We're diving in! But how did we come to such a huge decision affecting our whole family?
Why now, age-wise? Annelise is old enough to 1) ask to do it, 2) understand the cost & that it will mean we can't do other things she'll want to do, and 3) understand & be able to handle the more intense schedule. She did a trial class 3 years ago; I was overwhelmed by the parents packet I read while waiting...and I thanked God when we left that her impression was, "Eh. Not really for me." She was not ready for that; she wanted to try so many other things, and I certainly didn't want to pour money into an expensive experiment. Now that she's gotten to try everything she's been curious about, she's made the informed choice that tumbling & cheer stunting are what she loves best; she's not getting enough at her tumbling gym (been there 3.5 sweet years; worked with 4 different, great coaches; but she's plateaued) and she won't get enough stunting in my cheer program alone. (I'm not trained in level 2+ stunts, & I can't force my rec squad to fully train like All Stars, when that's not what they signed up for. (I already push them harder than any other squad in our rec league! :-D ;-)) Ever since she got a real taste when we upped our stunt game this fall and cheered with U of H in January, she has been clear that she wants this, and she's ready. I feel good that she's going in already having her back handspring (a level 2 skill) and confidence flying in extensions. I think her experience will start her out on a stronger path, and I know it makes JB & I feel better that she understands what she's getting into.
Why now, time-wise? Competition (All Star) Cheer is year-round, but tryouts for the entire next year are the beginning of April. If we held off, that's a whole nother year she would have to wait. They set practice groups based on April tryouts and then set the teams for the year toward the end of May based on the practice groups. You bond & work with your team all summer & fall, compete late fall & winter, and start it all over, again, next tryouts. This is the perfect time to not only follow her talent, but to also keep the door open for her possibly cheering in junior high & high school. (School squads here won't seriously look at girls without All Star experience. She may want to just stick with All Star when the time comes in 2 years, but at least now she'll have a true chance, if she wants it. (Yes, I know: the cheer world is NOTHING like when we were growing up! I'd never make it these days!!! :-P))
How did you pick which cheer gym? We're lucky(?! or cursed ;-)) that All Star Cheer is so big here. We have 3 major options from which to choose. One is huge; two are smaller. The huge one is one of five Houston-area locations; they have an amazing reputation and several World Championships. Seems like the obvious excellent choice...but not now. If she eventually gets to level 4 or 5, maybe that's where we'd go; but she's just starting out. Because of its big name, that gym is a revolving door of thousands of girls; if we're investing this much $$$, I want to be somewhere everyone knows our names. Between the two smaller cheer gyms, one has the reputation of being "the beginners gym" & the other travels to tons of competitions further away (Vegas, Disney, etc.) We are beginners, and I am cheap - wanting to spend as little on competition travel as possible. :-P Decision made! We also have 3 friends at the gym we picked, and I made sure to get all the insider info from them ahead of time, before ever letting Annelise know we considered this a real possibility. ;-)
She went twice last week for pre-tryout boot camp to see what it was like. It was HARD. She has her back handspring (level 2), but she doesn't yet have the simpler back walkover. She chose to practice with the level 2 group, anyway (I was proud of her for that!) ...and she crumpled down over & over & over again on the back walkovers. I saw her crying from across gym, wiping her face each time...but she did not come over to me, and she NEVER stopped trying. That sealed the deal: she refused to quit, and she came out saying: "I loved it! Everyone was so encouraging! The coach kept helping me like this, and the one time I got it, everyone clapped for me. Everyone was just so encouraging! I met some really nice girls." She kept saying "encouraging" - THAT is what I want for my kid. We're willfully entering the world of all star child competition, where shows like Dance Moms scare the stuffing out of me, and to hear her go on & on about how wonderful the people & program are - even when it's not easy for her? I know we're doing the right thing in the right place. :-)
She'll continue boot camp this week, and her official tryout is Sunday afternoon, April 3rd. It's not an "if you make it" thing, it's "where you make it," so more of an evaluation for team placement. Here we go, y'all!!!
PS - tasteful bonus: this gym's competition uniforms aren't crop tops!!! They're full coverage = extra confirmation! :-D Practice unis are sports bras & shorts (so standard :-/) but that's not out in public, and they also must wear warmups off the mat. :-)