How to Start a Gym

Starting a Cheerleading Program


I am not a psychic, but let me make some assumptions.  I assume that if you are reading this article, you are passionate about the sport we call All Star cheerleading!  I assume that you have felt the internal power that starts when the team walks on the floor, and you experienced the rise in your heart rate as the music hits the very first note.  I know that you experienced the euphoric feeling when the crowd got as loud as any rock concert.  You saw the passion and the dedication required of the team.  You witnessed the overwhelming support of the parents.  You most likely felt the base as the speakers blew the very last effect and the team on the floor struck the last picture of the routine.  Then you sat back and said one of two things.  This was what you needed to do, or you could be very profitable capitalizing off of all of this excitement.  So you want to start a gym?

All Star cheerleading is one of the most exciting activities offered in the past few decades.  It only takes viewing a practice or competition to make most people excited about the sport.  All Star cheerleading integrates gymnastics, dance, music, performance, production, stunting, baskets, pyramids, and a fine coach’s personal touch.  It is the ultimate team sport, offering divisions for all abilities and ages.  The excitement for All Star cheerleading can be considered as contagious by many parents, athletes, spectators, and fans.  The excitement can become so contagious that many people feel the urge to get involved!  If you are reading this, I assume you are one of us that have the All Star bug!  You have an idea of combining your knowledge, your creativity, your skills, and your passion to open an All Star Cheerleading school of your own.  In this case, I have two things to tell you. 

The piece of advice I can offer you first is to understand all of the not so exciting and glorious things you will have to deal with.  If you are the one that wants to capitalize off of the excitement and make a profit, stop reading.  Apple did not become one of the most successful companies in the history of our planet because they were focused on profits.  Apple was focused on dreams and therefor became profitable. I am not trying to be a dream crusher at all, but it is so important to understand all of the responsibilities, challenges, and commitments you will have to make in order to make your dreams come true.  First, you must have a dream. It is true that a complete cheerleading routine in any age or on any level can be exciting and compelling, but I assure you as hard as those kids worked to get there, the coaches and owners worked ten times harder. 

The second piece of advice to you entrepreneurs pursuing your dream in the activity that you feel passionate about is to GO FOR IT! Once the homework is done and you are tired beyond belief from working hard to guarantee success, if you still have the dream and feel that the dream will become a reality, GO FOR IT!  The only way to grow All Star cheerleading is to bring the activity to more people on different levels.  The spirit industry will only be guaranteed long term success with passionate leaders that believe in the activity. What I just said was that Varsity, Jamfest, the IEP, NFinity and even Nike depend on your success as a business owner and coach to make their very businesses profitable. Without your leadership and involvement, the industry will fade away! If you are one of these leaders, you will be the key to the survival, growth, and success of the activity that you love.  Hopefully you are now encouraged and are ready to take the proper steps to make your dream a reality.  What are the first steps?

The first step is easy!  You gotta love it! If you do not love the activity, you will never be successful in any leadership role.  The next few steps are very easy if you love it.  The most important thing you can do is research.  You need to study every aspect of the activity.  You need to be educated in the rules and guidelines.  Any leader has to be a professional, and you need to be a top professional in order to succeed.  If there is a course you can take, take it.  If there is a certification you can get, get it.  If there is information to help you learn, study it.  When your friends, your kids, your significant other, or your parents go to bed, you stay up and educate your grey matter on cheerleading, marketing, management, organization, leadership, and financial security.  The one attribute I can say all of the excellent cheerleading leaders have in common can be summed up in one word and, that word is professional. Before you begin to teach, you must learn.  Do not lose sight of your goal and your dreams, but fill your brain with every ounce of knowledge you can.  If you truly love it, this task is already completed.

If you are still interested at this point, you are already a success.  We just need the proper planning and course of action.  The following steps to your dream are inevitable for you, but they are also very necessary.  You must set your goals and evaluate your environment.  That is a textbook way of saying that you need to determine what type of program that you want to run and that you need to understand the location where you want it. You need to study the competition, but do not get too caught up on this.  Yes, I just said it and it will not be popular, but it is so true.  Let us talk a bit about competition.

So you want to start a gym and your excitement sun was covered by the storm clouds of controversy.  First, pick your location wisely, but second, realize a successful program can be determined by many factors.  If you want to win worlds, you better be in a great location with tons of kids and have a five to ten year plan.  If you want to run a successful and professionals organization that educates, promotes fitness, grows a brand, and remains financially profitable, use my “Church Test.”  Statistics show that there are tons of kids looking for valuable activities that promote positive future benefits and that parents will make an investment in these activities.  If there are successful churches in your area, there can be just the same number of successful gyms.  In fact gyms are much like churches.  A child and a parent may feel more connection to one versus another.  Understand your competition, but study it to make your gym offer different things your clientele might seek.  Your success will get more kids involved and will force everyone to improve. Can I get an “AMEN?”

