From Spark to Fire
There are moments in life that stand out more than others because of the spark that goes off and ignites love and loyalty in our souls and adds another building block to the foundation of our purpose. Who knew that pursuing a degree in Engineering at the University of Nebraska (UNL) would lead to a legacy of coaching where instead of forming physical structures, I dedicated my life to build confidence and empower young people.
Lance and I both grew up in Grand Island, Nebraska – a small town with just over 50,000 people but large enough where we never really crossed paths throughout our childhood. Our friendship was almost instantaneous when we finally met at a fraternity party at UNL (Spark #1) and we became roommates and soul brothers, starting our lifelong partnership.
Continuing his career as a gymnast, Lance walked onto the UNL gymnastics team but his path was cut short after he suffered an injury. What could have been perceived as a setback, the injury allowed Lance to have time for other opportunities – cue the UNL cheer squad. Helping a fraternity brother’s girlfriend, who was on the cheer squad, with her tumbling propelled Lance to transition from gymnastics to cheer (Spark #2). Several months after he easily made the squad, Lance convinced me to tryout for the team as well and proceeded to help me learn how to tumble and execute other skills for tryouts. Our paths veered again when Lance went to boot camp which was, I thought, a setback for me as I no longer had one-on-one gymnastics training to help me for tryouts. However, a fraternity brother introduced me to a female friend who was on full scholarship at UNL for gymnastics who was able to pick up where Lance left off. The coaching and instruction I received from them was what made it possible for me to have a successful tryout and become a member of the cheer squad (Spark #3). The practice and repetition to perfect my skills for tryouts became a source of inspiration that drove me everyday.
Timing is everything. I cannot explain how thankful I am that I was introduced to that full scholarship gymnast, not only because she helped my training but, more importantly, for introducing me to her roommate Shawnda (MAJOR Spark #4), who changed my life forever. To simplify it: we met, fell madly in love, got married, and were blessed with our three children (Sparks #5-7). But that’s another story. It’s funny how finding the love of your life can amplify your love for life and passion for purpose.
In Lincoln, Lance and I began training college coeds how to become athletes for our UNL cheer squad, which garnered a little extra income for us and padded our reputations, making a name for our talent and expertise. Word spread and a Pop Warner cheer team in Omaha asked us to help them with their “Big Routine”. The success of that routine led us to create our own senior all-star team (Spark # 8).
And then the flame was lit. Let’s open a gym.
Initially, renting time from local gymnastics gyms on Sundays while continuing to train the Pop Warner team and working our full-time jobs during the week, the early days of Elite Cheer were difficult but our passion for what we were doing fed the fire that gave us the strength to keep moving forward.
I remember the moment when my passion became my calling. I was teaching a 12-year old student how to do an aerial. Attempt after attempt, she would fail, get up, and try again. With every try, I was there determined to not let her give up because every attempt moved her closer to landing it and reassuring her that she could do it without a spot. And then, it just happened… She did it – on her own without a spot, she landed on her feet without falling down. And I watched on the side as her hard work and determination triumphed, seemingly making her gigantic in size as she brimmed with pride, confidence, and joy (explosive Spark #9). This moment – this was my purpose: to lead and support developing athletes to passionately work through the process to build on their own potential and then practice, perfect, produce, and perform.
PURPOSE - PASSION – PROCESS - POTENTIAL – PRACTICE – PERFECT – PRODUCE - PERFORM
…and PRIDE. I am so proud of our story. As we celebrate our 26th year, we our still committed to building and supporting our community. The core to our success, is our desire to constantly keep learning so that we can do better - so we can be better. We believe in our coaches and trust in our process and, more importantly, we still trust in each other.
There aren’t enough words to express the pride I have for our Elite Cheer family. These young people are like our own children. We are blessed to help raise and guide them. We work to give them confidence and open our hearts to help them grow. We have experienced sorrow beyond words – we’ve buried an athlete in her uniform and stood together in solidarity to give a eulogy for another. But we have experienced so much more joy in our collective moments which is why we stand together and hold each other up – it is why we cheer.
Our success story is the story for success:
Our program is different from any other.
We are the original program in Omaha and we pledge to continue to be the leader who set the standard of expertise and excellence.
It is only impossible until someone does it – so we did it. Let us help you do it too.