C H E E R
L E A D E R
North Elite Cheer Athletics featured on Duck Dynasty!!
If someone would have told me at the age of 14 when I was
coaching on school playgrounds; three elementary teams of 7 & 8 year olds
that I would even be writing this article I would have told them that they were
crazy! I remember waiting each month for the new cheerleading magazine to
arrive, and now here I am, actually writing an article for The Cheerleader
I could stop writing there, and it would sum my life up in the most simplest of forms. However, North Elite Cheer Athletics has been in existence since January 3, 2009. And I’ve coached through every stage of my life from being a pre-law major, to personal training; to finally taking the biggest jump of my life and signing a building contract. The year I opened, I had just one All Star team of 16 athletes. Skills ranging from 2 layouts, maybe 4 standing tucks and a handful of backhand springs. So what do you do with those skills? Well, when you know nothing about what you are doing you hire a choreographer to teach a Level 4 routine based off those 2 layouts. Needless to say, I was watering down every stunt sequence in the routine. First competition that season, we listed ourselves as a Junior Level 3, age level was appropriate, but skill wise, well let’s just say I was way off base.
Since that day, I’ve gone from seasons of 4 teams, to the one year I swallowed my pride and went without a single team.
I have had more obstacles than I would like to admit. The same season that I went without a team, I only had 19 kids enrolled in tumbling classes. I honestly had no business keeping the gym doors open. That was the year I filed for divorce, with a 4 year old son. I wasn’t going in to work very often, instead I let my young instructors lead the classes of those 19 kids. I still keep that roll sheet to remind me of that point in my life, for whenever I go through tough times; it reminds me I survived those few months. Thankfully I have wonderful parents who saw me at my lowest point, when I had almost thrown in the towel. My mom said to me that day “Tara, if you want this gym, I will babysit for you every day for you to be at that gym teaching those kids. Give it all you have, one more time” And that’s exactly what I did, and soon 19 turned into 20, and so on. There were days when I told myself “one step forward Tara”. Now, if you are around me, you can catch me saying out loud “progress, not perfection Tara, it doesn’t have to be right, just DO SOMETHING. Anything is better than not making a move”. It may be a simple thing, like returning a phone call, ordering a cheer bow or spotting a child on one more backhand spring after class.
Moving forward, how did I get back on my feet? I never lost sight of what that little girl at the age of 14 did for fun; coaching cheer on playgrounds. The joy on a child’s face is not something you can put a price tag on. Thank God I didn’t close the doors during my lowest point and other times where I have struggled. I attribute it all to God for giving me a heart to dream big and love big. Those same qualities have sometimes not always worked in my favor, I’ve been let down by some of those I trusted the most. The encouragement from children, parents and my own family overrode those hardships. With every jab, I’ve fallen and gotten back up fighting, stronger than before. Looking back, I can say that those moments in time, when I thought I couldn’t go on, were hard life lessons. And now I say to myself “I’ve made it through that, so I know I can get past the current issue whatever it may be.” Sure I may have struggled, but I didn't stay in that place very long, same till this very day. I’ve identified those hardships and they are what make me stronger every day. For every door that has slammed in my face, and devastated me at the time, it allowed for another door to swing wide open.
As a single mom, I still struggle with the day to day struggles of balancing work, making dinner and how I’m going to get my son to his ball practice at 5:30pm. I’ve had to rely on others, I hate asking for help but I have realized it makes life just a bit easier. I am fiercely independent, so I have always thought I had to do everything by myself to prove that I was strong enough. Today, I can say, asking for help is one of the most courageous things I have ever done, it’s the sign of strength I should have asked for many years ago. This has allowed me to be a better person, better boss, better coach and most importantly a better mom.
Filming for Duck Dynasty has definitely been one of the highest points in my career and definitely a major boost for the gym. The opportunity itself was a once in a lifetime experience for both Mia's teammates and myself. Mia has been an All Star cheerleader, including this season, for 3 years. Mia is one of our best tumblers. Her personality you see on the show is the same on the mat; she is one of the most positive athletes we coach. She is even a junior coach for our youth teams.
We were preparing for our last competition of the season, when Missy (Mia's Mom) came to me letting me know that she would be out of town and that Jase would be responsible for getting Mia ready for the competition. Everyone knows that competition days are crazy hectic, so when Mia wasn't there on time, I got a bit nervous. When Jase finally arrived with Mia, not only was I shocked by Mia's appearance, I was shocked that the Duck Dynasty film crew was not far behind. And they captured my reaction perfectly!! In fact that scene between Jase and I has been the subject of good and not so good criticism, of course I've let it roll off my back.
At the end of the day, I can honestly say that was a major highlight in my career as a cheer coach. It shows me how far I’ve come in such a short period of time; from almost closing the gym, to filming a major television show. Along with that accomplishment, my best friend, J.J. Daniel, has become the co-owner of the gym. His level of coaching is incredible and has added tremendous value to our program. At 34 years old, I have finally found my purpose. J.J. and I not only coach cheerleading, we also teach these athletes that they are capable of doing more than they ever believed they could. This in turn allows them to gain confidence in themselves. And that confidence overflows into all aspects of their life and if we are truly fortunate that confidence is a characteristic that is instilled in them that they will carry with them into adulthood.