Still with me? Good! It is now time for the ground work.  This is the part that gets boring before it gets exciting.  If you truly want a gym, you are going to need money.  You are going to have to be wealthy, have a financial backer, or you are going to have to borrow.  We are going to assume you are going to save or borrow to come up with the sum needed.  No one wants to spend money to make money, but it is unfortunately necessary.  On the bright side, there are steps to minimize the investment!  The most important step in doing this is often the hardest for me to beat into the brains of my gym dreamers.  Start Small! 

Some of the most successful businesses in the industry have the lowest costs of operation.  They have a small but adequate location. They keep payroll, utilities, rent, and costs low.  I have conducted many polls to see why participants choose certain gyms over others.  The overwhelming majority of those polled answer with one word, and that word is “coaches”. The most important part of any gym is the coaches.  For the best possible future, develop a coaching team first.  Determine compensation and go over goals and expectations.  If you are not going to do it all yourself, you better include everyone involved before you start or expect problems in the future.  Now, we are back to boring money.

I like to suggest having an investment of 6 months of operations before you consider opening the doors.  As I live in an area that experiences hurricanes, tornadoes, ice storms, and other major issues effecting the success of my businesses, I have learned the hard way that even if you do everything right, these things can close you down in a matter of days!  A 6 month financial cushion gives you security in most of these circumstances.  When you determine your budget you must include rent or mortgage, payroll, equipment leases or purchases, insurance, and utilities, but do not forget to include even the smallest things that can add up.  Have you seen the cost of toilet paper?  Your kids are going to go through it like candy in kindergarten! 

Your location needs to fit your budget, but it also needs to meet other criteria.  It needs to be accessible and safe.  Gyms do not need to be placed like a Wal-Mart to be successful.  As we have covered, the kids will come because of coaches, but they have to get to it, and it needs to be in a safe location.  The gym needs to be the right size.  Size depends on what you plan on doing in your gym.  I recommend at least 22 foot ceilings for college and high schools teams, but many gyms do not come close to this and remain successful.  A standard floor is 54’ by 48’.  The floors have grown throughout the years and I know many successful programs that do not have full floors.  The better question here is, “What can I easily afford?” Remember, they will come for the coaches.

In purchasing equipment, do not get carried away.  I like to use a tumbling trampoline, a wedge mat, a spring floor, and my experience to teach tumbling.  I also have a few crash mats.  All of these can be shopped around and purchased at reasonable prices.  Some businesses, like mine, also offer used equipment.  $25,000 should get you more equipment than you need to start a profitable business.  Remember, you can always grow. 

Now you have a dream, a plan, a location, equipment, capital, and coaches.  What next? Marketing!  You are lucky to live in our era.  Marketing is easy and free in our society today.  How you use it is more important.  In recent studies it has been suggested that customers support businesses in very different ways than we once thought.  Most consumers focus on why you offer what you offer more than the actual service or product.  That means we buy an IPhone more than any other smart phone because Apple explained to us through marketing that they developed a device that would make our lives better.  They didn’t market a phone with a whatever processor that is so much gigawhatever fast, that had so many pixels, and connected through g, f, y, or whatever networks!  So learn from their marketing!  What do you want to do for the kids in your program?  Why are you doing it?  Field of Dreams told us “Build it and they will come.”  I say that if you tell them why you built it, they will come.

You are open and you have all of the social media tools and your classes are filling up fast.  How do you keep it up?  First, congratulations on your success. Second, now is when the work starts.  In order to stay successful there are a few tips I can offer. Stick to your goals and dreams.  That is what got you here.  Do not sacrifice what you wanted and continue to work harder to make your mission clear and consistent.  Never think you have all the answers and continue to train and educate yourself and your staff.  A business owner that thinks they have learned everything is one that is on the decline.  Develop tools to help you cater to your participants and their families.  Do surveys and polls to understand their changing needs.  Stay on the forefront of change and remain an industry leader in the things you offer.  Study management techniques as well as educational activities to increase the effectiveness of your training. 

The final step seems easy but is forever taxing.  Deliver a great product that you are proud of.  Stay professional in all of your business activities.  Believe in yourself and your ability to use this activity you love to change the lives of the participants you work with on a daily basis.  On the bad days, and there will be bad ones, look back at why you wanted to open a gym.  Take the time to just sit back and watch the kids take the stage.  Listen for the first beat of music and get lost in the excitement of the performance.  I am not a psychic but I will predict at the final sound effect when you see the performers’ faces light up with satisfaction as they strike the last element of the routine, you will once again remember why you chose this life and why it matters.

Note:  I have helped start many successful programs in the country as my mission remains to increase the number of kids that are positively affected by the activity of cheerleading, team dance, stunting, and tumbling.  I would love to answer any questions that you might have about starting your own program.  Please contact me for any questions you may have at