition and I can’t believe that we went against the best teams and we won.”